Norway’s Royal Palace announced Thursday afternoon that it was revoking the king’s service medal that it had awarded to Trond Ali Linstad, a converted Norwegian Muslim who has helped further integration of immigrants in Oslo but also is widely viewed as being anti-Semitic. The palace said that Linstad’s own stated views could not be reconciled with the intentions behind the medal after all.
The revocation amounts to a highly unusual admission on the part of the palace that it made a serious mistake in awarding the royal recognition to Linstad. Åge Grutle, the palace’s chief of staff who also leads the council that screens medal nominations and presumably had recommended that King Harald approve the medal to Linstad,which he had, took responsibility for what some called a “scandal.”
The palace stated that Linstad initially had won the medal for his “years of efforts” towards “integrating minorities through his work as a doctor in Grønland (a district of Oslo with a large population of immigrants) and his work with Urtehagen (a foundation he established and led that created the first day care centers for Muslim children in Oslo).”
Grutle said that service medals are personal, tied to the life’s work of their recipients, but that such work also must be in line with overall attitudes that meet the medal’s goals. “In this case, the royal court did not gather enough of an overview to make such an overall evaluation,” Grutle admitted on the palace’s website. He further admitted that both he and the palace staff can be held responsible for “this unfortunate negligence.”
The admitted negligence also put King Harald into an embarrassing position, since many initially believed the monarch had, intentionally or not, overlooked the highly controversial statements Linstad has made over the years, for example “beware the Jews.” Linstad also has supported the regime in Iran and made various statements believed to be anti-democratic.
Grutle stressed that “respect for freedom of expression must of course also be taken into account” when evaluating candidates for medals. “We will normally be extremely careful about characterizing candidates’ opinions,” Grutle wrote. But in “a new review” of Linstad’s case, he claimed the council had paid attention to Linstad’s written statements “which seem to suspect Jews as a group and remind us of stigmatizing conspiracy theories about the Jewish people.”
Grutle said the council also now believes that Linstad stigmatized gays as well as Jews.
“Linstad has given us the impression that his statements shouldn’t be understood in that way,” Grutle wrote. “In the royal court’s view, we have nonetheless come to the conclusion that Linstad’s expressions such as they are understood (by others), cannot be reconciled with the service medal’s intentions.”
The royal recognition was thus with withdrawn, and Grutle apologized to Linstad as well. ”I am extremely sorry that we have brought Linstad into this situation,” Grutle wrote.
The awarding of the medal to the 69-year-old Linstad, who’s been a political activist for decades, set off major controversy and Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang had informed the palace several weeks ago that he did not want to present the medal in a ceremony that had been scheduled for Tuesday. That ceremony, along with an alternative ceremony, were cancelled. Linstad met with palace staff on Thursday but Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that he made no comment upon departure. The meeting initially had been scheduled for Monday.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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