Muslim woman in face veil
Muslim woman in face veilThinkstock

Norway's right-wing government on Wednesday announced plans to ban the full-face Islamic veil, the burqa, from classrooms and university lecture halls, AFP reported.

Education Minister Torbjorn Roe Isaksen, quoted in the Vart Land newspaper, said the government was seeking "national regulations prohibiting the full-face veil in schools and universities".

Muslim women are rarely seen wearing such veils in Norway, let alone in schools, but the issue has come up recently in political debates, with less than a year to go before parliamentary elections, according to AFP.

Several political parties including the opposition Labour Party had expressed support for such a ban.

Roe Isaksen stressed that the ban would not apply to Islamic headscarves that leave the face exposed such as the hijab. People should be allowed to express their faith in public in Norway, he said.

"I want a young Christian girl who wears a cross to be able to show it," he stressed in a speech to parliament. "I want a Jewish boy who wears a kippah to be able to show it. And I do not want a ban on the hijab."

The Norwegian move comes as several European countries have moved to ban the face-covering niqab and full-body burqa in recent years.

France was the first country to do so, having introduced a ban on women wearing the burqa in 2010.

A parliamentary committee in Belgium later voted to ban the burqa as well. Italy has drafted a similar law.

In Germany, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said that the Muslim face veil is not compatible with German society but admitted it would probably be difficult to ban it at the national level.

Bulgaria on Friday banned women from wearing the full veil in public, and Switzerland's lower house last week narrowly approved a draft bill on a nationwide ban, noted AFP.

A poll published earlier this month showed Britons to be strongly in favor of a burqa ban.