Oslo, 23 Safar 1434/05 January 2012 (OnIslam/MINA) – A rightist Norwegian party is spearheading new campaigns against private Islamic schools, claiming that they endanger the country’s integration.
“In Oslo, where applications (for Muslim schools) have come in, there are challenges with integration already,” Tord Lien, spokesman of Progress Party (FrP)n on education issues, told newspaper Aftenposten, News in English website reported on Friday, January 4.
“If you’re going to integrate into Norwegian society, it’s an advantage to go to school with Norwegian children.”
Current law in Norway allows for establishment of private schools based on religious belief. The establishment of new Muslim schools, he claimed, could “further weaken integration” of Muslims into Norwegian society.
Yet, FrP spokesman confirmed that they oppose the establishment of Muslim elementary schools in Norway, same as the case in neighboring Sweden. “It must be allowed to consider the need for integration when screening applications,” Lien said.
Despite his opposition to Muslim religious schools, Lien welcomed the establishment of Christian schools which has existed in Norway for 100 years.
Asked to explain why Christians and Muslims should be treated differently he said, “it’s difficult to see how they can hinder integration.”
Norway has traditionally been open to immigration, which has been criticized by the Progress Party, of which Oslo killer Anders Behring Breivik was a member for a short time.
Depending on an anti-immigration tone to draw supporters, the party rhetoric was damaged by Oslo attacks, seeing its support fall to 11.4% in local elections last September from 17.5% in 2007.
When Norway opened its doors to immigrants some four decades ago, Oslo began to change dramatically.
Today, 30% of the city’s population is made up of first- or second-generation immigrants.
The number of immigrants, who make up nearly 11 percent of Norway’s 4.9 million population, nearly tripled between 1995 and 2010.
The Muslim community in Norway is estimated at 150,000. The majority of Muslims are of Pakistan, Somali, Iraqi and Moroccan backgrounds. (T/R-022/R-006)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)