Promoting the Hijab in Norway

And with the public's money, no less.

Her name is Faten Mahdi Al-Hussaini. She's twenty-two years old, she lives in Oslo, she wears a hijab, she's praised the Ayatollah Khomeini and blamed Jews for all the world's travails – and she's the newest star on the state-owned, public-funded Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK).

In the run-up to the recent parliamentary elections, Faten was tapped to be the host for a four-episode TV series about the campaign. The show, aimed largely at young people, was called Faten Tar Valget. The title is a play on words: since valg can mean both “election” and choice,” the title can be translated both as “Faten Takes on the Election” and “Faten Makes the Decision.” The premise was that after talking to political experts and representatives of all the major political parties, she would figure out which of the parties she wanted to support. “Faten is a strong young voice in the Norwegian public square,” said NRK official Håkon Moslet. “She is unusually brave and has demonstrated the ability both to confront and to build bridges.”

Faten's election series wasn't her introduction to the limelight. She first made headlines three years ago, when, addressing a demonstration in Oslo, she served up a full-throated condemnation of ISIS. You might consider criticizing ISIS a no-brainer, but when it's done by a hijab-clad girl in Norway she becomes a superstar – instant proof that European Muslims are overwhelmingly on the side of the angels. Alas, Faten's debut on the media stage didn't go off without a hitch: after her ISIS speech, people began looking into her background, and a few dicey details turned up. For one thing, she belonged to a Shia mosque whose Iranian-trained imams preach hatred of the West and support Tehran-backed terrorism. At a debate following the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris, she'd expressed sympathy for them – kind of – but had also argued that they'd “paid the price for expressing themselves too coarsely.” That wasn't all: on her Facebook page, she had called Khomeini “a legend” and had shared a friend's suggestion that ISIS carry out its jihad in “Palestine” (i.e., Israel). Also, she had a record of open Jew-hatred.

But none of that, apparently, bothered the NRK bigwigs overmuch. They professed to be shocked when their decision to let Faten host a TV show – and in hijab, no less – caused a massive public backlash. The government-appointed Broadcasting Council, whose job it is to pass judgment on controversial actions by NRK, received thousands of complaints. Many of the complainants were Christians who pointed out that NRK had previously refused to let another on-camera host wear a tiny cross around her neck. But the Christians weren't alone. Mahmoud Farahmand, a Conservative politician with a Muslim background, also complained. Farahmand, who as a child fled revolutionary Iran with his parents and who supports a hijab ban, charged (correctly) that the Norwegian media and government are always treating the most fanatically pious Muslims as representatives and spokespeople for their co-religionists. Another Iranian-Norwegian politician, the Progress Party's Mazyar Keshvari, noted that Faten had been the director of Stand 4 Hussain, a group that supports brutal punishment of those who violate sharia law.

Even before the Broadcasting Council had ruled on Faten's hijab, one of its members, writer Elin Ørjasæter, a prominent critic of Islam, quit in protest against NRK's public response to Faten's critics, whom the network represented as bigots. NRK's head honcho, Thor Gjermund Eriksen, called those critics “dark forces in society.” In any event, the council eventually gave a thumbs-up to NRK's decision to allow Faten's hijab. Her TV series went forward, and it garnered predictably glowing reviews from Norway's mainstream media. Dismissing the fuss over her hijab as a silly distraction, the country's largest newspaper, VG, called the show “useful” and “honest.” At the end of the series, Faten announced which political party she'd decided to back. Surprise! She went with Labor, for which NRK is basically a mouthpiece. (Many Norwegians whimsically refer to NRK as ARK, an acronym for “Labor Party Broadcasting Corporation.”) 

Did NRK have any second thoughts about putting Faten on TV? Perish the thought. She's their new star. On November 11, the network aired a half-hour documentary all about her and hijab. The cutesy, rhyming title – Faten Tar Praten – could loosely be translated as “Faten Discusses It.” The show consisted largely of chummy chitchats on Oslo sidewalks with other young Muslim women who wear hijab. Most of them made light of the garment, suggesting that it doesn't hold any heavy meaning for them – it's just something that's become a habit, something that makes them feel comfortable. To be sure, there were (to NRK's credit) moments of honesty about “honor culture.” One young woman who sometimes removes her hijab in public – and who refused to be shown on camera – admitted that if her parents knew she was living this “double life” they would take her out of school, “dump” her in their homeland, and no longer consider her their daughter. Faten herself admitted that she wouldn't be welcome in some social circles if she took off her hijab. But she was clearly not interested in examining that fact too closely.

Her most substantial encounter was with yet another Iranian-born Norwegian – Æsæl Manouchehri, the female, non-hijab-wearing secretary-general of an Oslo-based organization whose name translates as Equality Integration Diversity. Interviewed in her home, Æsæl pointed out that in Iran women can be “stoned, killed, butchered, and whipped because a few strands of their hair are showing.” When Faten asserted that most women wear hijab out of personal choice, Æsæl firmly disagreed: “In Iran, they're all forced [to wear hijab], and there are 80 million people there.” Faten was visibly uneasy about the whole exchange. When Æsæl pointed out that being criticized for wearing hijab in Norway hardly makes Faten a victim on the same scale as Iranian women who are executed for not wearing it, Faten agreed – but her agreement seemed halfhearted. She asked Æsæl: if Iran forced women not to wear hijab, would she fight that, too? Absolutely, Æsæl replied.

After the interview, Faten told the camera: “I have found out that hijab can definitely be used to oppress women.” (She'd just now found that out?) But she quickly added that not all women who wear hijab are being forced to do so. Indeed, the message NRK plainly wanted to convey at the end of this program was that hijab doesn't necessarily have anything to do with politics or family compulsion or female subjugation. Yes, being forced to wear a hijab is bad, but being forced not to wear one would be equally bad. What the hijab itself signifies depends upon the wearer. In short, NRK (a network funded entirely by hefty license fees squeezed out of any already heavily taxed population) was obviously determined to normalize – to Norwegianize – the hijab. And this documentary was just one brief, fleeting portion of a long-term campaign of dhimmi propaganda by the official European media, which seek to put a pretty, innocent-looking face on the very ugliest and most malignant aspects of Islam.  

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