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Sweden's Social Democrats propose ban on all religious schools to combat segregation

(Pixabay/coyot)Sweden's Social Democrats are proposing a ban on all religious schools in the country to tackle segregation.

Sweden's Social Democratic Party has proposed a ban on all religious charter schools in a bid to tackle segregation in the country amid a growing number of asylum seekers.

"Religious influence has no home in Swedish schools. The Social Democrats want school to provide all children with a good education regardless of their background, gender or religion," the party stated in a press release, according to The Local.

Secondary Education Minister Anna Ekström and Public Administration Minister Ardalan Shekarabi have expressed support for the proposal at a press conference on Tuesday.

"The important thing for us is that in school there are no confessional elements," said Ekström, a member of the ruling Swedish Social Democratic Party.

Shekarabi cited his experiences with gender segregation in his native Iran in explaining his support for banning faith schools.

"I'm from a country where religious influence and gender segregation was present in every school. I never intend to allow that oppression, which I and many others fled from, to make its way into Swedish schools," he said.

Omar Abu Helal, a principal at an Islamic charter school in southern Sweden, denounced the proposal, saying it is a "violation of the European Convention of Human Rights" and the "freedom of religion."

The announcement came six months ahead of the Sept. 9 general election. If re-elected, the Social Democrats vowed to turn all religious independent schools into non-religious schools, although the party still needs to conduct an investigation on how to accomplish the task.

The proposal has not gained the support of the parliament, but several other parties have criticized the establishments of religious schools following reports of gender segregation in classes.

Religious schools have drawn controversy last year after male and female students at a privately run Islamic school in Stockholm were seen in a video entering a school bus from different entrances.

According to Times of Israel, 59 out of 71 primary and upper secondary religious charter schools in Sweden are Christian, 11 are Muslim and one is Jewish.

Several Jewish schools do not fall into the religious school category because they do not have specific religious elements in their education plans, and exist to cater to an ethnic minority.

All religious schools in Sweden are "free schools" that are run independently but receive state funding. All non-state run schools in Sweden receive state funding because it is illegal to charge for primary education for children up to 18.

The Social Democrats are also planning to introduce a measure that would test the fitness of those who want to start and run an independent school.

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