The Linstad scandal in international media

The saga continues, now outside Norway. Meanwhile, in Norway, more details are being unveiled. For instance, Oslo Mayor  Fabian Stang, warned the County Governor of Oslo, who scrutinizes the proposed candidates – at present the office is held by Mrs. Valgerd Svarstad Haugland (Christian Democrats) – and the Royal Court of the unsuitability of Mr. Linstad as a worthy recipient of the King’s medal. He queried both institutions whether they at all had checked Mr. Linstad’s background, but does not now wish to reveal which feedback he got. (?). Apparently, after these consultations, Mr. Stang declined to present the award to Mr. Linstad, citing lack of identification with his cause. It gives room for thought that even after such a high profiled warning and eventual refusal to cooperate, somebody still thought it was a good idea to go ahead with what now has blown up in their faces.

An embarrassing situation, which I am at pains to say, also puts His Majesty in a very awkward position, since he has little actual input in the selection, vetting and decision process. However, he has in fact signed the decision which awards Linstad with the medal. His Majesty must now decide what to do, to cancel the award (so far it is only the ceremony of actually presenting Mr. Linstad with the medal that has been put on hold), or to spare the man a devastating blow. For, in order to be fair, it is not Mr. Linstad who has requested the medal for himself, and neither has he tried to hide his very unusual, anti-semitic, homophobic and anti-democratic views. His Majesty now has to suffer the consequences of somebody doing an incredibly sloppy job in the vetting and decision process.

The Royal Family has a long and proud tradition of reaching out to marginalized groups in Norway, and it is possible to think that the Award Committee and the County governor of Oslo sincerely want to reach out to marginalized communities in Oslo. But why, oh why did their choice land on an ethnic Norwegian convert to Islam who has offended so many in his time? Why not consider others who have contributed immensely to integrate newcomers, or otherwise contributed to the enrichment of our public life and discourse by giving generously of their own time, through hard work and great sacrifice? What about a woman like Safia Yusuf Abdi, who almost singlehandedly took on the entire Islamic community not only in Norway, but also in her native Somalia, in her fight to ban female genital mutilation. She also works tirelessly on behalf of vulnerable immigrants, in particular women, and helps them find a place and a voice in Norway.

Or, what about a writer/comedian/columnist Shabana Rehman? She too has challenged taboos and frequently stand up for the rights of vulnerable groups. Besides, she also represents Norway on the international arena – very few Norwegian writers have been interviewed by the NYT.

Or what about film director Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen? Through his portrayal of the Norwegian-Pakistani community he has contributed greatly to a better understanding and a more open attitude between Norwegians with a Pakistani background and ethnic Norwegians.

Or profiled politician Abid Raja? Or why indeed not Sara Azmeh Rasmussen?

Or the many hundreds if not thousands of people with an immigrant background who give generously of their time to make Norway a better country to live in for all?

Whose grand idea was it to give the price to a homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-democrat nut case, when there are so many wonderful and worthy candidates to choose from?

Jpost.com has picked up the story, as has many other international outlets, while the Simon Wiesenthal Center has petitioned His Majesty King Harald to cancel the award.

Norway nixes award for ‘anti-semitic’ charity head

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
11/14/2012 03:34

Norwegian Royal Palace was set to award Islamic foundation head Trond Ali Linstad, who has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Map of NorwayPHOTO: THINKSTOCK

BERLIN – The Norwegian Royal Palace reportedly has dropped controversial plans to present a prestigious award to a converted Muslim who is accused of anti-Semitism.The decision to withdraw the honor for Trond Ali Linstad was announced Tuesday after Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang canceled his participation in the award ceremony.Linstad, 69, is a former communist activist who converted to Islam and has published texts warning of Jewish influence on media and lobbying.Norway’s Royal Medal of Merit (Silver) recognizes service in the fields of art, science and industry and outstanding public service.Linstad – who is the founder and leader of Urtehagen, the Islamic foundation that operates kindergartens and educational programs for women – was slated to receive the award for his work in the field of immigrant education.

Stang was scheduled to present a medal to Linstad on behalf of King Harald.

“I usually award the king’s service medals with pleasure, but in this case I evaluated it as problematic,” Stang is quoted as telling the Norwegian daily Aftenposten this week.

The royal family’s original decision to recognize Linstad had unleashed a storm of US, Israeli and Norwegian outrage.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a strong condemnation of the planned award and sent a letter to Wegger Strømmen, the Norwegian Ambassador to the US, calling on Norway to rescind it. According to the ADL, Linstad “has openly espoused various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and has defended violence against Israel as a legitimate and ‘great success.”’ This involves his support of the use of a recognized jihadist term for violence against Jews in the context of anti-Israel actions, the ADL said, and the term has appeared on his blog.

Indeed, an op-ed published under Linstad’s name on the website Koranen.no warned readers to be “critical of the Jews in the world” who have “influence in newspapers and other media, in many political organs” and “networks.”

The leading Israeli expert on Norwegian anti-Semitism, Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, has argued that Norway is not taking the business of fighting modern anti-Semitism seriously. He told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday, “This is not the first time King Harald is involved in scandals. Watching Norway’s authorities and cultural elite for a number of years I conclude that one can expect from them the vilest manifestations of direct and indirect hatred.”

“In 2010 the Norwegian embassy in Damascus even financed an exhibition there of anti-Israel hate paintings by the Norwegian painter Hakon Gullvag,” Gerstenfeld said, adding that”anti- Semitic cartoons have been published regularly over the past decades in the mainstream Norwegian media.

One such cartoon, by Finn Graff, depicted former prime minister Ehud Olmert as a sadistic Nazi camp commander.

In March 2007, Graf was knighted by the king in the prestigious royal order for his contribution as an artist, and his drawings were declared an inspiration for all who draw and illustrate.”

Meanwhile, the TV2 Norwegian station reported that the Royal Palace said it was holding off on plans to award the medal “indefinitely.”

The event, planned and organized by officials from the Norwegian Royal Palace, was scheduled to take place at the National Theater in Oslo on Tuesday, but the theater’s management canceled for “security reasons.”

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. later reported that Linstad was poised to receive the medal later in the afternoon at an impromptu event set up as an alternative to the National Theater ceremony, but it was canceled, too, following a discussion involving palace officials and Linstad.

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