HRS International

Why aren’t they “offended”?

Norwegian and Danish flags are going up in flames in Lahore in reaction to “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day!” Meanwhile, however, Pakistanis in Norway and Denmark are as silent as the grave. They’re not taking to the streets and demonstrating for freedom and in support of their beloved new homelands. They aren’t protesting passionately through the spokespeople whom they make use of when they claim their feelings have been hurt. Why not, one wonders?

Hege Storhaug, HRS

You could hardly hope for a better opportunity to show your loyalty to Norwegian democracy and the Norwegian state. In response to “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day!” yesterday, thousands of demonstrators in Lahore are now, unsurprisingly, burning Norwegian and Danish flags – the world’s foremost symbol of “insults to Muhammed.” Isn’t it strange that, in reply to the acts of devastation by the mobs in Lahore and their attacks on the chief symbol of Norway, the Norwegian Pakistani voices that we’re constantly hearing in the media – whether they’re warmly (or aggressively) defending the “right” to wear the burka and hijab in every context, and the “right” to apply the self-imposed ban on drawing Muhammed to non-Muslims in non-Muslims countries – have now chosen to stay silent? Is it the case that their loyalty to the hijab, burka, minarets, and cartoon bans is stronger than loyalty to their fatherland? Is it the case that they have a sense of belonging to the umma, to Muhammed, and to Islam, but not to democracy, the Norwegian community, and the nation?

The sense of belonging to a society is entirely dependent on trust among citizens, on loyalty to the nation-state (do your duty and demand you rights), and on a broad popular sense of community. All of this is lacking in a country like Pakistan, which is totally split up along ethnic, linguistic, and geographical lines, and where trust and support for the national state and political leaders has been shaken into a thousand pieces over the last few decades. We had all this in Norway before the mass immigration really took off in the 1980s. The question is how much of our sense of belonging we will have to lose before the nation-state of Norway is so significantly weakened that no one in the Parliament can continue to stick his or her head in the sand and deny the realities.

Our colleague Helle Merete Brix was in Oslo yesterday for an event organized by at the Oslo Military Society at which she talked about the history of the Danish Free Press Society and its activities and its significance for Danish society’s oxygen: freedom of speech. I asked Helle from the audience what she thought the conditions would be in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe in 10 – 15 years, and Helle, in her reply, described the same future that I myself fear will come to pass: among other things, an escalation of violence (threats and attacks on individuals and organizations), and the development of several Gaza strips such as those that already exist in France and Sweden and that are essentially in a permanent state of unrest. People will isolate themselves along ethnic and religious lines.

What we’re seeing today in Lahore gives us a picture of what can happen here – such as the burning of Norwegian flags in Norwegian streets.

It is therefore more important than ever in recent times to stand up against the twisted souls – to stand up for freedom and open democracy based on the spirit of the Enlightenment. It is now that the future is being formed.

On a day like this, then, the stilled voices of the Norwegian Pakistanis can be understood as in fact sending a clear and disheartening message. Their silence, in short, speaks volumes.