I have lived in Norway for almost eleven years now, and for most of that time, while I have observed with deep concern the developments in Europe related to Islam, immigration, and failed integration, two of the greatest sources of hope for me have been Hege Storhaug and Rita Karlsen of Human Rights Service (HRS). It is an honor to call these two brave women my friends. They have made tremendous efforts, taken immense risks, and endured an unimaginable amount of unjust abuse in their struggle to defend the human rights of the most vulnerable people in Norway and to preserve the liberty of all Norwegians. There are few people for whom I have as much respect as I have for Hege and Rita, and few people in whose personal integrity I have as much confidence. They have made an immeasurable contribution to the enlightenment of the public and the development of policy in Scandinavia, and their job, in my view, has only begun.
I have contributed to rights.no on several occasions in the past, and I am now returning to these pages in connection with the expansion of the website to include regularly updated English-language pages. My role will involve not only writing a monthly column but also translating and editing essays by contributors in Scandinavia and around the Western world. I have taken on this task because I know that HRS and I share a strong belief in certain core values – among them freedom of speech, freedom of religion, individual liberty, secular democracy, equality before the law, and sexual equality – and because I think that an expanded rights.no that includes frequently updated contents in English can perform an invaluable service in a time when those values, owing to catastrophic immigration and integration policies as well as to certain aspects of Muslim law, belief, and custom, are under increasing threat throughout the Western world.
One thing that has long struck me about the public discussion of the problems that face the West is that, to a remarkable extent, politicians and commentators in each country have addressed those problems almost as if they were peculiar to their own country – as if they did not afflict their neighbors as well. Here in Norway, the only other countries that regularly figure in these debates are Denmark and Sweden. In short, the insularity of national cultures in the West is even greater, and the barriers of language and culture considerably higher, than we may suppose. As a result, European governments that might learn from the experience of their counterparts elsewhere on the continent have failed repeatedly to do so. A site in English that features astute reporters and commentators from a range of Western nations, not just in Europe but in North America and Australasia – and that is read in all of those countries – can, it seems to me, do a great deal to help bridge these gaps.
There are already, to be sure, widely read “anti-jihad” sites that are based in Europe and written in English. But in my view there is a crying need for a site that features a range of strong, intelligent international voices and that can be counted upon to be solidly supportive of democratic values and free of racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. The Islamization of the West is enough of a challenge by itself; what complicates the situation, and intensifies the challenge facing us, is that Europe is also confronted by a growing specter of far-right nativism and xenophobia, which represent as serious a threat to those values as does Islamism. It is my desire, and I know it is Hege’s and Rita’s as well, that in the present atmosphere the new, expanded rights.no will provide an important corrective and counterweight to those parlous forces.
A few words about myself: I was born and raised in New York City, I have a doctoral degree in English, and I began my career as a literary and film critic and poet (further details can be found at my website). But my concern about social and political developments in the U.S. led me to write A Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society (1993), which Frank Bruni summed up in the Detroit Free Press as «[o]ne of the most sensible assessments of the gay rights movement that’s ever been written, as well as one of the most eloquent arguments for acceptance of gays that’s ever been made,” and which author and law professor Dale Carpenter described as having ”changed gay politics forever.” That book was followed by Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity (1997), a critical study of the ways in which fundamentalist Protestantism distorts the gospel message; the book is still widely used in discussion groups in mainstream Protestant churches across the United States. What these two books share is a dedication to individual identity and freedom and an opposition to groupthink, oppression, and tyranny – a perspective rooted in my fealty to the values articulated in the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
This same perspective underlies the two books that I have published since moving to Europe in 1998. While Europe Slept (2006), which grew out of my experience as an American expatriate living in Amsterdam and then Oslo, sounds a warning about the threat that the Islamization of Europe poses to Western liberties; in Surrender (2009) I expand my canvas to include North America while narrowing my focus to concentrate on the ways in which the responses by the Western political, media, and cultural elite to Islamist pressure endangers freedom of speech. My association with HRS is a reflection of my continued commitment to this struggle to safeguard democratic values and human rights in these menacing times. I look forward to this collaboration and hope that it will help to bring together partisans of liberty throughout what was once called the free world.