Should Denmark ban prayer rooms?

The Danish parliament is discussing a proposal by the Eurosceptic and xenophobic Danish People's Party (DF) to ban prayer rooms in schools. Several Social Democrats have also spoken out in favour of the ban, which would only affect Muslim prayer rooms. The majority in parliament is not yet sure how to vote. The press warns against ill-considered bans.

Open/close all quotes
Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Schools should decide for themselves

Jyllands-Posten is confident that the schools will be able to find their own solution for the problem:

“The strong emotions that the debate about prayer rooms arouses show once more how much room religion is taking up in the public discourse. Thirty or forty years ago grammar schools in western and northern Jutland were well able to cope with Christian pupils saying their prayers or holding bible readings during breaks as long as it didn't interfere with lessons. This was a pragmatic approach to a problem that wasn't a big deal as long as it could be solved locally. If it turns out that Muslim pupils want to have special status and a special room, as the Danish People's Party has implied, then this is a sign that it's time for a comprehensive lecture on peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and showing consideration for each other.”

Berlingske (DK) /

A ban must be carefully weighed up

Bans should be the last resort and assessed on a case-by-case basis, Berlingske warns:

“Unfortunately past experience shows that in certain Muslim milieus strict controls of belief are being carried out. If this is the problem the individual educational institutions must solve it. As a last resort prayer rooms must be closed. A prayer room doesn't take up much space physically but it has a strong symbolic significance. It would be a pity if a general legal ban had to be introduced - because of something that has a minimal impact in and of itself but has such strong symbolism.”