Norwegian Summer Values

Well, the summer was rainy and sunny at slippery turns. And there was general election in the air. We watched Jonas slip down the pinnacles of popularity, and the Blue-Blue captains sailing steady- on-the rocks. What else is new? In Germany the dreaded right wing Alternative for Deutschland made 13 % in the general vote. Now for the first time since World War 2 or indeed 1933, there is a right wing party in the Reichstag. Yet even now, when autumn has long since descended upon us, there is a faint memory of a peculiar debate. This summer there was in fact a public debate, an estive discussion about Norwegian values. Of course it was been connected to the forever ill-reputed immigration. This immigration, too often associated with a small number of asylum seekers, for some is threathening to the national core and back bone.

Surprisingly Prime Minister re-elect Solberg this August stated to NTB that she feels that Norwegian values are threathened. And Minister for Culture Linda Helleland and 2. in command Ola Borten Moe (Senterpartiet) jointly announced that Norwegian values are «under pressure». Although Mr. Borten MOe does not want to delve into the particulars of what constitutes Norwegian culture, Moe wrote in an article on that: «Our success lies in that we have managed to develop something more than just a geographical community». Others may object that this Norwegian success is not so unique. In a global perspective. And one may ask whether this statement in its naive appraisal is not just another instance of the famous Norwegian self-contentment? Muslim candidate Aisha Bhatti, also from Senterpartiet, on the other hand found that this discussion is really about muslims. It therefore serves to divide and create misunderstandings. And she has a point. Because one prominent part of the Norwegian self expression mode (if not culture) is to speak indirectly with hinting and avoiding direct confrontations as major strategies. This avoiding pattern is a thing many foreigners instantly recognize when working and staying in Norway. Therfore, statements like Solberg´s can be seen as dangerous in their inaccuracy and lack of adress.

Crowning the suspicion and provincialism prevalent in this discourse, Immigration minister Sylvi Listhaug was on her own summer offensive. A month before the election she accused KRFs Knut Hareide for «licking the Imam´s backs» by avoiding to take as aggresive stance as she does in national culture defense. Around the same time Listhaug was also invited to a seminar on Islamic extremism. There were also 500 muslim youths attending. Here she held an opening adress where she started attacking the seminar´s main speaker Tahir Ul Qadri, because he had allegedly expressed support of stoning and death penalty for blasphemy. Listhaug later bragged she was the only politician ever to criticize radical (or patriarchal, or fanatical as one may choose freely) Islam in this way. The organizer´s spokesman for his part dryly remarked that Listhaug in her adress disappointed in not having solutions or proposals for dialogue and conciliation. Ul Qadri did not answer Listhaug´s attack, who rather used his speech time to denounce those who use Islam to legitimate terror. It remains unclear whether Listhaug´s allegations were in fact true.

Another of Listhaug´s summer outcries were against children of refugees. She pointed out that some parents, who have been recognized as refugees by Norway pursuant to the UN Refugee Convention, actually return back to their home country on vacation. Besides this being illegal, as the refugees claimed to be persecuted in their home country, they sometimes also bring their children along. Presently the Immigration authorities (UDI) are working on 77 cases where they have detected such unwarranted vactions to the refugees home country. So in the light of these cases, and maybe a glimmer of paranoia, Listhaug wants Norwegian teachers to report to the UDI if they spot a refugee kid in their class suspected of heading back home.

Listhaugs has one thing right. It is a breach of rules if parents who are refugees take their children back home. But does this entail that Norwegian teachers should engage in surveillance of minors and reporting to other governmental bodies who do not deal with education or children´s well being? The National Education Association thinks obviously not. They simply refuse to comply with this, and view the proposal as non-compatible with maintaing the trust-based relationship between teacher and pupil. Further they see such an idea as discrimatory. In Ragtime´s view the proposal furthermore represents a breach of the teacher´s pledge of confidentiality that is supreme in the school system as well as in other children´s welfare institutions. Listhaug is carrying on as Minister, this time with the title «Integration Minister». We hope she will try to have more integrity logically in the coming few years.

The summer´s debate on values sort of culminated in these extreme assaults. And it is sad that such a beautiful and in many ways innocent country as Norway should have such unappetizing defenders at times. Defenders who have misunderstood the meaning and place of culture, common values and origins in the world of today.

-Sheila Parrera