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I have worked for HRS, and am proud of it. Founded a decade ago by two women, Hege Storhaug and Rita Karlsen, with a passionate interest in guaranteeing the rights of Muslim women and girls living in Europe, it has always batted very much above its weight, producing solid reports that have led to important legislation in both Norway and Denmark relating to subjects like forced marriage, honor killing, genital mutilation, the sending of European Muslim children to Koran schools in Pakistan to be “educated,” and the difference between men’s and women’s right to divorce under sharia law. HRS’s work has always been controversial among multiculturalists, because instead of bowing before the immigrant group and its cultural and religious values, HRS has fiercely defended the human rights and integrity of individuals within that group. This emphasis differentiates it dramatically from a raft of other official and quasi-official “rights” groups in Norway and elsewhere in Europe, which produce little more than PC rhetoric designed to promulgate the idea that the only real problem with Islam in Europe is native Europeans’ Islamophobia.
The public face of HRS is Hege Storhaug. Although her career has been driven by an ardent devotion to equality, religious liberty, and freedom of expression, she has consistently been smeared by left-wing critics as a disrespecter of Islam, and she was among the figures who were most brutally blasted by the cynical multiculturalists in the weeks after July 22. Audun Lysbakken, a young member of the furthest left of Norway’s major parties, the Socialist Left (which makes Labor look moderate), serves as Minister of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion; it is through his ministry that HRS is funded, and he has for some years now played the Javert to HRS’s Jean Valjean, making no secret of his eagerness to leave HRS high and dry. July 22 provided him with a great deal of leverage to do so. Now, with the release of next year’s budget, he would appear to have succeeded, if not entirely but in very large part, at his unworthy goal.
If this is a sign of things to come, it is not a good one. For it suggests that one of the legacies of July 22 may be an abandonment of official support for the kind of work HRS does and the values for which it stands. Such a shift would represent a major victory for the multicultural mentality which, in the name of cultural respect, insists on turning a blind eye to the most monstrously barbaric aspects of other cultures and on embracing as friends and allies Muslim leaders who have nothing but disdain for Western freedom and democracy. And it would constitute a terrible defeat for women and girls born into Muslim communities who thought that living in Norway meant that the authorities respected their rights under the law as surely as it did those of any native-born Norwegian woman or girl. It is hard, in short, not to conclude that in slashing funding to HRS, the Norwegian government has given a tacit thumbs-up to every petty tyrant in Norway’s Muslim community and has slapped in the face every female Norwegian Muslim who yearns to breathe free.
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