King hails diversity during terror trial

As the trial of Norway’s home-grown, anti-immigration terrorist grinds on in an Oslo courtroom, the country’s monarch opted to make the latest of no less than four recent visits to one of the city’s most multi-cultural areas. There’s little doubt King Harald V is sending a strong signal of support for the multiculturalism that terror defendant Anders Behring Breivik attacked, and some believe the king is defining the “new” nation that Norway has become.

King Harald meeting youth and future leader in Oslo's Alna district, located in the Norwegian capital's ethnically diverse area of Groruddalen. PHOTO: Elanchelian Nadarajah/Bydel Alna/Oslo kommune

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, who was along on Monday’s royal visit to another youth group in the urban valley of Groruddalen, said it was important to turn the spotlight on the positive cross-cultural commitment in the area that’s home to persons with roots in as many as 150 countries.

Asked whether King Harald’s visit on Monday to the youth organization Furuset Forum in Oslo’s Alna district was an important signal while Breivik’s trial was underway, Stang told newspaper Dagsavisen “yes, it’s certainly not a bad time to highlight how diversity is one of the support beams for our city.”

In addition to visiting the Alna School, where young future leaders are educated, and chatting with youth at the Furuset Forum, which offers sports and other organized activities to around 200 young residents, King Harald has visited an activity center in nearby Ammerud, the Grorud Taekwondo Club and attended Groruddalen’s annual youth conference in late March.

King Harald also attended a youth conference in Groruddalen in late March. PHOTO: Christian Lagaard/Det kongelige hoff

At that time, King Harald stressed that he’d been invited to attend the conference, which aims to improve conditions for growing up in Groruddalen, and he was happy to accept. “I’m engaged with promoting conversations between people,” King Harald said in his annual New Year’s address, stressing that it’s important for youth “to lead the way.”

On Monday he listened as young residents aged 15 to 25 talked about their ambitions to be local leaders, before he stopped in at sessions of handball training and even rollerskating that’s replaced the ice rink that was used all winter.

“I wanted to follow up what I said in the New Year’s address,” King Harald told Dagsavisen. “I’m very interested in work with children and youth. It’s as important as ever, perhaps even more important now.”

Calculated risk
Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen, a social anthropologist at the University of Oslo, said the monarch was sending a clear signal about what type of society he wants. According to Eriksen, King Harald also wants to stress that he’s the king for everyone in Norway, including all those with roots in other countries.

“Some will probably call this ‘liberal political correctness,’” Eriksen told Dagsavisen, adding that King Harald may be criticized for sharing what some might call his own ideology. “The Royal Palace has likely calculated the risk for that, and the king has nevertheless chosen to send this signal. It’s rather exciting.”

The Royal Palace itself was one of Breivik’s initial targets before he opted to massacre Labour  Party youth instead. Breivik testified in court last week, though, that he knew it would be “unacceptable” to injure any member of the royal family, not least because he thinks most other right-wing extremists such as himself support monarchies. The support is clearly not mutual, with King Harald stating earlier that Breivik’s attacks, which killed 77 persons, were “an attack on the Norwegian society we value so highly … an attack on the core of the Norwegian democracy.”

Re-defining Norway
Eriksen, who specializes in ethnicity and nationalism, also claimed that King Harald’s four visits to Groruddalen in the past six weeks, along with his recent speeches on solidarity, are defining Norway as the “new type” of nation it’s become.

“It’s no longer where we come from, but where we live that’s important for who we are, and for whether we’re Norwegian or not,” Eriksen said. “In light of the terror trial now going on, that’s something we can’t say often enough.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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