Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Hege Storhaug, the information director of Human Rights Service in Norway and the author of several books on immigration and integration, forced marriage, women in Pakistan, and related subjects. She is the author of the new book, But the Greatest of These Is Freedom: The Consequences of Immigration in Europe.
FP: Hege Storhaug, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Storhaug: Thank you, Jamie. It’s an honor to be interviewed by you.
FP: So tell us what inspired you to write this book.
Storhaug: Compassion for the only sacred thing on this earth: human beings. A deep gratitude for the high level of personal freedom we enjoy in Western societies. A deep recognition that the liberal values from which I’ve benefited since early childhood – among them equal rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion – are under increasing pressure, especially in Europe. And a deep recognition that our freedoms didn’t come gliding in from nowhere on a surfboard and didn’t come with an eternal guarantee. On the contrary, we have to fight for them every day – otherwise, we’ll wake up one day to a society we don’t want and don’t recognize.
In this sense, the book is a warning of what’s at risk. It’s about values. It’s about freedom. And it’s about the increasing influence of Islam – especially in Europe, but also in the U.S. and Canada.
Another driving force behind the book is my concern for individuals who are being crushed by extremely patriarchal and inhuman practices that have now become deeply rooted in Europe. What I’m thinking about are the intolerable acts to which so many Muslim girls and women are subjected: genital mutilation, forced marriage, the denial of divorce to wives in violent marriages, the compulsive wearing of the veil, limited freedom of movement and – most extreme of all – honor killing.
Honor killing, as it happens, is the topic of the book’s first chapter, which is about a heartbreaking crime that took place in Norway in 2002. Anooshe, a child bride from Afghanistan, was executed by her husband outside a courthouse and police station in the small coastal city of Kristiansund in western Norway. Why? Because she wanted to avail herself of a basic human right – the right to break out of a marriage. Hardly any other event has had more of an effect on me than this one. This was a remarkable young woman who could have made a difference in my country if only the authorities had done their job – namely, to protect her.
In short, what I do in the book is describe the problems that “the new Europe” faces today, after decades of heavy immigration, and propose specific policy measures to resolve these problems.
FP: What is the main argument of the book?
Storhaug: The main argument is that Europe’s blind faith in multiculturalism as an ideological pillar of our society has failed dramatically. The academic elite and naïve politicians have bought into the idea that all cultures are equally good, and that the result of immigration from non-Western countries will be that different cultures will take root here and flower side by side with European culture. This way of thinking has led to the establishment of more and more closed enclaves where Islam trumps personal freedom and where the national authorities, including police and fire fighters, no longer have control.
The first victims of this tragedy are the individuals inside these enclaves – especially girls and women. Over time, the chances are very high that this tragedy can destabilize national states socially and also economically, given the high levels of joblessness and welfare dependency. If this development is not turned around within a decade, and if Europe doesn’t work out an immigration policy that is healthy and sustainable in terms of values, the continent is doomed. It will be Islamized, and will suffer everything that goes with that.
FP: How is your book different from other previous books broaching this subject?
Storhaug: As far as I have noticed, my fairly broad background differs from that of other authors on these issues. Not long after I started out as a rookie journalist in 1992, I came across the phenomenon of forced marriage among Pakistanis in Norway. Because I was so shaken up by the situation, and because I also realized immediately this problem would only become more and more important over the years, I decided that I wanted to learn firsthand about this so-called honor culture. So I went to Pakistan in 1993 and stayed there for over two years. It was a culture shock. One of the things that shocked me the most was the lack of empathy for the victim of oppression and assault. This culture shock led to my book Mashallah: A journey among women in Pakistan (1996).
After my return to Norway, I performed investigative journalism in the Muslim community, with a focus assault and mentality. My work led to the revelation that young women in Norway were being subjected to honor killings and genital mutilations. I also showed that imams were speaking out of both sides of their mouths – on open camera they opposed genital mutilation, on hidden camera they were for it. And so on. I also worked in the grass roots inside immigrant communities in an effort to understand both the mentality and the living conditions of those who are rendered vulnerable in extremely hierarchical social structures. My work has led to changes in national policy and legislation.
In 2002 I helped found a think tank called Human Rights Service. Our focus is on the living conditions of Muslim girls and women in Europe and on the struggle for values posed by the rise of Islam in Europe. During my years with HRS, I’ve uncovered scandalous problems, put them on the national agenda, and collaborated with politicians at the highest level, in Norway and elsewhere, to work out solutions to these problems. During my 19 years on the job, I’ve worked on pretty much every level of this crisis imaginable. This has given me a profound understanding of the challenges we face and it has won me professional respect from politicians – even though this has been an uphill battle because of the power of the politically correct elite and its determination to deny and distort the facts.
FP: What do we need to do to defend our civilization? Tell us some steps that need to be taken and tell our readers who want to make a change what they can do.
Storhaug: It would nearly require a whole book to answer this question satisfactorily. It’s exactly the question that I try to answer in this book, and my answer is on two levels. I take a larger, more abstract view of issues of freedom, self-knowledge, and the understanding of what makes a democracy strong. But I’m more specific when I address the types of abuse that are being imported mainly through immigration from the Muslim world.
First the large-scale level: it may sound absurd to an American reader, but it is also tragically true that it is nearly taboo in Europe to admire your country. Better to feel shame and guilt for Europe’s history – the Crusades, colonialism, etc. This form of self-flagellation is encouraged especially by the intellectual elite. It seems almost to have been dropped down the memory hole that the world’s most humane and developed societies were created in the West as a result of a several-hundred-year-long struggle for freedom. Why have we managed to create such good societies that give individuals such a unique degree of personal freedom? Why is there a one-way stream over the bridge from the Muslim world to Europe? I think we need to be more aware of the process that led us to this freedom, for that’s the only way we can pass on this magnificent liberty to the next generation.
Europe has been in deep ideological crises before. I think that every generation needs to be brought up to understand and appreciate freedom – to know how it comes into being, to know what makes it tick, to know what can bring it down. In the 1930s and 1970s, many young people and intellectuals lost sight of crucial democratic values and principles. At those times, the threats we faced were Nazism, and later Communism and Marxism. Today, and for the foreseeable future, the danger takes the form of ideological fanaticism on the part of people who think that religious law should supersede democratic law,
In order to be able to resist this menace, we need a society in which citizens have a firm appreciation of democracy, a knowledge of its history, and a familiarity with its key texts, and a reverence for its fundamental values. Democracy stands or falls on citizens’ love and persistence – their fierce loyalty to these fundamental principles and values. For this reason I want to see a ”democracy canon” introduced into European schools and into the public debates about issues that will shape the society we leave our children. Our democracy is precious; we can’t afford to lose it. Yet we may well lose it, nevertheless, if we take it for granted and sleep in class.
We need a quick wake-up call, and political action, and forms of immigration that are sustainable in terms of both economics and values. Let me give an example of the latter. There’s at least one group of Muslim immigrants in Europe who represent a decided asset for the societies in which they live. I’m speaking of those Persians who fled Iranian despotism beginning in the 1980s and 90s. Most of them are well educated people who came from intellectual and political families. They had already assimilated into our values before they arrived. Most of them have been success stories: they got good jobs and are full and active members of society. At the same time they have preserved traditions from their culture which do not interfere with human rights, such as celebrating the Iranian New Year.
On the other hand, we find typical immigrants from rural villages in Pakistan who have come to the West, in most cases, through a relative. This immigration has cost a lot, both in a literal economic sense (because of low employment rates and high welfare dependency) and because most of these people, in their minds, are still living in Pakistan. For many of them, Norway is only a cash cow. In other words, immigration policy must be changed in such a way as to ensure that Europe will receive immigrants who can contribute to their new societies in every possible way. If not, welfare outlays will have to be cut, as is already happening in places like Britain. Such developments may well lead to social unrest and conflicts between groups.
Let me just add this, to avoid any possible misunderstandings: I think we should be generous to real political refugees. For example, an Iraqi friend of mine had his back broken in Saddam Hussein’s prisons. He’ll never be able to work and contribute economically to society. Of course a person like him, a real freedom fighter, should be allowed to live in the West and receive public benefits.
An immigration policy that is genuinely sustainable in terms of values requires that we be extremely wary of the power of Islam. For this reason, applications for asylum should be rejected if they’re based on religious grounds that guarantee that the individuals will remain on the outside of mainstream society. I’m thinking especially of people who don’t allow their daughters, say, to take swimming lessons or to go camping. When immigrants refuse to take part in mainstream society, and refuse also to allow their children to do so, they are treating their children intolerably and acting in a way that will ultimately bring down the society itself.
Which brings us to level number two: forms of assault that Europe has never seen before, including family executions (honor killings) and genital mutilation. Europe is failing to prevent these outrages. Let me give an example that shows how barbarity needs to be dealt with, and one example that shows the opposite, both of them drawn from the book. In June 2006, nine people were on trial in Denmark. One was accused of having shot his 18-year-old Danish-Pakistani sister, Ghazala, in the open street. The eight others, family members and friends, were his accomplices in what had clearly been an out-and-out hunt for the young woman. The family had set up guard posts, patrolled the streets, kept in close touch with one another in order to circle in on the girl and lure her into the trap by exploiting her weakest point – her hope for forgiveness from those whom she loved, in spite of everything: her own family. Forgiveness for having married the person she loved, a young Danish-Afghani man.
But this hope ended in murder – a murder in which nine conspirators were involved, and for which all of them were found guilty. The father, who had pronounced his daughter’s death sentence, was sent to prison for life, The brother who had been chosen by the family to commit the murder got 16 years. The aunt who lured Ghazala into the trap by exploiting her longing for her family’s love got 14 years, after which she would be expelled from the country (she was not a Danish citizen). The mildest sentence – 8 years – was meted out to the person who had driven around in a taxicab searching for the girl.
These verdicts represent a milestone in the history of European judicial rulings and are unique in international jurisprudence. Denmark firmly refused to show ”cultural understanding.” Or, more accurately, Denmark showed that it understood these people’s culture very well: Ghazala had been the victim of a planned execution in which everyone played a part. This is the way that honor killing should be treated by courts, and since that ruling, Denmark has not experienced a single honor killing.
The other case is a complete tragedy that concerns four Norwegian born sisters with Gambian parents. The girls were taken to Gambia in 2003, at which time they ranged in age from 3 to 9. There they were subjected to ritual female genital mutilation in the African jungle. In the summer of 2005 I visited them in Gambia, and found four emotionally withdrawn children under the “care” of their father’s wife number two.
When I returned to Norway I reported this crime to the Oslo police. They acted at once. But they ran into a wall: the Gambian authorities, ignoring these girls’ Norwegian citizenship, treat these girls as Gambian nationals, and as long as the parents refused to cooperate by returning the girls to Norway, there was nothing the Norwegian police could do.
Nonetheless, three years later, in 2008, something was done: the parents had two more daughters, who were then aged 3 and 5. They were given medical exams, which showed that the older girl had also been genitally mutilated. The father was taken into custody (a historic imprisonment in Norway), but was let out after a couple of months. Even though the police had definitive evidence that the girl had been mutilated, the father was not charged with a crime. The parents got off simply by denying that they knew that the girl had been mutilated! All four of the sisters in Gambia are still being held captive there – and this has had no effect on their parents’ status in Norway. On the contrary, the parents have continued all along to receive Norwegian welfare benefits.
My conclusion in this extremely serious case is that we need to employ much, much stronger methods – especially where the health and human rights of children are concerned. In the book I argue that these parents have proven beyond a doubt that they still live, mentally speaking, in Gambia; they have violated all their obligations as parent; and they refuse to bring their children home to Norway, the country of their birth. These parents have acquired Norwegian citizenship only for their own economic convenience. My proposal in the book is that these people’s citizenship should be revoked and that they should be sent back to Gambia, while Norway takes custody of the two girls who live in Norway. After all, if Norwegian authorities had been able to take such action in 2003, when the girls were dumped in Gambia, I believe the girls would still be in Norway – going to school, unmutilated. The parents would not have dared to risk the possibility of being kicked off the Norwegian gravy train.
We need to address these problems, and fast. To quote one of Norway’s most beloved poets of the post-World War II era, Inger Hagerup, wrote in her poem “Be Impatient!”:
There’s no time to lose.
It can go wrong again.
What is it we want?
We must be committed to the defense of our fundamental values. We must be committed to the creation of a society based on these values. And we must be committed to raising everyone’s awareness that our contemporary struggle for freedom in the West requires the contributions of everybody.
FP: Hege Storhaug, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
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