Norway hairdresser on trial for refusing client in hijab

OSLO (AFP) - A hairdresser went on trial in Norway on Thursday (Sept 8) for refusing a Muslim client wearing a hijab, in the first case in the country to go to court over the Islamic head covering.

Merete Hodne risks up to six months in prison for religious discrimination for turning Malika Bayan away from her hair salon in Bryne, a small town in south-western Norway, in October last year.

According to the charge sheet, Hodne told Ms Bayan "she would have to find someplace else because she didn't accept (clients) like her."

"I don't want this evil in a place where I decide. This evil is the Islamic ideology, the Mohammedanism and the hijab is the symbol of this ideology just like the swastika is that of Nazism," Hodne told TV2.

Described by Norwegian media as a former activist in Islamophobic movements such as Pegida, the 47-year-old hairdresser said that accepting a woman in hijab as a client in her salon would have meant she would have had to turn away male customers.

She claimed that the woman would not have been able to expose her hair with men present.

Ms Bayan, 24, told media she felt "deeply humiliated when I'm treated this way in a public place in my own country".

"It can't be evil to open the door of a hair salon to ask how much it costs to do highlights," she said last year.

The hairdresser refused to pay a fine of 8,000 kroner (S$1,316) for religious discrimination, and the case was therefore brought to the Jaeren district court on Thursday.

Police officials said they would ask for the fine to be raised to 9,600 kroner, and if she refused to pay, they would seek a jail sentence of 19 days.