Background information on Statistics Norway (SSB)




By Dr. Ole Jørgen Anfindsen




The article Cheating with immigration numbers (”Juks med innvandringstall”), published 15 may 2005 in the Norwegian daily Verdens Gang (VG), is accompanied by additional information below, as well as a further discussion of several aspects. This document consists of two main parts, each of which is in turn split up in a part A and a part B.


·         Part 1: Hard facts:

o        A offers documentation of just what SSB and Lars Østby have done to deserve my criticism of them.

o        B discusses some ‘what-if’ analyses.

·         Part 2: Discussions of principal as well as practical issues.

o        A discussion of political, ethical, and philosophical problems.

o        B some suggestions for the future.



Part 1


Here I focus on the so-called hard facts. Part 1A contains documentation concerning my contentions about SSB and its demographic researcher Lars Østby. Part 1B presents numbers that hopefully will make it more convenient for the reader to assess the current situation.


1A: Faulty demographic prognoses from SSB


To provide documentation that SSB, and not least researcher Lars Østby, has attempted to beautify reality, let’s look at the book “Felleskap til besvær – om nyere innvandring til Norge (Inconvenient community – about recent immigration to Norway), issued by “the leading Norwegian academic publisher” Universitetsforlaget in 1992, with economic support from Utlendingsdirektoratet (Norwegian Directorate of Immigration).


One chapter in said book is written by demographic researcher Lars Østby of SSB. There he writes, among other things, on pages 153-154:


“We do notice from time to time that opponents of immigration make the assumption that present time immigration will produce a coloured majority, or even a Muslim majority ‘ in the lifetime of our children’, ‘within a generation’ or similar. […]


By means of commonly accepted demographic models we have made calculations to find what can be expected in the future, considering various assumptions for future immigration and the observed fertility rates for the group in question. Even when we consider the most extreme alternate will we in 2050 see no more than 20% of the total population having origins in the third world, and then most often one or more generations back in time. The more probable alternatives give significantly lower numbers; see [references to SSB reports].  


As of today registered Muslims constitute a small portion of immigrants from the third world. By early 1990 we had approximately 20 000 Muslims in this country. This amounts to roughly 1/3 of all domiciled immigrants from the third world. Even if this portion conceivably may increase, an anticipation of a Muslim majority in Norway must assume that so many ethnic Norwegians convert to Islam that they will constitute a large majority among Muslims.”


As can be seen, Mr. Østby’s contention is that only in an extreme situation will we see 20% (i.e., about 1 million – Norway’s population is expected to grow from the current 4.5 to about 5 million by then) in Norway having their origins in the third world, while more likely this segment will be “considerably lower”. But in 2004, according to SSB, we already had 250 000 immigrants from non-western countries (and this does not include third and later generation immigrants, see below).


For some time now it has been clear that the prognoses for the period 1990 – 2050 have been too low (freely admitted by Mr. Østby during a telephone conversation with me in the autumn of 2004). Norway needs no more than a good 3% annual growth to see more than a million non-western immigrants by 2050. What SSB claimed only a little more than 10 years ago was an extreme maximum is no longer extreme at all. And if the growth rates for our immigrant population continue to be sustained at the levels we have consistently seen since the 1970’s, Norway will have a non-western majority by 2050.


An unrealistic assumption


How could SSB be so mistaken? Well, by reading the research reports Mr. Østby referred to at the time he wrote the above, it can quickly be established why. These reports employ a very specific but quite unrealistic assumption as basis for their prognoses. One assumption used in all the reports is that net immigration will be more or less constant throughout the entire prognosis period.


To show that this assumption is unrealistic, it can conveniently be pointed to the fact that the more immigrants are accepted, the more applications for family reunion or entry applications for spouses being brought from abroad, will be submitted. This gives a self-enforcing effect and typically results in so-called exponential growth.  


That this is an actual fact is being verified by SSB’s own numbers. These numbers show that immigrant population was exponentially growing in the years before the publication of the reports around 1990, and that this pattern has continued since then (see e.g. the nice graph at the bottom of this web page:


What the research reports of SSB really said


Mr. Østby does not offer any reason for his extremely modest prognoses in the above mentioned book but limits himself to referencing some research reports from SSB. In this context, the more interesting report is the following:


Report from Statistics Norway no. 91/10

“The number of immigrants and their descendants up towards the year 2050”


And, sure enough, here we find some very modest prognoses for the development in number of immigrants up towards 2050, but the reason for the low numbers is that they are based on the peculiar and totally unrealistic assumption that net immigration would be constant throughout the period from 1990 to 2050. Obviously impossible with the policies we had at that time, and even more so today 


The author of the research report no. 91/10 apparently wanted to prevent any unwarranted interpretations of his calculations, and so emphasized on page 67 of said report: 


“Selection of assumptions for the annual net immigration of the various groups is a central point in these calculations. Only if the choices of policies implicit here are interesting as practical or hypothetical possibilities are the resulting prognoses of any interest. We have made our choices based on deliberations about this. But we have no guaranties that our choices are good. Others could have made other choices. Whoever makes use of the results should therefore make up their own mind about whether our alternatives are interesting.”


One possible interpretation of this statement is that the researcher in question has been coerced to build his prognoses on assumptions that he himself is not quite comfortable with. To further guard himself against being misunderstood he adds the following understatement on page 68:     


”We assume that in the future, too, immigration will be regulated by the authorities. […] Many circumstances, like e.g. family reunion, could make it difficult to implement [such regulations].


Here it is implicitly stated that should our politicians continue to implement the policies that were in force before 1990, then the results would be totally different from what SSB’s prognoses predicted. 


Let’s have a closer look at the numbers


As could be expected, the above predictions do not correspond with reality. To give the reader an idea of how misleading Mr. Østby’s contentions are, we will look at some simple numbers from SSB. These numbers are derived from, among others, Note: Most numbers below are put in round figures.


In the above mentioned book Mr. Østby wrote: “At the beginning of 1990 we had approximately 20 000 Muslims in this country. This is about 1/3 all domiciled immigrants from the third world”. It follows that we had approximately 60 000 domiciled immigrants from the third world at that time. Diagrams found on the just mentioned SSB web page, however, indicate that numbers were somewhat higher than the 60 000 stated. If we include immigrants from Eastern-Europe, it looks like we had about 80 000 non-western immigrants here in 1990. (Note: on 14 June 2005 Mr. Østby, together with his colleague Mr. Brunborg, in the context of an article in the Norwegian daily Klassekampen, published figures that indicate that 80 000 non-western immigrants was too low for 1990 – I have asked SSB for clarification on this.)


According to SSB the corresponding number as of 2004 had increased to 249 000. An increase in number of non-western immigrants from ca. 80 000 in 1990 to ca. 249 000 in 2004 constitutes an average annual increase for this group in excess of 8% during that period. (Note: SSB now claims that the average annual growth has been 6.5% - se my note in the previous paragraph).


In contrast, Mr. Østby has contended that it would be absolutely extreme if as much as 20% of the population here should have non-western background in 2050. Mr. Østby must have envisioned an increase in non-western immigration from 80 000 in 1990 to maximum 1 000 000 in 2050. Some simple calculations show that Mr. Østby expected an annual increase in non-western immigration in this period to be a little over 4% at most, but more likely considerably lower, i.e. in the order of 3% annually (some readers may wonder about this but 3% is actually considerably lower than 4%, just as 5, 6, or 7% is considerably higher – see the below tables and you will understand why).


So far evidence indicates that Mr. Østby was wrong, and the situation is now turned upside-down. During the last 15 years the annual increase has been slightly over 8% - in average, but need to come down to about 3.5% annual average the next 45 years to see us end up with “only” 1 million non-western immigrants by 2050. What Mr. Østby presented as an extreme scenario just over a decade ago, does not appear to be extreme at all. But Mr. Østby did not miss out because he is a second rate professional. He missed – for reasons we can only speculate about – because he gave in to the temptation of beautifying reality.    


If we look at only Islam’s growth in Norway, the numbers are even more dramatic. Mr. Østby submitted in the reference above that Norway had about 20 000 Muslims in 1990, but that number has since increased to about 80 000 in 2004. This means a quadrupling of number of Muslims in the course of 14 years – or an annual increase in numbers exceeding 10%.  


For the record: The statistics from SSB simply show the number of people who are members of various Islamic congregations. Muslims who are not members of such congregations are not included.


Definition of the term Immigrant


At the time SSB published the research reports referred to by Mr. Østby, one tried to make future estimates about “immigrants and their descendants”. That method has been discontinued and in addition there has been made a new definition of the concept of ‘immigrant‘(ref.: 


The immigrant population consist of persons having two parents born abroad, i.e., first generation immigrants to Norway, and persons born in Norway with both parents born abroad.


This means that if for example a person born in Norway by immigrant parents marries a person from the country of origin (which indeed the majority of the second and third generation from our largest immigrant countries do), then their offspring will not be counted as an immigrants in the statistics of SSB.


There are conceivably good reasons for adopting such a definition, but I find it inadequate in as much as it does not include “immigrants and their descendants”. By not having such a term one withholds important demographic information.


An often heard argument in support of the revised definition presented above is a typical counter question of this kind: “For how long should people really be considered immigrants?” That is, admittedly, an interesting question, and there are hardly any clear and simple answers. But it should be considered fair to look at this in relation to how quickly various immigrant groups become integrated in our society. I cannot see it substantiated that integration of non-western immigrants takes place sufficiently quickly to warrant “disappearance from the statistics” after a mere two generations.


Development over the past 20-30 years indicates that Norway will become a non-western and/or Muslim country in the course of 50 – 150 years from now. It is striking to see how this is under-communicated by the SSB. Further, SSB’s present definition of ‘immigrant’ tends to cover up reality.


Conclusions about SSB and Mr. Østby


Based on the above documentation we can conclude as follows:


Both of the above is of serious concern.


SSB’s action on this issue is serious because political rather than professional considerations have been allowed to dominate. This reflects negatively on SSB.


In my opinion, Mr. Østby’s involvement here is even more reprehensible in as much as he has wilfully confused people and therefore abused his professional authority. He has acted in a way that is contrary to any reasonable research ethics. Mr. Østby’s essay in Aftenposten 30 December 2004 indicates that he continues now as before. And this on an issue with immense importance for the future of Norway, more so than any other post WWII political issue.


On 26 December 2004 scientist in Thailand could observe on their instruments that a possible tsunami had been triggered on the ocean floor. For fear of causing undue panic, they elected not to warn about the danger. The result was both a tragedy and a scandal.


For many years now Mr. Østby and SSB have been able to observe how a demographic tsunami is building up. However, they seem to be more concerned with not causing unrest or stigmatisation of immigrants than to inform about the situation. They elected to beautify reality. That is a scandal.


1B: Alternate future scenarios


I know from experience that anyone who dears criticise SSB will quickly be required to put forward alternative numbers for future immigration. Such a requirement is based on at least one misunderstanding, viz. that one attempts to compete with SSB and produce better prognoses than they do. However, it is quite possible to find faults and shortcomings in SSB’s material without presenting alternate prognoses. Such prognoses would require information about fertility rate, age distribution, expected longevity, migration patterns, etc., information only professional demographists tend to have access to.


Even though I do not present prognoses in competition with SSB, I do present some what-if-analyses. But first a quick look back.

Growth so far


The number of Muslims in Norway has increased from 20 000 in 1990 to a good 80 000 in 2004. By use of mathematical calculations or a little trial and failure with a spreadsheet one will find that this means we have had an average annual growth of 10.5%. This can be illustrated by the following figures (produced by means of a spreadsheet).



Annual growth in percent:

10,5 %


This is the percentage figure x

Annual growth factor:



Growth factor, 1+x/100, used from row to row below.













20 000


This figure is given by SSB



22 100


This figure is 10,5% larger than the one for 1990



24 421


This figure is 10,5% larger than the one for 1991



26 985


This figure is 10,5% larger than the one for 1992



29 818


And so forth...



32 949





36 409





40 231


Carefully note that the numbers from 1991 to 2003 are “artificial”,



44 456


i.e., they are just intermediate calculation results.



49 124


The real number for each year could be above or



54 282


below the ones shown here.



59 981





66 279





73 239





80 929


This is very close to the SSB figure for 2004



An annual growth of 10.5% may not appear all that much, but as can be seen from the table above, this leads to a quadrupling within 14 years. If this growth continues, it will produce a new quadrupling within the next 14 years, and so on. The growth may very well shrink in the future, but this is nonetheless dramatic.


Now, if we look at the number of non-western immigrants in Norway, we see that these have increased in numbers from 80 000 in 1990 to 249 000 in 2004. It is possible to produce a similar table as seen above and find that average annual growth for this group has been roughly 8.4% during that period (but see note above indicating that corrected numbers from SSB might result in average annual growth of 6.5% - still a dramatic figure).


Possible future growth


Having shown the actually growth since 1990, we will go on to ask what the future consequences will be with various growth rates. Note: What is presented below is called a what-if-analysis, which is not to be confused with a prognosis. The latter is complicated and requires information about birth rate, expected longevity, migration patterns, etc. A what-if-analysis is much simpler. This is both its advantage and its disadvantage.


Special note for journalists, bloggers, letter-to-the-editor writers etc.: Unless you fully understand the difference between a prognosis and a what-if-analysis, please leave this topic to others.


One may of course ask: Has a what-if-analysis any value at all? Yes, they are very interesting provided sensible assumptions are applied. My assumptions are as follows:


1.       The current growth pattern is not linear. It is exponential by nature (the growth curve is getting increasingly steep). It is therefore natural to look at the average annual growth rate over the period, given as a percentage.

2.       Future growth will not significantly change from the pattern already established in Norway during the last 15 - 20 years; i.e. growth will most likely be in the area of 3% - 9% annually.

3.       Moderate growth rates are the more interesting to analyse. Higher ones are too extreme to be considered here.


Whoever wishes to argue against my analysis should be able to point to at least one of the above assumptions being wrong. Notwithstanding that, let us look at some objections right away.


Objection 1: One cannot extrapolate into the future like this; that’s not the way the things work. Answer: This objection is very common but is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. When e.g. 10, 25 or 50 years from now we look back to see what has happened since 2005, we will conclude that increase in the number of Muslims or non-Westerners is presented as a certain factor (which could hypothetical be negative – which will mean that number of Muslims has decreased). When we know that factor we can calculate the average annual growth factor. That’s the way things work. And the growth that we currently experience clearly has an exponential component.


Objection 2: Growth will gradually come to a stop all by itself. Sure. And that’s why each column stops when a certain number is reached (which should not be interpreted as a claim as to exactly when, or at what level, growth is going to stop).


Objection 3: Growth will most likely decrease with time. Yes, quite possibly; due to e.g. negative economic trends, lack of housing, etc. But it is also possible that the growth will increase. Both are possible. But for that very reason we include calculations showing just that. And if growth is about 8 – 10% for a few years and thereafter decreases to for example 4%, then the average for the period could end up being 5 to 7% for the whole period. This is exactly one of the possibilities included in my what-if-analysis.


Possible future growth in number of Muslims in Norway


This table shows how the number of Muslims in Norway might increase in the future, given alternative assumptions about average annual growth. Keep in mind that the current population of Norway is around 4.5 million.










Annual growth:

9 %

7 %

5 %

4 %

3 %

Growth factor 1 year:






Growth factor 5 years:






















78 000

78 000

78 000

78 000

78 000



120 013

109 399

99 550

94 899

90 423



184 654

153 438

127 054

115 459

104 825



284 114

215 204

162 156

140 474

121 521



437 144

301 835

206 957

170 908

140 877



672 600

423 340

264 136

207 935

163 315



1 034 879

593 756

337 112

252 985

189 326



1 592 289

832 773

430 249

307 795

219 481



2 449 935

1 168 008

549 119

374 480

254 439



3 769 528

1 638 191

700 831

455 612

294 964



5 799 887

2 297 648

894 457

554 321

341 945




3 222 570

1 141 579

674 417

396 408




4 519 821

1 456 976

820 531

459 545




6 339 283

1 859 512

998 301

532 739





2 373 261

1 214 586

617 590





3 028 950

1 477 730

715 956





3 865 792

1 797 884

829 989





4 933 840

2 187 401

962 185





6 296 968

2 661 308

1 115 436






3 237 888

1 293 097





Possible future growth in number of people in Norway with non-western background



This table shows how the number of non-Westerners in Norway might increase in the future, given alternative assumptions about average annual growth. Keep in mind that the current population of Norway is around 4.5 million.










Annual growth:

9 %

7 %

5 %

4 %

3 %

Growth factor 1 year:






Growth factor 5 years:






















250 000

250 000

250 000

250 000

250 000



384 656

350 638

319 070

304 163

289 819



591 841

491 788

407 224

370 061

335 979



910 621

689 758

519 732

450 236

389 492



1 401 103

967 421

663 324

547 781

451 528



2 155 770

1 356 858

846 589

666 459

523 444



3 316 920

1 903 064

1 080 486

810 849

606 816



5 103 492

2 669 145

1 379 004

986 522

703 466




3 743 614

1 759 997

1 200 255

815 509




5 250 613

2 246 252

1 460 294

945 399





2 866 850

1 776 671

1 095 977





3 658 908

2 161 592

1 270 537





4 669 796

2 629 907

1 472 901





5 959 975

3 199 684

1 707 496






3 892 905

1 979 455






4 736 314

2 294 731






5 762 450

2 660 223







3 083 927







3 575 117







4 144 540




Please carefully note the following: The above tables describe what I believe is that most relevant portion of the so-called sample space for future growth in the immigrant population in Norway. In other words, I suspect that average annual growth is unlikely to be above 9% or below 3% in the foreseeable future.



Comments to the alternate rate of growth as shown in the table above.


·         A: Higher growth than actual for the period 1990 – 2004

·         B: About the same as the last fifteen years.

·         C: Lower than the last fifteen years.

·         D: Significantly lower than the last fifteen years.

·         E: This is approximately what SSB predicted as maximum growth for the period 1990 – 2050.


Comment 1: In the table above there is of course no implicit claim that growth will be constant at any one level in the future. Growth may vary widely from year to year. Nevertheless, we will end up with an average growth over the period in question, and various alternatives for such average numbers that are presented in the table.


Comment 2: I am not claiming that growth will necessarily continue until we see the number of Muslims or non-Western people go beyond 5 million. I have just elected to stop as soon as such a number turns up. Somewhere we have to set a limit, and I chose to stop when our population exceeded double of today’s number. It can, of course, be argued for a larger or a lower number than this but, in principle, this will not make any difference. We are still talking about average values over longer periods anyway (we could, for example, consider a certain average annual growth rate from here to 1 million Muslims, or we can consider another, somewhat lower average growth rate from here and up until 2 million Muslims, etc ). 


Comment 3: I do not present any firm claims about how large the growth rates will be in the years ahead, and am, of course, open to the possibility that the growth will be lower than we have seen up until now. I am however sceptical to growth rates falling below 4% anytime soon (see substantiation below) but I might well be mistaken here. Therefore, I hereby challenge whoever might disagree with me.


Challenge: In case SSB or others disagree with my assumption that average growth, both for Muslims as well as non-Western groups, for quite some time is likely to be at least 4% annually on average, then please do the following: Present arguments as to why growth levels will drop from today’s 5 – 7% and to whatever level is seen as more plausible.


Unless solid arguments of this type can be presented, it would be irresponsible for politicians and others to assume that growth will, for reasons not even SSB can explain, come down to levels that can be handled.


And here we are touching on a key element of these deliberations. We have had certain, albeit moderate, problems with integration of immigrants since the 1970’s. Many European countries have problems that make ours pale in comparison. But how are we going cope in the future when we need to integrate not just 5 000 or 10 000 or 20 000, but say 40 000 or 60 000 immigrants annually?


I cannot recall ever having seen any plausible model for handling a growth with a magnitude that the above table shows that we might end up with. Presenting a realistic and plausible model should be a minimum requirement for those that have the responsibility in this area. If one does not have confidence in one’s own numbers how can others be expected to have it?  


Rationale for assumption about future growth


There are two reasons why I doubt the average annual growth rate for the immigration population (including descendants) will drop below 4% in the foreseeable future.


Firstly, it is based on the pattern of development that has been observed during more than 30 years of immigration from non-Western countries. That pattern is simple enough: growth has varied somewhat, but has for the most part been somewhere between 5 and 15% per year during said period. This means that unless it can be pointed to concrete factors that lead to lowering of the growth rate in the relatively near future, then continued growth at about the same rate should be our null hypothesis, or at least one of the scenarios under consideration. Seen from that perspective, the tables above are fairly modest.


Secondly, Human Rights Service ( can document that the family reunion policy and ‘import-a-spouse’ marriage (also known as fetching marriages) are being used systematically. It is pointed to the very thorough and comprehensive report Human visas – a report from the front lines of Europe’s integration crisis, 279 pages, available both in Norwegian and English (Kolofon/HRS, 2003). It is also pointed to the new report that Human Rights Service (HRS) presented to the Norwegian Parliament on 19 May 2005. The research in this area shows that among the larger immigrant groups in Norway the percentage of young males and females marrying spouses from their country of origin is not decreasing but rather increasing. 


Provided this pattern is upheld, which appears likely, it is not at all unrealistic that growth rates could be higher than current levels. But even if we should see growth rate sink to 4 or even 3%, the numbers will still be dramatic. Even the latter growth rate will present us with challenges related to integration greater than anything we have seen so far.



Part 2


Here I intend to deal with the not so firm issues. That is, problems to which there are no quick and easy answers, and where the ethical dilemmas are many. This is an area where there is a clear need for dialogue and debate between people with a common concern for democracy and human rights, but possibly different views on how to deal with all the challenges that the demographic development is presenting us with.


2A: Some principal considerations


Public debate on immigration has been painful ever since the 1970’s. Many feel that the expression ‘politically correct’ is trite. However, if there ever was an area within which this expression is warranted, this is it. In particular there are certain things that have been considered politically incorrect in the sense that they have been taboo or excluded from debate. That has hardly brought about anything positive. Fortunately this practice is about to be brought to an end, but we still have a long way to go before we have a free, comprehensive and open debate of all aspects of immigration. Below please find some short and incomplete considerations about such things. In my opinion there is a clear need for debate on these topics, and I hope that intellectuals will engage in debate much more than we have seen up until now.


Mantras used to quell debate


It has long been popular to quell most types of debate on immigration by the mantra we must not generalise”. As the intellectual dishonesty of this dawned on many, some variants of the following mantra took over: “We must not make an artificial divide between ‘them’ and ‘us’.


However, one cannot have it both ways here. We must either work towards assimilation so that differences between ‘us’ and ‘them’ disappear, or we must accept that there are actually real differences that divide us. In addition, Western people, with all their arrogance and cultural ignorance, must stop believing that others want to be identified as being one of us. In many cases they do not. Particularly many Muslims shiver by the thought that they or their children should become westernised. As long as that kind of attitude prevails among Muslims, or other non-western groups, distinguishing between us and them will in many contexts remain necessary.


Another mantra sometimes used to quell debate goes like this: we must stop looking at immigrants as a group or a collective. They are just as much individuals as we are.  Well, all people are both individuals and members of various groups. That’s the way the world is. Some of the groups we belong to mean a lot to us when it comes to identity and loyalty, others less so. If we believe that immigrants can be treated as individuals only, then we display both a lack of reflection as well as a good portion of cultural chauvinism.


After having read first part of this essay, some might well present another mantra to quell all debate. I should find that to be most indecorous. In my opinion it is the moral duty of any intellectual to engage in the problems that the demographic development presents. Trying to sabotage, fight against, or block such debate is by nature anti-intellectual – and perhaps even more so; anti-democratic. 


Which people have the right to be self governed?


On the 8 December 2004 I had an article published in the Norwegian daily Vårt Land. I addressed the fact that we are about four million Norwegians now being in a kind of demographic competition with several hundred million Muslims from the countries where the majority of our immigrants continue to come from, most of them trough systematic use of fetching marriages. There is no reason to doubt what the long-term result of this process will be: Norwegians will end up as a minority in their own country.


An actual happening that puts this in an interesting perspective is giving the 2004 Rafto-award to Rebiya Kadeer. That award is given in support of the Muslim Uighurs' opposition to systematic immigration from the numerically superior Chinese. 


It appears to be widely accepted that the Uighurs, like for example Iraqis and Afghans, ought to have the right to self determination and self government, thereby maintaining their ethnical, cultural and religious identity. But why is it considered praiseworthy to work towards those goals in the third world but reprehensible to do so in the West?


So far nobody has stepped forward to answer that question, and I think I know why. How can anyone at one moment argue enthusiastically in support of one people’s obvious right to self determination and then turn around and insist that it is xenophobic or even racist to say that e.g. Norwegians, Britons or the French should have the right to self determination in their respective countries?


Western nations have huge riches, with which come responsibilities. But is it incumbent upon us to give away our land to people with entirely different cultures than those that have been developed over the centuries here - by us?


One person with strong opinions this particular issue is Ingrid Vad Nilsen, pastor and chairperson of ‘Mellomkirkelig Råd for den Norske Kirke’ (the interdenominational council of the Church of Norway). She was quoted by Vårt Land on 4 June 2004: “Muslims have just as much right to live in this country as anyone else. Nobody has a claim to the land, […]”


This, in my opinion, is far from obvious, and it would have been an advantage if somebody could thoroughly dig into this and come up with some answers.


Human Rights


A possible reaction to my concerns in this essay might be something like this: ”Don’t come here bothering  us with demographic prognoses, we are concerned with human rights!”


In other words, it seems like many hold the opinion that human rights oblige us to retain an immigration policy like the one we have practiced for the last 30 years. Period. There is nothing more to say about the topic, because we cannot ignore human rights!      


But that is just my point; we should not ignore human rights. And before we cancel the whole debate we should clarify just what we mean by human rights. This concept has at least three different meanings. Firstly it is the idea that all human beings have certain rights, secondly these have been attempted concretised in the form of human rights declarations, and, thirdly, we have the implementation of these in the form of laws, court practices and norms in different societies. 


When the UN defined human rights and formed the declaration, delegates were painfully aware of the fact that only a minority of the world’s population lived in societies where these ideas came reasonably close to being practiced. Clearly, there must have been a motivation to encourage a development such that more and more countries would respect and implement human rights.  


I am amazed to find so few intellectuals, at least in public debate, seem to distinguish clearly between the three different definitions of human rights .But if we don’t distinguish between the idea that humans have certain rights on the one hand, and the Declaration of Human Rights on the other, problems are bound to arise.


In particular we effectively prevent a critical examination of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Instead we treat this declaration as if it were the result of an infallible revelation. An attitude like that can be a serious threat against human rights, and I believe that in time we will see opposition to this Declaration of Human Rights Fundamentalism, or just UN fundamentalism. 


Rather than having countries that implement human rights ‘exporting’ these to other countries, we run the risk of ‘importing’ the lack of human rights that the majority of the world’s nations are suffering from. The results might very well be the exact opposite of what the UN intended.


My contention is that we need a fundamental discussion of human rights, and I think we need it urgently.


Freedom of expression


Our close neighbour Sweden has over the past few decades evolved into a society with severe limitations in the freedom of expression. I fear it might be just a mater of time before we will experience the same in other countries, including Norway. The following are but a few examples showing what goes on in this troubled country:



In spite of enormous problems, Sweden has very little public debate about immigration. It is well known that those who elect to break the compact political correctness characterizing Sweden’s public space will be discriminated against, harassed, and in some cases lose their jobs. Other countries may well follow suit.


2B: What can be done?


If anyone submits that the demographic development is about to run our of hand, he or she is likely to be met with some condescending remarks about Norway having moderate or very little immigration, that our politicians are in full control, and that there is no reason to worry. This is e.g. evidenced by the writings of demographic researcher Lars Østby from SSB Aftenposten, 30 December 2004 and in Dagbladet, 25.April 2005 (not available in English translation).


If, however, one suggests that perhaps we should pause immigration until we get a better grip on integration, the answer is that immigration cannot be stopped. The demographic development has gone too far for that.


Interesting! Both of the above claims cannot be true simultaneously. So which one is true? If we are indeed in control, then we should stop and think before our problems grow even bigger. However, if it is already too late to stop, then at the very least the public should be informed about the situation. My belief is that the latter is closer to the truth, and my complaint against authorities in general and SSB in particular is that this has not been properly communicated. To put it bluntly; it seems we have been deceived.


A third way must be found


This is a large and difficult subject, but allow me to indicate in brief what I believe is one of the central problems. It is a common understanding that there are only two models available to handle our relation to immigration:




This, however, is a false dichotomy. It simply is not true that no other models for immigration than the above two exist. Experience after more than 30 years of considerable non-western immigration indicates that the time is now ripe for a critical evaluation of model no. 2 above. There are few or no indications that integration/assimilation is able to keep up with immigration, which continues at an ever increasing rate. This means we have only seen the beginning of our problems.


This does not necessarily mean that it all ends up in a catastrophe. But what is the likelihood of seeing everything come to a happy ending? How likely is it that we will see Islam and our own Western ideals melting into a higher unity of harmony and mutual understanding? Let’s be generous and say there is a 90% probability that the just mentioned fusion of Islam and the West will form the foundation for stable democracies, with human rights, welfare arrangements et al. Even so, there will be a 10% probability for something very different. Can we be content with that? Can we look our children in the eye and say that we have taken a few chances on their behalf, but don’t worry, things will work themselves out. I don’t think so. Moreover, I think that the chances that we will succeed with the ongoing multicultural experiment are considerably less than 90%.


We need to look at the alternatives


Our authorities should now see to it that we get a thorough evaluation of all viable alternatives to the extreme models shown above (xenophobia or cultural suicide). Unless we are convinced that today’s model is sustainable in the long-term, we have a moral obligation to look for alternatives. And, as far as I can tell, more and more evidence is now indicating that we are not at all on the right track.


SSB has for quite a while refused to provide full and unbiased information about the demographic development (claiming they want to avoid stigmatisation of immigrants). For that reason large parts of the political and intellectual establishment continue to believe that the possibility of seeing a Muslim or non-Western majority in ‘our time’ is unthinkable. This is, perhaps, the most serious hindrance for dealing with the problems before it is too late. This is why the failures of SSB are so serious.



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