A Member of Parliament for Norway’s conservative Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) was shocked on Friday after one of her own colleagues in the southern coastal city of Arendal made what many consider to be a series of racist remarks from the podium at a city council meeting Thursday evening. Sylvi Hardy of Frp said among other things that refugees “beat their children” and “smell badly,” and now her shocked MP colleague wants her to resign.
Hardy’s remarks came during a city council debate over how and whether Arendal can accommodate refuguees who already have won residence permission in Norway. Her comments, which included constant and consistent generalizations through references to “them” versus “us,” shocked not only a member of the city council from the Labour Party but also, on Friday, Hardy’s fellow Frp member Ingebjørg Godskesen, who represents Frp in Parliament.
“I personally think she (Hardy) should now say that “now I don’t have anything to do in a proper political party, and I’ll resign now,” Godskesen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Godsekesen said she could hardly believe what she was hearing, after watching a city council video of Hardy’s remarks.
Refugees and immigrants ‘completely different from us’
Hardy started out by conceding that photos of injured and downtrodden refugees can be “terrible” to look at, “but what we should think about a bit, before we take in massive amounts (of refugees), is that they have lived an entirely different life than us.” She added that “they have a completely different culture than us” and a “completely different” way of thinking.
“We see this in (cases involving Norway’s child welfare agency) Barnevernet,” Hardy went on. “They beat their children,” Hardy added, admitting, however, that she was also beaten as a child. She contended, however, that refugees and immigrants “kidnap their own children,” an apparent reference to a recent case of kidnapping involving a family from Chechnya.
“So when it comes to integration, there are limits to what can be done,” Hardy said from the podium at the public meeting. “It comes down to who we really want in ur own living rooms, people who think so differently, who smell badly because they eat other types of food that us. They are completely different from us.”
Hardy concluded by claiming that she had met “all kinds of people,” from “all over the world,” and seen racial hatred. “I don’t want to have that here,” she said. “We don’t have to be leaders in accepting immigrants.”
Godskesen was extremely upset after listening to her party colleague’s remarks. “I have had a terribly painful feeling since I heard this,” Godsekesen said. “The remarks were absolutely terrible. It’s unheard of to speak as Sylvi Hardy did.”
A clearly shaken Line Haugland, another city council member from the Labour Party, immediately took over the podium after Hardy stepped down and suggested that the mayor of Arendal, Einar Halvorsen of the Conservative Party, should have cut off Hardy’s remarks. “To say they ‘beat their children’ or ‘smell badly’ and then worry about racial hatred is way over the limit here,” Haugland said.
Godskesen agreed, claiming that Haovorsen’s failure to do so signified “a weak mayor” who didn’t “put a stop” to such remarks. “She (Hardy) shouldn’t have been allowed to continue,” Godskesen said. “This is all just incredible. I want to know why she wasn’t stopped.”
‘Should have reacted earlier’
Halvorsen admitted on Friday that he probably should have stopped Sylvi Hardy earlier, but told NRK that he’s “extremely careful” about using his club. “We were in a situation where speakers were given three minutes, but I accept the criticism that I didn’t react faster to Hardy’s remarks. I clearly should have reacted earlier to her use of words.”
He claimed, however, that he wasn’t surprised by Hardy’s remarks. “We know that some members of Frp have a special attitude towards immigration, and the party has a problem with some members who stigmatize or use racist words in that connection,” Halvorsen told NRK. He said he didn’t know Hardy well, because she’s a substitute representative for Frp on the council among 40 members.
Frp officials in Oslo declined to comment on Hardy’s remarks, claiming that her fate should be decided within the party’s local chapter in Arendal. NRK reported that Hardy herself had no regrets over her remarks and was standing by them Friday morning.