Hege Storhaug, HRS
”Integrate the mother and two-thirds of the job is done, for the mother integrates the children”: this has been our #1 motto from the outset. The question, however, is whether a ministry charged with responsibility for children, sexual equality, and integration will be too large – and whether integration problems will end up being lost in the shuffle. The question is also how Knut Storberget (Labor) will manage to administer both the justice sector and the ongoing problems involving integration through marriage, asylum, and the UN quota policy.
What we want is a government ministry that deals with both immigration (fetching marriage, asylum, and refugees) and integration policy. Such a unified effort would result in the most coherent policies. What we have now is a situation in which various immigration-related issues are spread out over several ministries. The dream, however, has not been fulfilled. Immigration itself will now be the province of the Ministry of Justice. As we understand it at present, Minister of Justice Knut Storberget (Labor) will be responsible for family immigration, fetching marriage, asylum integration, and refugees who are allowed into Norway under the UN quota. To add all this to the demanding justice sector that Storberget administered during the previous parliamentary term will make his job particularly challenging, to put it diplomatically. As a result, Storberget will be standing in the path of the media storm when the four-year rule [requiring that foreigners granted Norwegian residence on humanitarian grounds have spent four years in full-time jobs or education before they can bring family members to Norway] goes into effect and when criminal asylum seekers are interned and underage asylum seekers are sent to children’s homes in their countries of origin. It is not unreasonable to suggest that Storberget will need to be terribly gifted at immigration issues if he is to carry off this task.
That the Socialist Left will head integration efforts at the Ministry of Children and Equality should cause jubilation in party ranks: children and women’s equality have always been key ideological themes for the Socialist Left. Now Audun Lysbakken (Socialist Left) can also take part in lifting Norway’s new children and women into mainstream Norwegian society, and thereby make Norway a role model for the rest of Europe. For there is no doubt on our part how decisive the integration of women and children will be in the success or failure of this nation’s integration project. The question is: Will Minister Lysbakken manage both to be colorblind and to put religion aside when he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work? Or will he do some wobbling on the values front on account of children’s and women’s ethnic and religious backgrounds? If Lysbakken is able to pursue an uncompromising equal-rights policy, it will amount to nothing less than a revolution within the European context. For so far, socialists across Europe have seriously failed Muslim girls and women. See, for example, my Dagbladet piece about the three female M’s on that newspaper’s editorial staff, who have turned their backs on the most important feminist struggle of our time. They would much prefer not to deal with these problems, and when they do speak up, it is usually to defend the hijab in what Sara Azmeh Rasmussen, in a 2007 debate on Tabloid [a TV discussion program] quite rightly called a ”sophisticated form of racism.” Muslim girls and women don’t have the same needs and feeling as ”the rest of us.” We can hope that Lysbakken has more backbone than these three women at Dagbladet.
The tasks we face on the integration front are many. How will Lysbakken deal with the dumping of children [i.e. at Koran schools in Muslim countries], with the increasing prominence of hijab in primary schools, with the importation of young and marginalized brides, with polygamy, with the general religious and social oppression of girls and women – just to name a few items? HRS will do its part to ensure that these issues don’t end up as mere topics of discussion in the dialogue industry, with its failure to formulate specific proposals, but that the problems are addressed with the seriousness they deserve. It is by means of legislation that children, women, and workers have been lifted into positions of dignity and equality in mainstream society. As Lysbakken and the other members of the new government enter into the next four-year term, they should learn a lesson from this history. That would be a feather in the cap of Stoltenberg’s third government.
Translated from the Norwegian by Bruce Bawer