A Malmö bus driver has been fired from his job following revelations that he stopped a woman from boarding his bus because she was wearing a niqab, a form of Islamic headdress that covers the face.
The bus company, Arriva, has elected not to extend the driver’s contract, suggesting that this was not an isolated incident.
“What happened last week was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” spokesman Daniel Stjernfeldt told newspaper Punkt SE.
The incident occurred last Tuesday morning when ‘Leonora’ boarded the number 35 bus on her usual route between the Rosengård housing estate and the city’s central station. According to Leonora, the driver stopped her from boarding, saying that her niqab made her hard to identify.
“I have never before needed to identify myself on a public bus. This wasn’t a weapon I was carrying,” she told The Local.
Leonora stayed on the bus anyway, but claims that the driver mocked her and looked at her angrily.
“I can understand that people don’t like it, but I think they should leave their prejudices at home,” she said.
While admitting that it was inappropriate not to let the 22-year-old woman board his bus, the driver does not think he deserves to lose his job.
“I have nothing against her personally, or her religion,” he told Punkt SE.
According to the driver, it was the first time that a woman wearing a niqab had tried to board his bus. He found her clothing inappropriate and felt very uncomfortable.
He also said that he had read that about it being illegal to cover your face in public.
Daniel Stjernfeldt would not reveal the other reasons Arriva claimed to have for firing the driver, who claims never to have previously argued with a customer. The driver did however concede that he has arrived late to work on occasion.
Leonora welcomed the decision on Wednesday. She told The Local that it “feels good that somebody’s doing something for me.”
“It feels weird to say that when someone has lost their job, but quite honestly it feels good.”
“He shouldn’t be able to tell other people how to dress. Some women where I work wear very provocative clothes, and I don’t react at all. In fact, some of my friends wear pretty short skirts. Why does everyone have to react to my clothes? I know I can look a bit intimidating, but if only people would listenm” she said.