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Do not use Muslims as a breach in the immigration debate


"The Norwegian press will not, cannot and do not dare write about the facts," sociologist and social activist Kjetil Rolness told Norwegian editors during the Norwegian Editors' Association's autumn meeting in Oslo recently. In an in-depth case on the website, Rolness further states that Norwegian journalists are less concerned about facts and source criticism, and that they neither dare nor want to do critical journalism in the immigration field. He highlights Human Rights Service editor Nina Hjerpset-Østlie and writer Jon Hustad as honorable exceptions.
Nina Hjerpset-Østlie is the editor of a website that published the hair-raising claim that 8000 of the refugees Norway will receive from Syria are ISIS sympathizers. Hjerpset-Østlie also claims that the Salafist youth organization IslamNet has 16 sympathizers because they have 000 members on their Facebook group. That a large part of these are Norwegian journalists, politicians, researchers and others who hardly have any connection with Salafi Islam, is not so accurate.
Jon Hustad is also fond of exaggerating numbers when it comes to Muslims. In a recent debate on TV2, he asserted without any evidence that there are 1000 – 2000 Norwegian Muslims supporting those who have traveled to join ISIS.
Such claims lead to unnecessary fear and hatred. The truth is that the Norwegian Islamist extremist community, also known as the "Prophet's Ummah", lies down with a broken back. Most of the group is either dead, imprisoned, charged or located in Syria or Iraq. PST's latest assessment is that there are around 90 people who have traveled to ISIS, and they consider the danger of attacks from ISIS sympathizers as less than before. IslamNet has also not grown in recent years – much thanks to massive criticism internally in the Muslim communities that have made parents and youth more aware of what the organization actually stands for.

A little constructive. Kjetil Rolness himself is sloppy with the facts when he claims at the above meeting that it was only the newspaper Dagen and Human Rights Service that covered the case that the Norwegian Young Muslims organization had invited a preacher with extreme statements. That's not true – the case was reproduced in several major newspapers, on the radio and on the website
Common to Rolness, Hjerpset-Østlie and Hustad is that their arguments about Islam and Muslims are closely linked to their commitment to a stricter immigration and asylum policy. I think it is unwise and problematic for two reasons.
First, it creates a polarized and little constructive debate in a debate climate that is already strongly influenced by Muslim hatred. It nurtures anti-Muslim forces, which consistently combine anti-Muslim attitudes with immigrant hostility, often inspired by American right-wing extremism. People on the outer, but still moderate, right side have a special responsibility to protest against the extreme right. It will now go through in a completely different way than when the more leftist opposes Muslim haters, and especially important will be to counter the dangerous conspiracy theories about Muslim takeover and the "Eurabia conspiracy".
Secondly, it takes the focus away from the real challenges associated with the massive immigration we now face. If almost 70 per cent of the newly arrived will stay, as was the case in previous years, it will contribute to enormous integration challenges as well as general socio-economic problems for the more resource-poor sections of society. It is not the richest who will suffer from a weakened welfare state – they are the ones who are already struggling to make ends meet. This is especially true of those who have already immigrated and their descendants.

In order to counter all forms of extremism, it is important that we have an open and honest debate while trying to avoid the worst polarizations.

Hate crimes. PST has warned that the ongoing immigration flow could lead to a boom in right-wing extremist environments. According to the Swedish Defense Research Institute (FFI), Sweden has been the country in Western Europe with the most right-wing killings per capita in the last 25 years, and there have been several attacks on Swedish asylum centers lately. According to FFI researchers Jacob Aasland Ravndal and Johannes Due Enstad, we find a causal relationship in the combination of three conditions: record high immigration, taboo immigration debate and a strong right-wing underground movement.
In Norway, the right-wing communities are neither today well organized nor capable of producing propaganda or recruiting. On the other hand, they have repeatedly shown in recent decades that they have a potential for violence. In February 2015, the professional network Hate Speech International launched the report "Hating Muslims", which deals with anti-Muslim attacks and hate crimes in the period 2010–2014. It is clear here that such events are a serious and growing trend in several Western countries, including Norway. In particular, attacks on mosques are very common.

Avoid polarization. In order to counter all forms of extremism, it is important that we have an open and honest debate while trying to avoid the worst polarizations. Norway has a very good starting point for addressing the challenges associated with both integration and radicalization, but we must recognize that our apparatus definitely has a pain limit. Equally important is that with today's asylum system we do not facilitate brain drain and man flight from countries such as Afghanistan and Syria, which need all the resources they have. The solution to the refugee crisis is not in Europe, but locally. ISIS must be fought with international ground forces, and we must deploy peacekeeping forces. It will pay off much more in the long run than what we now see: millions of people flee to countries that cannot offer them a proper integration. Therefore, let us agree not to unintentionally stir up the Muslim hatred here at home, eager to protect the Norwegian welfare state.

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