In Aftenposten of 3 July 2003 Norway’s Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik provides information about various actions and principles incorporated in the Government’s immigration and asylum policies. In this article he implicitly admits that we are facing formidable problems in these areas, and that certain limitations and stricter rules need to be implemented.
Even so, it is conspicuous that Mr. Bondevik touched only a subset of the problems that currently concern our top police officers and others, thus omitting some important issues. For example, Mr. Bondevik did not say anything about lack of control of the refused asylum seekers that are freely moving around. It is even unclear whether the Prime Minister is willing to take measures that will make it less attractive for asylum seekers to destroy their identity papers before entering our country, as many of them tend to do.
However, the major shortcoming of his article is its utter lack of long term perspective. Such a perspective should be expected when the head of our Government addresses what are currently our most pressing ethical dilemmas and political issues. In all fairness, the Government intends to limit crime and abuse of the asylum institution. But does it have a clear idea of what the long term consequences of our present policies will be?
For example, Mr. Bondevik writes: “The Government puts emphasis on practicing a humane refugee- and asylum policy that will offer protection for those who really need it”. Fine. But to enable Norway to continue to offer a safe haven for people in need, we need to have a certain level of control with who is allowed to live in this country. No matter how one looks at this, it remains an ethical dilemma. There are no quick and easy solutions.
In this context there is no way to avoid considerations about which cultures and which religions can become reasonably well integrated in a secular, western society, and which ones cannot. This problem is particularly relevant with respect to Islam. The longer we postpone putting these questions on the agenda, the more difficult it will be to handle them when eventually we have to.
Some politicians, media people, and others, have for some time now asked authorities to make demographic prognoses available. That should not be too hard a task, but it has not yet been done (since this was originally written it has become known that work on such prognoses for Norway will commence in 2005). Part of the rationale for the omission appears to be that it might be stigmatizing for various minority groups. Possibly so, but that argument does not appear particularly sound. When people get a feeling that the authorities are hiding facts about the future demographic development, it is not likely to further integration and tolerance.
There is one question that cannot be put aside much longer. If the current development continues, the majority of the population in Europe will sooner or later be non-western Muslims, very possibly before the end of this century. It is not a question if, only when. Of course, before this happens many Muslims may have adapted to western ways, and this in turn could lead to increased understanding and reconciliation between the west and the Muslim world. Let’s hope so. However, the current global development offers little cause for optimism.
Democracy, legal protection, freedom of speech, and women’s rights, as well as freedom of artistic, religious, and scientific practice, are central values in Europe. If the current national majorities are replaced by people who give priority to other values, the consequences are likely to be dramatic. Some brush such considerations aside as xenophobia. I consider this unfounded, given that we are dealing with a well founded fear. Not fear of the foreign and unfamiliar as such, but fear (and respect) of a religion and organizing principle which over and over again has created societies and political systems that are very different from the ones we hope to see in the future Europe.
One is unfortunately left with the impression is that our Government has lost control. In any case, the current policy is leading us, at an accelerating rate, towards a Muslim majority in Norway, and same is true for all or most of Western Europe. This makes one wonder whether European politicians see this as an unavoidable consequence of certain moral principles and international obligations, or perhaps as a desirable development. If none of the above, do they have any plans for turning the tide, or are they as clueless as they appear to be?
As a first step towards facing the current situation, I recommend that Europeans demand to see demographic prognoses with at least a 50 year perspective for their respective nations.
Ole Jorgen Anfindsen, Ph.D., editor, HonestThinking.org