Monday, January 9, 2012

Islam in Norway


Islam in Norway

Gates of Vienna 9 January 2012
By The Observer

Our Norwegian correspondentThe Observer offers the third and final part in his series of essays on the Left in Norway. In the current installment he examines the democratic deficit within the Muslim community, and the political establishment’s unwillingness to address this issue.

Previously: Part 1 and Part 2.

This is the third and final instalment in a three part series in which I examine left-wing media bias in Norway, the Left’s moral support for anti-democratic forces in the Middle East, and Norwegian Muslims, views on democracy and traditional Western values.

This final article will take a closer look at the Muslim community in Norway. We will try to paint a clearer picture of the values they represent, and find out how compatible these are with traditional Norwegian values. We’ll also examine whether there are any compelling reasons for Norwegian authorities to adopt a more critical attitude towards Islam.

In the first instalment, ‘Left-wing media bias in Norway’, I presented evidence that the media in Norway are biased in their portrayal of Islam, and that they are reluctant to write anything that could be construed as incriminating Islam following Islamic terrorist attacks, as opposed to the collective responsibility placed on the conservative, anti-immigration community in Norway following the 22/7 attacks in Oslo.

The enormous torrent of hate-filled rhetoric that was directed at the conservative community in Norway following the Oslo attacks constituted a complete change of tactics by the media. Traditionally the Norwegian media have always attempted to exculpate Muslims following Islamic terrorist attacks and they have always gone to great lengths to portray Islam and Muslim in a positive light after such attacks. This rule has been followed rigorously despite attempts by the Muslims themselves to find justification for such attacks, and despite numerous opinion polls indicating that many within the Muslim community condone such attacks. In Norway any attempts to link Muslims to terrorists attacks or to even hint that Islamic terrorists find validation in the Koran to carry out such attacks are feverishly dismissed as racism and ‘Islamophobia’ by the very same media which actively sought to smear members of the Norwegian conservative community after the Oslo attacks.

So let’s take a closer look at the Muslim community in Norway and attempt to determine whether there is any truth to the claim that Muslims living in the country are peace-loving, and that they embrace traditional Western values. In order to support or reject such a claim, it’s important to study the views and behaviour of the Muslims who live here, and to ascertain whether they change their views over time.

In this essay I intend to go back almost twenty-five years to find out whether such changes have occurred. We’ll also take a closer look at the values the leadership of the big Islamic organizations in Norway advocate, as they are the collective voice of the Muslim community. If we find strong evidence that suggest that they exhibit conflicting views on such issues as democracy and the legitimacy of terrorists attacks, then it’s reasonable to conclude that this is also the case with ordinary Muslims living in Norway.

The first Muslims arrive

Let’s go back to the beginning.

The first Muslims that arrived in Norway came in the late 1960s, and were young Pakistani males who showed up in Norway equipped with tourists’ visas and not much else. It soon became apparent that these Pakistanis had ulterior motives for coming here. They had not come to Norway for a holiday; they had come here looking for work. And after having circumvented the problem for some time, and no doubt after having been influenced by several harrowing newspaper reports over the miserable living conditions that these Pakistanis had to endure, it was the government of the time decided that these young men should be allowed to work for a limited period until they could afford to go back home to Pakistan.

However, events took a different turn, and the Pakistanis were eventually allowed to stay on permanently. In time they were also granted family reunification privileges. This was the catalytic event that started the growth of Islam in Norway. The second big wave came later on in the 1980s and 1990s, when Norway experienced another massive influx of individuals ‘fleeing’ from the Islamic world and wanting to settle in Norway under the pretence of being politically persecuted in their homelands.

But even though there has been a Muslim presence in Norway since the late 1960s, Norwegians weren’t really exposed to Islamic values until the late 1980s when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on the author Salman Rushdie, and the Muslim community in Norway started to express public support for the fatwa. This caused many Norwegians to take a less favourable view of the religion and its practitioners. The democratic nature of the Muslim community — or the lack thereof — became even more apparent when the publishing company, Aschehoug translated The Satanic Verses into Norwegian. This decision prompted the Muslims to stage huge demonstrations in which thousands took to the streets in Oslo and demanded that the book be withdrawn from Norwegian bookshelves, and that anyone involved with the distribution of the book should be punished.

And as this newspaper article shows, the police in Norway decided to take these threats seriously:

Due to security concerns the book was printed at a secret location, and the police implemented various safety measures for the people involved with the publishing of the book. Because in the aftermath of the release unrest followed in several countries: threats, firebombing of bookstores, killings and violent demonstrations that ended in riots. In the period between February and May 1989 there were demonstrations in Oslo, Mumbai, Stockholm, Bonn, Bangkok, Karachi, Srinagar and Rotherham.

Here’s a chronological list detailing the events that took place in Norway: