Rita Karlsen, HRS
It was in June of last year that Mahdi Hassan of Tynset was named the ”Role Model of the Year.” The point of the prize is for the Ministry of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion to salute energetic souls who perform a major and important service to their local communities. The award is meant to go to people who are good role models, who promote anti-discrimination, and who establish dialogue across generational lines.
The jury, which was headed up by Rita Kumar (of Norway’s Contact Committee for Immigrants and the Authorities, KIM) and also included Ameer Harris Khan (of the National Youth Club Organization), Aram Azizi, (of the Norwegian Children and Youth Council) and Mohamed Melioui (of the Multicultural Initiative and Resource Network), placed special emphasis on the fact that ”Mahdi Hassan, though his voluntary work, has made a major contribution to the creation of opportunities for children and young people in Tynset. He has made a name for himself in several arenas in a positive way, and is an active citizen.”
The prize was awarded by the then Minister of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion, Anniken Huitfeldt (Labor Party), who described Hassan in the following way on the ministry’s website:
We know that good role models mean a lot when it comes to creating opportunities for children and teenagers. Mahdi Hassan is such a role model. He is visible, he has knowledge and a strong sense of commitment and makes use of these things to create a better day-to-day life for young people in Tynset. People like Mahdi Hassan make a difference and his award for ”2009 Role Model of the Year” is highly deserved.
But now comes the news that Hassan isn’t working hard to include everybody. As early as last summer, Hassan told the newspaper Arbeidets Rett that he wants a ban on homosexuality, based on the Koran: “Homosexuality is prohibited in the Koran, and I believe in my religion.” Now Arbeidets Rett has asked Hassan if that is still his opinion, and it is. The head of the Norwegian LGBT Association, Karen Pinholt, doesn’t thinks this man is a good role model: “It appears as if the Ministry of Inclusion has forgotten to include gay people here.”
The jury believed, on the contrary, that Hassan is a good role model, “both for people with immigrant backgrounds and also for ethnic Norwegians.” “That you’re good with one group, but talk condescendingly about another, doesn’t make sense,” says Pinholt. But the head of the Socialist Left Party in Tynset, Stein Petter Løkken, feels that it is just fine that Hassan would like to see homosexuality forbidden: “There is freedom of speech in Norway and in the Tynset Socialist Left Party we consider it unproblematic that Mahdi is opposed in principle to homosexuality,” Løkken told Arbeidets Rett. “It is in accordance with his religion.”
But if Mahdi Hassan agrees in principle with a ban on homosexuality, he does not oppose, in principle, the death penalty for gays: “That must be up to each individual country to decide,” he told the newspaper. “For myself I think that people must do what they want, and that people shouldn’t be punished for it.”
Løkken maintains that Hassan’s work on behalf of children and young people in Tynset overshadows his attitude toward homosexuality. Well, of course, because homosexuality certainly must not exist among young people in Tynset, just as it doesn’t exist among Muslims – right?
Justifiably, Pinholt considers herself excluded by Hassan the “role model,” and points out that homosexuality is something that one is, and can therefore hardly be made illegal. Imagine what were to happen if someone were to propose a ban on Muslims? Yikes. One thing’s for sure: nobody who suggested such a thing would ever, ever be named ”Role Model of the Year.”
Translated from the Norwegian by Bruce Bawer