State fights hate against Muslims

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Prime Minister Erna Solberg has moved forward with plans to tackle expressions of hatred against Muslims in Norway. Four of her government ministers launched the plan, just weeks after a young Norwegian man attacked a mosque and murdered his adopted Chinese sister after becoming a white supremacist.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg took part in a memorial ceremony at the mosque in Bærum that was attacked by a young white Norwegian earlier this month. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

“We already have a string of surveys that show there’s hostility towards Muslims in Norway, and that there’s a need for a plan to address that,” said Culture Minister Trine Skei Grande of the Liberal Party when unveiling the new plan late last week. Ministers from all four government parties, including the anti-immigration Progress Party, took part in the formal presentation of the anti-hate plan.

The Norwegian government already has plans for tackling racism and discrimination in general, along with anti-Semitism. Grande will now be in charge of the new plan that mostly aims to make Muslims feel safe and accepted in Norway. Several other ministries will also be involved, including those in charge of justice, education and foreign aid.

Negative stereotypes
A report from Oslo’s Holocaust Center in 2017 showed that negative stereotypes about Muslims are alarmingly widespread in Norway. Fully 39 percent of those questioned said they believed Muslims pose a threat to Norwegian culture. Another 31 percent agreed with a statement that Muslims “want to take over Europe,” while 48 percent supported the claims that “Muslims have much of the blame themselves for the rising hatred towards them.”

Education Minister Jan Tore Sanner said prejudice against Muslims and others must begin to be addressed in elementary schools. Critical thinking should be stressed in the schools, he said, to avoid impressionable children from being unduly influenced by social media or other questionable sources of information.

“Young people today spend as much time on Google as they do with textbooks, and as much time on Snapchat as TV2 or Dagsrevyen (state broadcaster NRK’s nightly national newscast). The lack of critical thinking is also a challenge within the adult population,” he said.

Justice Minister Jøran Kallmyr from the Progress Party said he gets furious on behalf of Muslim women who’e been asked to remove their head skarves. “It’s okay to debate the use of a hijab, but it’s not okay to go after individuals using them,” Kallmyr said.

Eradicating extremism
Grande said the goal with the anti-hatred program is to eradicate any basis for extremism. The program comes after several experts criticized the government for not having an anti-hatred campaign. Muslim organizations are more than willing to help.

“I think it’s important to build knowledge about this in the schools, through the teachers,” Abdirahman Diriye, leader of the Islamic Council of Norway, told newspaper Dagsavisen. Diriye said it’s also important to get an overview of the scope of anti-Muslim sentiment. He urged the use of Muslims as advisers in the classrooms, also to better explain “what Muslims stand for.”

Police, meanwhile, said over the weekend that they believe the young white Norwegian man who started firing inside a mosque in Bærum was radicalized over a period of two years. He was widely described by friends, teachers and others as having earlier been a kind and thoughtful young man who’d lost his mother at an early age and was the youngest of three brothers whose family also expanded later with a sister adopted as a toddler from China.

Police believe he shot her either because she tried to stop his attack on the mosque or because she was not a white Norwegian. Her funeral has been set for September 4, with the family asking for donations to a local anti-racism center in lieu of flowers.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund