Times Online The latest media darling of Scandinavian politics is not only black, beautiful, and Muslim; she is also firmly against the wearing of the veil. Nyamko Sabuni, 37, has caused a storm as Sweden’s new integration and equality minister by arguing that all girls should be checked for evidence of female circumcision; arranged marriages should be criminalised; religious schools should receive no state funding; and immigrants should learn Swedish and find a job.
Those positions are at odds with a lot of Muslims.Supporters of the centre-right government that came to power last month believe that her bold rejection of cultural diversity may make her a force for change across Europe. Her critics are calling her a hardliner and even an Islamophobe.
She is certainly taking a hard line position, but if a Muslim can be called an Islamophobe, that must indicate that the Islamist are not true Muslims, but have hijacked that faith.“I am neither,” she said in an interview. “My aim is to integrate immigrants. One is to ensure they grow up just as any other child in Sweden would.” Sabuni believes all immigrants must try to become proficient in Swedish — just as she did when she arrived from Africa aged 12 — rather than alienating locals.
Assimilation is very important if the immigrants wish to stay.“Language and jobs are the two most crucial things for integration,” she said. “If you want to become a Swedish citizen, we think you should have some basic knowledge of Swedish.”
And being able to speak the local language is important if you want a good job.An elegant, vivacious woman who uses subtle make-up and wears soft clothes in pastel shades and tight woollen sweaters, she argues for a total ban on veils being worn by girls under the age of consent, which is 15 in Sweden. “Nowhere in the Koran does it state that a child should wear a veil; it stops them being children. By putting a veil on a girl you are immediately saying to the outside world that she is sexually mature and has to be covered. It’s wrong,” she said.
Sabuni was born in Burundi. Her father was a political dissident who was in prison during much of her early childhood. In 1980 he was granted asylum in Sweden. The next year his wife and six children joined him and they settled near Stockholm. Sabuni read law at Uppsala University, Sweden’s equivalent of Oxbridge, and became a public relations consultant. Her husband, who works in the travel industry and runs their home in Stockholm, took paternity leave when their twin boys, now five, were born. In Sweden she is best known for her suggestion that adolescent girls should have compulsory examinations to make sure they have not been subjected to genital mutilation. “It would enable us to prosecute people carrying out the practice,” she said.
Good for you.According to Sabuni, many politicians have shied away from talking about the need for assimilation rather than multi-culturalism: “I am one of the few who dares to speak out. Sadly, some members of the Muslim community feel picked on.”
Muslim groups in Sweden are already organising a petition to have her removed from government. “I regret that Muslims feel I am a threat to them,” she said. “Everybody has a right to practise their religion, but I will never accept religious oppression. And I represent the whole of society, not just the Muslims.”