HRS International

Legitimizing segregation

H.R.H. Crown Princess Mette-Marit is the patron of the Norwegian Guide and Scout Association (Boy and Girl Scouts). Tuesday she visited the Muslim scout troop Rabita in Oslo. In recent years the Guide and Scout Association has made an effort to establish several “Muslim scout troops,” which they think is integration in practice. But such an organization can also be seen as segregation in that children and teenagers are divided on the basis of their parents’ religion – under the banner of the scouts.

Rita Karlsen, HRS

At the website of the Norwegian royal family we can read that “H.R.H. the Crown Princess yesterday visited 14 young scouts who meet at the mosque on Calmeyers Street. Both reading from the Koran and tying of scout knots were on the schedule the kids had planned for the Crown Princess.”

We are further told that the Rabita scout troop was formed a year ago as a part of the Norwegian Guide and Scout Association’s diversity program (my emphasis), and that the troop’s meetings, which take place at a mosque, focuses both on ordinary scouting activities, such as hiking and first aid, and learning about Islam and the Koran. The scouts have also apparently put on what is described as “a thoroughly special variation” on the fairy tail of Little Red Riding Hood, which was dramatized with elements drawn both from scout life and from Islam.

After her visit, the Crown Princess tweeted about it:

Have just visited Rabita scout troop in Grønland, Oslo. They were so clever! I learned to tie scout knots.

It may be that the Crown Princess learned to tie scout knots, but it would have been interesting to know if she considers it a good idea to have separate scout troops for Muslims. When wrote about this state of affairs earlier this year, in connection with the establishment of a Muslim scout troop in Stavanger, we received reactions from the parents of scouts – specifically, the parents of ethnic Norwegian scouts. These parents could not see that separating Muslim from non-Muslim children served the purpose of integration in the slightest. On the contrary, they felt that it could only serve to weaken any sense of community. One of these parents, a mother in eastern Norway, raised the problem with the Norwegian Guide and Scout Association, but didn’t feel that the answer she received was satisfactory. As I understand it, she became so outraged that she removed her own child from the scouts – she simply didn’t want to help finance such segregation.

I understand her point of view. Why should we accept the idea that Muslims, especially children and teenagers, should keep to themselves? How does it serve them – and how does it serve other kids? After all, if such an organizational model serves the purposes of integration, we can just forget about having integrated elementary schools. The argument that Muslim children will not be allowed by their parents to join the scouts if there aren’t separate Muslim troops must, I believe, be rejected. We can be rather certain that Muslim children who have minimal contact with mainstream Norwegian society are precisely the ones who are being placed in “Muslim” scout troops. Why can’t the scouts instead define common values that transcend different religious convictions, and make these the basis of the scout oath? It wouldn’t make the scout knots any worse. On the contrary.

Translated by Bruce Bawer