'More difficult to be gay in Norway'

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A former Norwegian Justice Minister who’s also a best-selling author thinks it’s more difficult to be either gay or Muslim in Norway than it was 10 years ago. Anne Holt, who’s gay herself, says she’s been scared by a rising degree of what she deems hatred.

Holt, who briefly served as Justice Minister during Thorbjørn Jagland’s Labour Party government in the mid 1990s, told newspaper Dagsavisen that both gays and Muslims are subject to “a harder climate.”

“As homosexual I have discovered that the borders for political correctness have moved,” Holt said. “Now you’re allowed to say things that would have been political suicide a few years ago.”

Holt has just finished writing a new crime novel, due out this autumn, that deals with hate and hate crimes. The story focuses on the balance between expressing hate, and hate crimes involving violence and terror.

“When we look around at urban Oslo, it’s easy to think everything is fine,” she said. “But it’s not. I get depressed by what I hear from young homosexuals, about what they’ve experienced.”

Asked whether she personally has noticed rising intolerance, or hateful remarks, she responded: “Absolutely. Definitely.”

She’s not alone. Karen Pinholt, leader of the gay rights group LLH, said she “completely agrees” with Holt. “It’s okay now to come with hateful remarks directed at specific groups in public debate,” Pinholt told Dagsavisen . “And the more hateful the debate gets, the more difficult it is to take up difficult issues or come with necessary criticism.”

An organization that fights racism in Norway, Antirasistisk senter , has also been busy fighting hateful expressions directed at the Muslim community. Some Muslims believe “islamic phobia” is rising.

“I’m convinced there’s potential for more violence against Muslims,” said Abid Q. Raja, an Oslo attorney and politician for the Liberal Party (Venstre) . “I think Muslims are where gays were 40 years ago.”