COPENHAGEN – Danish Muslim students were banned from praying during school hours, after officials said that “religion and education do not belong together”.
“We have reminded our students about it and reprinted our code of conduct because we have had some incidents that required that we brush up on things,” Inger Margrethe Jensen, the schools director, confirmed the decision, was quoted by Danish newspaper BT, The Independent reported earlier this week.
“Some [students] wanted to establish a prayer room on school property and the Muslims’ prayers have become far more visible because in some cases and they have used the hallways to pray. Religion and education don’t belong together – it belongs to the private life.”
The news came to public after a Muslim student from SOPU Hillerød, which is in Northern Copenhagen, highlighted the ban in a photograph which was posted on Facebook by a friend and received hundreds of likes.
In the picture, the woman held a sign which read: “New from the director. May one pray at SOPU Hillerød? The answer is NO!”
Mia Victoria Lunderød Hansen, a student at the school who posted the image of her friend to her Facebook page, said: “We students don’t think this is right and therefore we’ve gone around the school collecting signatures.”
“A situation like this should be taken care of [because] we believe that everyone should be treated equally.”
Jensen rejected to overrule the ban, claiming that prayers add more fuel to fire on the so-called “Islamism.”
“We’ve been asked why they can’t pray at specific times because there are some Islamic directions that one should pray at specific times and it is unfortunate because it just adds more fuel to the fire on Islamism,” he added.
Inge Voller, the deputy headteacher at VUC Lyngby, supported the ban.
“It is not a question of religion or ethnicity, but on learning, as we are an educational institution,” Voller told Metroexpress.
“It is about how we create the best learning and we believe the best way, if you can communicate freely with each other.”
However, Maria Fischer Walldorf, the sister-in-law of the woman in the picture, criticized the ban for affecting religious freedom.
“I simply cannot understand it. I can certainly understand those who say that they don’t want things forced upon them – religion is a private thing,” she told radio station Radio24syv, The Local reported.
“One shouldn’t be allowed to force things on others, but there shouldn’t be others who force things on me [like saying] that I should follow Danish culture and not pray,” she said.
Denmark is home to a Muslim minority of 200,000, making three percent of the country’s 5.4 million population.
Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rak‘ah.
The five prayer times are divided all through the day which starts with Fajr prayer at dawn.