Survey indicates underlying racism

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A new report from the research foundation Fafo shows broad support among Norwegians for “active policies” to promote equality and prevent discrimination. Around 25 percent of all those questioned, however, said they fully or partially agreed that some human races are more intelligent than others.

Norwegians can be quite conservative, notes the head of the state agency that ordered a study of Norwegian attitudes towards equality, discrimination and hateful language. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

That topped newscasts on Norwegian Broadccasting (NRK) Monday morning, not least because it surprised the state agency Bufetat that’s in charge of issues affecting children, youth and families and commissioned the Fafo report. Director Mari Trommald told NRK she was especially surprised that so many Norwegians have “stereotypical attitudes” towards race, and even that it has anything to do with intelligence.

The roughly 25 percent of the 4,443 Norwegians questioned for the report spanned all age groups. A majority of those believing some races were more intelligent than others, however, had low levels of education themselves.

Fully 39 percent of those questioned also believed that someone from Somalia, for example, can never become “completely Norwegian.” Another 22 percent believed a Swede could never become “helt norsk” either, nor do 16 percent believe that a “dark-skinned person” could ever become fully Norwegian either.

Revealing attitudes
Fafo’s report aims at revealing attitudes among Norwegians regarding equality and discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, lifestyles, physical handicaps and sexual orientation. It also studies attitudes towards measures meant to ensure equality and towards hateful language in Norway. The latter has become a major issue, as it has in other countries, given all the hate and prejudice revealed in online commentaries and communication since the advent of the Internet age.

Norwegian police are now actively investigating and prosecuting hate crimes including threats and hateful messages sent on online. Newspaper Aftenposten recently reported how a probe by the Oslo Police District’s hate crime unit led to the indictment an Oslo man in his 60s for the hateful language and threats he sent to survivors of the July 22, 2011 massacre at the Labour Party’s summer camp. The massacre was carried out by an ultra-right-wing extremist who believed Labour had allowed too many immigrants into Norway. The man indicted thought the extremist should have killed survivors, too, while also claiming that asylum advocates he targeted should have drowned in the Mediterranean “along with all the asylum kids.”

‘Quite conservative’
That kind of hate rhetoric has shocked many, but the latent racism in Norwegian society may be far more prevalent than most have believed or care to admit. Fafo’s survey of attitudes found that a third of those questioned responded that they can feel fear while walking past a group of Muslim men on the street. There are especially negative attitudes towards women wearing a hijab and widespread acceptance for discrimination of them. In Fafo’s survey, 35 percent declared themselves completely or partially in agreement with a statement that a woman who wears a hijab can’t expect to be treated in the same way as other women in Norway.

Roma folk topped the list of people that Norwegians (38 percent) do not want as their neighour. Those responding to the Fafo survey, conducted during the spring and summer of last year, all but admitted that Roma and Muslims are the most likely to be discriminated against.

“We see that Norwegians are quite conservative,” Trommald of Bufetat told NRK. “The positive is that most Norwegians support anti-discrimination policies.” The Fafo report, written by Fafo researcher Guri Tyldum, showed the most support for measures to fight discrimination against people with physical disabilities, and the least support for trans-gender people.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund