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Time for Some Islamic Self-Examination in Norway?

The most disheartening aspect of the demo in Oslo was not that Mohyeldeen Mohammed, a clean-cut Wahhabist who oozed Saudi style and spirit, threatened a new 9/11 or 7/7. What was most disturbing was the attitudes expressed by politicians across the left-to-right spectrum.  Abid Raja of the Liberal Party was the first to speak out, warning against “violent Muslim raids.”  (You’ll have to search far and wide for worse stigmatizing of Muslims than that,)  Aamir Sheikh also predicted violence: “I believe there will be trouble.  After all, there are 150,000 Muslims living in Norway.  Every last one of them has been offended.”  Even more serious is the fact that the vice president of the Norwegian Parliament was reading from the same script.  Appearing on February 11 on TV2’s all-news channel, Akhtar Chaudhry maintained that Muslims “are harassed and persecuted every day” because “they are Muslims.”  He then cited specific instances in which Muslims have been subjected to assault as evidence of how badly they are treated.  Contrary to Chaudhry’s claims, however, the most oppressed people in today’s Norway, and in Europe generally for that matter, are the Muslim girls and women who are subjugated and mutilated by their own families, and whom Norway spends hundreds of millions of kroner annually to protect.  Not to mention that the group that most actively harasses another group in Europe is Muslims, who employ violence against Jews on a staggering scale.  That an elected official in a top government position should contribute to a rise in aggression even as he crudely falsifies reality should have political consequences.  Can Kristin Halvorsen, the head of his party, live with his statements?

Chaudhry and his ilk should explain to us why they so rarely express their feelings in public when it really matters -- that is, when it is individuals and not alleged prophets and holy texts that are under attack.  When a young woman named Faiza is denied love.  [Faiza Ashraf, a Norwegian-born 26-year-old woman with Pakistani parents, disappeared three weeks ago.  She was most likely abducted and is still missing. It turns out that she has had a Norwegian Pakistani boyfriend for nine years whom her parents would not permit her to marry; they wished instead to marry her off in Pakistan.]  When a young woman named Anooshe is murdered. [In 2002, Anooshe Gholam was shot to death outside the courthouse in Kristiansund by the husband she had left.]  When Norwegian children are genitally mutilated.  When Christians are killed in the Muslim world.  When suicide bombers blow civilians -- usually Muslims -- to bits.

Chaudhry and his ilk should also ask themselves: what have we Muslims contributed to Norwegian society?  Is there something we should be doing differently, given that we’re the group that is overrepresented in so many tragic statistics, whether they concern economic crime (as exemplified by recent cases of widespread cheating by Muslim cabdrivers), welfare outlays, or violent crime (such as forced marriage, violent assaults, and violence against women and children, the scale of which is reflected in the high numbers of Muslims at women’s shelters)?  What can we do to improve our image, and thus help strengthen society and the welfare state?

And how about a little humor and self-irony?  Do Norwegian Muslims agree with Ayatollah Khomeini’s famous statement -- in one of his first speeches after the revolution -- namely that “there are no jokes in Islam” and “there is no fun in Islam.”

It isn’t Norway that should change its fundamental culture.  Our fundamental culture is why you came here.  What’s needed is a change of mentality -- and that’s a job for you to do yourselves.

This essay originally appearted in Bergens Tidende and was translated from the Norwegian by Bruce Bawer.