Like most other Western nations Norway is changing rapidly. Today 10,6 percent of the population are either first or second generation foreigners, and their political sympathies, as well as their religious beliefs, differ from what has been the traditional norm. Most of the immigrants are European, but we have approximately 150 000 muslims in Norway today as well.
Until quite recently demography has been a political non-topic, but increasingly it is becoming too large an issue to ignore. In today’s Dagbladet.no, journalist Astrid Meland asks the provocative question: what if the muslims become the majority? A row of prominent Norwegians answer the question, with some saying that the question itself is pure science-fiction and others making educated guesses on approximately when muslims will be in majority. 2060? At the turn of the century? Author and publisher Aslak Nore states as below (unauthorized translation forom Meland’s article in Dagbladet.no)
Aslak Nore, who this autumn is publishing a book on immigration, quotes the researcher Eric Kaufmann at Harvard who has discussed how a growing muslim population might develop. He sees two possible outcomes in the medium term.
- One is violent riots of the kind one has seen in England and France. The other is pressure upon foreign policy, to hinder support to Israel. Here Norway had a taste during the troubles in January. This seems quite likely.
For anyone unfortunate to get caught up in the riots in Oslo centre on January 8th, the prospect of seeing similar events ever again is a bleak one indeed.
Here is a complete translation of the entire article from IslaminEurope:
Norway: If Norway had a Muslim majority
Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet asked various people what they think would happen if Norway had a Muslim majority. Readers can vote who they most agree with: Hege Storhaug (Sharia will take over) or Nazneen Khan-Østrem (nothing will necessarily change). At the moment, 78% agree with Storhaug.
The following is a summary of the various opinions, provided by Dagbladet. The original article links to more extensive responses.
Everybody was asked three identical questions:
1. Do you think cities in Noway might have a Muslim majority in the future? If so, how long would it take?
2. What are the most important things you think can change if Norway or areas in Norway have a Muslim majority?
3. What do you think of the Islam-debate in Norwegian society?
This week Norway Statistics came out with new forecasts which estimate the population in Norway to be 6.9 million in 2060. Immigration is the most important reason for the increase. SBB doesn’t work meanwhile with forecasts by ethnic or religious group. Several debaters in the Islam debate fear that Muslims will become a majority in various cities in Norway within a decade. It is the higher birthrate among the minorities and continued high immigration which can lead to that. Some speak of “Eurabia” and point to immigrant-stuffed cities such as Rotterdam and Marseilles with their problems. Will Belgistan be next, or maybe the Moorish emirate of Iberia?
Opponents call this a conspiracy theory, an expression of “Islamophobia”. Muslims are so different, they claim, fundamentalists are a long way from everybody else, those we speak of have barely been born and we can’t suppose that they’re be orthodox religious when they grow up.
Will Norway have a Muslim majority? We asked various central debaters to answer the question, and their opinions differ greatly.
Columnist Mohammad Usman Rana thinks the discussion on a Muslim majority is based on myths and prejudices, and adds that Norway in 2060 will have between 4-11% Muslims. He’s supported by Islam-researcher Anne Sofie Roald who points out that Muslims are a small minority in Norway, and will continue to be so. Aslak Nore also doubts a Muslim majority.
Spokesperson Hege Storhaug of the HRS think-tank says that they conducted estimates for Oslo. She thinks the capital will have a Muslim majority in 40-50 years. Author Bruce Bawer agrees with her that this will happen, but doesn’t know when. Document.no debater Hans Rustad is also most concerned about Oslo.
Yousuf Gilani, a politician for the Liberal Party thinks there can be a Muslim majority in Norwegian cities, just like Abid Q. Raja, but it doesn’t worry them. College lecturer Nazneen Khan Østrem rejects the entire presentation of the problem as ridiculous. Associate professor Berit S. Thorbjørnsrud thinks that it’s science fiction, and Shoaib Sultan, general secretary in the Islamic Council, agrees.
What will happen in Norway if we have a Muslim majority? Here are the answers of our debaters:
“Islam is in constant development, in 50 years Islam and Norwegian-Muslims will be as much Muslims as today’s Christians are in Norway,” says Yousuf Gilani, who thinks most Norwegians will just notice more halal food in the shop and more variation in skin color.
Gilani is concerned more about the rise of what he calls the right-wing radical forces which go on the offensive against Muslims.
“The feedback I get from the educated elite in Norway among the minority is that many consider moving from Norway, if there will a lot more right-wing radicalization of the country. This trend appears to be more real in Norway now than what we’ve experienced in the past.”
“The increase will happen in especially two places: Indre Oslo Øst and Øvre Romerike. Indre Oslo Øst will likely become a ghetto-culture. I assume that a high portion will be Muslims. Elementary schools in Oslo have 39% students of immigrant background. The portion of Muslims is probably high, but how high, I haven’t seen any numbers for it, and I believe they aren’t available,” says Hans Rustad.
If the authorities don’t do anything with this development, Rustad believes we’ll have a segregated society.
“Then people will see changes in residence patterns, such that those who do not like to live under group pressure from other, move. This will include individual Muslims and other immigrants.”
Aslak Nore, will will publish a book about immigration in the fall, cites social-researcher Erik Kaufmann of Harvard, who discussed what can happen with an increasing Muslim population (‘Eurabia?: the Foreign Policy Implications of West Europe’s Religious Composition in 2025 and Beyond‘ (PDF)). He sees two possible outcomes.
“One is violent riots of the type one has seen in England and France. The other is pressure on foreign policy, to prevent support for Israel. Here Norway got a taste during the trouble in January. This appears rather likely. On the long term, Kaufmann is concerned with the day that conserviative right-wing parties in Europe begin to woo Muslims, on religious grounds. The day conservatism will go from being national to becoming a “moral majority”. This happened to a high degree in the USA in the latter half of the 20th century. It can also happen in Europe in a few decades. Then it won’t be fun to be a homosexual or a religion critic.”
Nazneen Khan Østrem says that a Muslims majority in one city will not necessarily change anything as few Muslims are fanatic Islamists.
“The question carries with it an underlying premise that Muslims represent other values and want a different legal system. This doesn’t add up at all. The majority of Muslims in Norway are like most Norwegian. It’s time to take this in and stop with scaremongering,” says Nazneen Khan Østrem.
“Just in Oslo we presumably have more than 20 different Muslim communities, which means that Muslims can’t be described as one group with a determined goal. Therefore one can’t predict the significance of Muslims for political, social or cultural change,” says Berit S. Thorbjørnsrud.
Abid Raja, Liberal Party politician and much more, thinks the question smells of fear of Muslims, but is concerned by preventing the development of parallel societies, expectations that Sharia will be introduced in Norway, ghettos and internal justice if we don’t make an effort at integration in the problem areas.
It’s not sharia and FGM that Mohammad Usman Rana fears, but violence against Muslims. He says it can have serious, and in one case – deadly, consequences for Muslims:
“A Norwegian-Muslim father of small children was killed in Nord-Norge in 2008 by a man who had for a while declared a wish “to kill a Muslim”. The female head of the Muslim Student Society, Bushra Ishaq, received threats on her mobile phone in the wake of the police hijab debate. Not least, the Equality and Discrimination Ombudsman Beate Gangås reports that it’s worse to be a Muslim in Norway in this debate climate. Gangås points for example to reports she got of Muslim children being harassed in the school yard, harassment in the workplace and a Muslim who didn’t get to be appraiser due to his faith. We can’t have that in Norway. The value of disagreement and debate is priceless, but if the debate becomes so tough and polarized that a vulnerable minority experiences increased discrimination and people creates breeding ground for segregation, then the value of such a debate is wiped out.”
“The European Council has just recently points out that the Norwegian debate is characterized by generalizations and has typical undertones of racism and xenophobia. This I’ve personally experiences as a debater when I was ‘hung’ as an Islamist, extremist and fundamentalist in the winter’s Islam debate based on my defending standpoint of the right to wear a hijab,” says Bushra Ishaq, who says that though she’s a Muslims, going to the mountains on Easter and Christmas pudding delight her greatly as all other Norwegians.
Hege Storhaug sees a future clash with a Muslim majority:
“Then Norway will be subdued by sharia and Muslims will be, per Sharia, the rulers, and other religious groups will get dhimmi-status, that’s to say they will have fewer and different legal rights and will have to pay a special tax. Will also have then a religious-fascist and gender-fascist society. Already today 40% of young British Muslims ages 16-24 want a Sharia-led UK. If such anti-democratic forces, who are enemies of the freedom we hold so highly, win over among Europe’s strongly increasing young Muslim population, then it’s obvious which way Europe’s going.”
Anne Sofie Roald believes Muslims in Norway will have a typical “Norwegian” attitude to Islam: equality, democracy and tolerance.
“If Muslims, contrary to all expectation, should become a majority, it’s important to understand that most Muslims are so-called ‘secular’ Muslims who don’t practice Islam. Among those who practice, many have a private religious perspective where Islam is practices in the private sphere in the same as many Christians in Norway.
“One word: Sharia law. And even if there isn’t yet a Muslim majority, there are also many in power positions in the country who are keen to sacrifice important freedoms in order to gratify the Sharia-supporters. There was for example frightening to see how many big names agreed with Dag Solstad’s repulsive statements on freedom. This is just the beginning,” says Bruce Bawer.
Freelancer and debater Ali Esbati thinks the demography discussion is racist, and doesn’t want to participate in such a debate.