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15 Feb, 2019 15:09

‘Symbol of oppression’: Swedish swimming chief steps down after criticizing Muslim headscarf

‘Symbol of oppression’: Swedish swimming chief steps down after criticizing Muslim headscarf

The head of Swedish Swimming Federation Ulla Gustavsson has been dismissed from the role after taking a swipe at the traditional Muslim headscarf, calling it a “symbol of oppression, child marriage and genital mutilation.”

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Gustavsson’s criticism of the headwear was prompted by a local ad that showed a boy and a Muslim girl participating in shooting competitions.

The boy was dressed in a white T-shirt and blue jeans, and was next to a girl who was wearing a hijab. Both were holding air guns in their hands. The advert provoked a bitter reaction from Gustavsson, who considered it inappropriate for Swedish society.

The ad, which was aimed at promoting an inclusive environment in Swedish sport, was lambasted by the swimming chairwoman. She said that the air gun in conjunction with the headdress reflected the wrong values, which went against gender equality.

It’s a religious, political and sexist garment,” Gustavsson said about the veil, according to Aftonbladet. She added that it encouraged oppression and violence along with symbolizing genital mutilation and child marriage.

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The veil cannot be anything but a sexualization of the woman. It should not be displayed,” she said, stressing that it shouldn’t be worn by children under 15.

Gustavsson’s remarks didn’t go unnoticed by human rights advocates, who accused the sports official of discrimination and Islamophobia.

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What Ulla Gustavsson does, drawing links between the veil and serious forms of honor-related violence such as genital mutilation and child marriage, is not only ignorant and improper, but also Islamophobic,” said human rights activists Kristina Wicksell and Maria Henriksson in a joint statement.

Following the public uproar ignited by Gustavsson’s comments, the chairwoman was forced to resign as her personal views conflicted with the Swedish Swimming Federation’s policy.

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The Swedish Swimming Association’s board takes the recent debate very seriously, and has come to the conclusion that there are no longer conditions for Ulla Gustavsson to successfully lead the Swedish Swimming Association,” said the federation’s Vice-Chairman Stefan Persson.

Her personal perceptions and statements contrast with the Swedish Swimming Federation’s strategy and basic view that all children should fit in our activities on equal terms,” he added.