Norway: Norwegians don't respect Muslims, says US envoy
Paradith's response to Aftenposten here.
During a meeting in Oslo, arranged by Abid Raja's new minority political think-tank, Minotenk, the special representative of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to the Muslim world, Farah Pandith, said that government bureaucracy can prevent young immigrant women from succeeding.
She thinks that Norwegian Muslims can also learn from the Americans who have allowed private organizations take the initiative.
"It's not a tradition people have in Norway. In the US we let the private sector do it," said Pandith.
She pointed out that president Barack Obama, in his speech in Cairo to the Muslim world last spring, promised he will bring together Muslim leaders of private and non-governmental organization to a big meeting in the White House to dicuss precisely these things.
"Why can't you take advantage of that?" Pandith asked the participants, and invited everybody to contact the American ambassador in Norway to speak more on the subject.
During the debate, Norwegian-Pakistani Usman Rana pointed out that the atmosphere in Europe is more hateful against Muslims, while in the US Islam is far more accepted.
"Our country is built on religious freedom. We're freer to practice Islam in the US than in any other country in the world. We respect the freedom everybody has to practice their religion," answered Pandith.
Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg thinks Norway has a lot to learn from the US in order to help Norwegian Muslim women succeed in mainstream society.
"We're not quite there yet, we are very engaged by systems and problems," Solberg told Aftenposten.no.
She thinks Norway has much to learn about how American made Islam and Muslims part of the mosaic of mainstream society.
"I think there's been a rapid worsening of how people see Islam and Muslims in Norway," says Solberg. "More and more people feel that you can't be Norwegian and Muslims. And I think you can."
Paradith visited Oslo for two days and spoke with various immigrant youth. She thinks these groups are overlooked and misunderstood.
"They've told me that they feel the media doesn't tell about the positive things young Muslims do, only what's tragic or negative. They also feel there's an 'us and them' attitude. Many of them are second and third generation immigrants who speak perfects Norwegian and have a Norwegian identity. Yet they have no opportunity to be heard."
She thinks that many of the world's young Muslims struggle to find their role.
"Their identity become completely different after 9/11. Before that, nobody spoke about what it is to be Muslim. Now it's often terrorism which is in the newspaper headlines when Muslims are described in the media," says Pandith.
Before leaving for Sweden, she had a clear message for Norway: "It's a challenge for ethnic Norwegians to respect all Norwegians who live in this country, regardless of religion and to appreciate the value and the resources they contribute to Norwegian culture," she says.
Sources: Aftenposten, TV2 (Norwegian)