“I have told the school via the education director that it is not acceptable to establish a separate prayer room in an Oslo school,” Torger Ødegaard of the Oslo schools council has explained, according to a report by state broadcaster NRK.
“School is an institution for education and not a religious institution,” he said.
Hellerud high school in Oslo became the first school in Norway to establish a Muslim prayer room and the move was roundly criticised by Carl I. Hagen, former head of the right-wing populist Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) and currently a representative on the city council.
Hagen is reported to have threatened to jeopardise budget negotiations if the city’s education authorities did not act on the issue.
According to NRK, Ødegaard was initially dismissive of Hagen’s complaints, explaining that it is not the job of the council to interfere in the daily business of the city’s schools, but ultimately bowed to the pressure.
Hellerud high school’s principal Tora Morstad explained however that the room is not a “prayer room”, but a quiet room where pupils can go to pray and was established so that they would not have to go down to the cellar.
Morstad however told NRK that the school plans to fall in line with the council’s decision and prayers in school premises will be discontinued.