In recent weeks, there has been an ongoing debate in Norway about what Norwegian culture really is. Over the past three decades, Norway has become an increasingly multicultural society and some feel that the true Norwegian culture is under constant pressure.
In particular, the Norwegian Progress Party (FRP) has been at the forefront of this debate and claims that the increased immigration undermines the authentic Norwegian culture. This has created a heated public debate – and it is worth noticing that the Norwegian Minister of Culture, Hadja Tajik (29) is of Pakistani descent and a Muslim. She represents the Norwegian Labor Party (AP), and some communities are provoked that she has become a minister.
Several radio and television debates have contained emotional discussions about the term “Norwegian culture”, and the discussion has circled around: “What is typical Norwegian”? Food traditions like Pinnekjøtt and Lutefisk, and the celebration of the Norwegian national day on the 17th of May have been frequently mentioned.
The debate has had less focus on a broader cultural perspective such as language, literature – and the fact that the Norwegian society is built on Christian values. Representatives from the Labor Party, which is the largest political party in Norway, have been cautious in their statements but claims that Norwegian culture is about democracy, equality, freedom of expression and solidarity. These are typical Norwegian features.
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The opposition represented by the Progress Party, which is on the far right wing in Norwegian politics, has emphasized that Norwegian culture is about traditions and symbols. It is clear that the Progress Party lately has downgraded their rhetoric in public debates since they in the upcoming 2013 election most likely are heading into government along with the Conservative Party (H). It is no secret that the Progress Party leads a very restrictive immigration policy above non-Western immigrants. For several years, the party has used phrases such as “sneak-Islamization of the Norwegian society” and that Norway has “a naive and blind immigration policy.” According to the party, the major threat is that Muslim traditions in the long term will “take over” the Norwegian society.
On the other hand, the Labor Party states that the Progress Party leads a racist immigration policy. At the same time, it is a fact that the present Norwegian asylum and refugee policy is of the strictest in Europe.
ThorNews believes that the ongoing cultural debate has been too narrow. Norwegian culture as a concept is much more complex than just Pinnekjøtt and May 17.
To become part of a nation and its identity, one must first manage the language. Without knowing the local tongue you do not get in contact with the community. The language is reflected through dialogue, literature, debates and everyday “small talk”. A wise man said: “He, who understands irony and humor in a foreign nation, also understands its culture”.
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Another important element is what values the society is built upon. Through 1000 years, Norway has been a Christian community, and has since the Reformation in 1536 consisted primarily of Protestant Christians. Whether a Norwegian is Christian or non-believer, Christian celebrations are important: Holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, as well as baptisms, confirmations, funerals and weddings. The Church has always been a meeting place for all communities across the whole country.
In addition, the Norwegian culture includes all the special traditions and customs that make our country unique. ThorNews has written about many of these themes: Food traditions, Bunads, art, language, literature, and other quirky Norwegian specialties. The sum creates the totality of what Norwegian culture really is all about. ThorNews also agrees with the Labor Party which states that universal elements such as democracy, equality, freedom of expression and solidarity are important pillars of any society. But do these factors create a unique culture by themselves, and should not these basic values apply to the entire world community?
ThorNews will continue to communicate the diverse Norwegian culture. We will provide unique Norwegian specialties and peculiarities, as well as general information about the country.
ThorNews is proud to be among the few international forums purely writing about Norwegian culture – no matter how odd or peculiar others might think we are. We believe that an important prerequisite for harmonious coexistence between nations and religions is knowledge about each other’s cultural differences and similarities.
EQUALITY: It would be “typical Norwegian” if the Minister of Culture, Hadja Tajik, a young Muslim woman, was appointed Norwegian Minister of Defense. As part of NATO, Norway has been involved in international operations in Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. This would be a real proof of the pillars Norwegian culture is based upon: Democracy, equality, freedom of expression and solidarity.
Text and featured image by: ThorNews