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False US alibi

Norwegian debates can often seem absurd from the outside. Just look at the debate around the Literature Prize from the National Book Critics Circles (NBCC), distributed to 8. March in the United States.


[new trend] Among the nominees in the criticism category for the American NBCC award was the Oslo resident Bruce Bawer, for the book "While Europe Slept", which deals with Norway and warns against Islam and the soft European immigration policy. The book has become a bible for newly saved people who are on the wave of revival of our time against "the others", with reference to Norwegian or "Christian values".

In May, debate editor Knut Olav Åmås, one of Norway's largest intellectuals, commented on the book on a full page in Aftenposten: He points out that Bawer "sees most of Europe's Muslims as unintegrated and anti-democratic", but believes it is "worth discussing": "And Bower's book is easy to discuss, While Europe Slept is well-written political essayism and personalized reporting in the best American tradition."

The head of NBCC's American Critics' Pool, John Freeman, does not quite agree: "I have never been as embarrassed by a nomination as I have been with Bruce Bawers While Europe Slept," Freeman wrote on the association's own blog. And the rationale: "The book's hyperventilated rhetoric hints from real criticism to Islamophobia."

What is common opinion of Norwegians, who have the honor of honoring the United States, is thus regarded by the same Americans as un-American and prejudiced. When author Eliot Weinberger published the nominations, he said in front of a packed hall that Bawer had pursued "racism as criticism". Just before that, Bawer had written in praise of the right-wing group of Swedish Democrats, who he claims have "great popular sympathy".

The New York Times then wrote about the case, which is described as the year's biggest literary scandal in the United States. They interviewed imam Fatih Alev in Copenhagen and the young Danish author Rushy Rashid: Interestingly, both quietly rejected the widespread claims of "clash of civilizations".

Bower's opinions are perceived as separate in the United States, but in Norway he is recommended by the website Honest Thinking, run by brothers Jens Thomas and Ole Jørgen Anfindsen. The latter had his breakthrough in Norway when journalist Jon Hustad interviewed him in the Class Fight in June 2005. Statistics Norway reached out and rejected Anfindsen's projections of the immigrant population as "completely wrong". But Hustad himself previously faced similar conspiracies, in April 2003: “In 30 years, a majority of the people in Oslo will have a background from the third world. But SSB will not tell us. ”

Last week, Hustad interviewed a look Jens Thomas Anfindsen, who had been rejected by the Storting's press office. Anfindsen runs the site which praises Hustad's writings. Perhaps just as well that Freeman and Weinberger do not join Norwegian debates. Do not learn American intellectuals ■

Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

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