Sweden nixes special laws for Muslims

Proposed laws: Muslims let off work on Friday, imams to OK Muslim divorces.

palestinian women 298 88 (photo credit: AP)
palestinian women 298 88
(photo credit: AP)
The Swedish government and moderate Muslims on Friday sharply rejected demands by an Islamic leader to enact special laws for Muslims living in the Scandinavian country. Mahmoud Aldebe, head of Sweden's largest Islamic organization, SMF, said Muslims should be given time off work for Friday prayers and Islamic holidays and that imams should approve all divorces between Muslim couples. His proposals, presented in a letter Thursday to Sweden's parliamentary parties, were rejected as "completely unacceptable" by Sweden's Integration Minister Jens Orback. They also elicited a flood of criticism from moderate Muslims who said they were content with living under Swedish laws. "If we are going to live here, we should adapt to the laws that exist - we should not have a separate law just because we have a different faith," said Mariam Osman Sherifay, a Muslim lawmaker with the governing Social Democratic Party. Aldebe's letter also called for laws reserving public swimming pools to women one night a week, as many Muslim families forbid their daughters from bathing with boys for "ethical and religious reasons." "Many Muslim girls finish their high school education without knowing how to swim at all," Aldebe wrote. Other demands included giving imams the right to teach religion to Muslim children in public schools, and providing special burial grounds for Muslims. Aldebe, whose organization has 70,000 members, backtracked on his proposal Friday, telling Swedish Radio he only meant Swedish laws should be adjusted to make Muslims feel safe in society. Many Swedish Muslim leaders distanced themselves from Aldebe's demands, saying they had little support among Sweden's estimated 400,000 Muslims. "He is lucky if he speaks for 70 of his members," said Abd al Haqq Kielan, an imam who heads the Swedish Islamic Society, one of five national Islamic organizations. Kielan called the proposals "absurd," adding that they would lead to "a sort of Mullah-rule that people are scared of." "If you open the gate for separate laws for different minorities, where will it end?" he said. "We have to have one law for all citizens. That is so obvious that I don't understand how he can come up with such an idea."