In what can be described as a fitting response to Anders Breivik’s brutal assault on Norwegian multiculturalism, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg appointed a 29-year-old Muslim woman of Pakistani origin the new Culture Minister. Hadia Tajik is the first Muslim and youngest Minister ever in Norwegian political history. Ms. Tajik, who has degrees in law and journalism and has been a career politician in Norway’s Labour Party, was appointed in a Cabinet reshuffle.

‘Courageous move’

“This is a very courageous move on the part of the Prime Minister. She is an extremely intelligent person and has been an activist all her life. I would describe this as an important decision for Norway that will go a long way to prove that we are a truly multicultural society,” Dag Herbjornsrud, editor of the influential paper Ny Tid told The Hindu in a telephone conversation. “It was important that Norway proved this to the world, but it’s even more important that we proved this to ourselves.”

Ms. Tajik has already declared that cultural diversity should become more integral to the life of her fellow citizens. She said her programme would focus on how this reflected on Norwegian society as a whole. The programme will delve into the protection of minority rights, whether cultural or racial.

Conservative elements

However, she will have to watch her step. Conservative elements in Norway believe that a very rapid influx of foreigners and foreign cultures has destabilised the steady and stable pattern of Norway’s essentially Christian society.

Last year, Anders Breivik randomly shot 69 people at a summer camp organised by the Workers' Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party after blowing up a Norweigan state building. During his trial, Breivik reasoned that multi-cultural policies were harming Norway, adding that he considered Islam his enemy.

“Hadia is not a foreigner. She was born here, on the West coast of Norway in a small village or district which is home to 600 people. She might have done degrees from Oslo and from the U.K. but she remains very rooted and even speaks the West country dialect from Strand. We hope she will be a peacemaker, especially during the troubled times we are currently witnessing, Dr Herbjornsrud said.

The right message

Carima, a young woman of Moroccan descent, told The Hindu: “I am really happy and I think this is an excellent appointment. She is Norwegian and at the same time she is a Muslim and a woman. She is educated and forward looking. Right now Norway has gone through a very difficult period with the killings on Utoya Island by Anders Breivik, followed by his trial. That re-opened many wounds. This sends out the right message that Norway has opted for an open, multicultural democracy and people like Breivik will not be able to push us off that path.”

This article has been re-edited for clarity.

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