Against the Current: ‘Persecuted’ Norwegian Muslims Fleeing to Islamic Nations
While the influx of Muslims remains by far the dominant migration trend in Northern Europe, a current flowing in the opposite direction is also emerging, with hundreds of Norwegian nationals leaving for Muslim countries.
Norway’s recent succession of tougher immigration laws, which the Nordic country’s growing Islamic diaspora perceived as chiefly “anti-Muslim,” has spurred Norwegian Muslims to contemplate the perspectives of finding a new home, Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen reported. In recent years, hundreds of Norwegian nationals have relocated to Islamic countries, with more to follow.
AFP 2017 / Shah Marai
Socialist Left ethnic equality spokesperson Somali-Norwegian Marian Hussein acknowledged that conservative Muslims feel the urge to emigrate due to a feeling of insecurity and the desire to give their children a stronger Muslim identity.
“Many minority Norwegians walk around with a creeping feeling of insecurity,” writer Qasim Ali told Klassekampen.
According to Ali, Muslims are starting to suspect that they are no longer welcome in Norway and are considering emigration to a Muslim country.
“Many respond to a condescending approach and cultural arrogance from [ethnic] Norwegians that did not exist when they were growing up in the 1990s,” Qasim Ali said.
According to him, “exit strategies” are being discussed in detail in closed Facebook groups and other social media platforms. Remarkably, the recent proposal to ban public servants in Oslo, which is home to one of Norway’s largest Muslims diasporas, from bearing the hijab added fuel to the fire. Besides religion, other reasons to emigrate are the desire to get better jobs and achieve a higher status among fellow Muslims.
Another high-profile case which Norwegian Muslims perceived as a targeted attack was Norway’s decision to revoke the citizenship of Somali Mahad Abid Mahamud and expel him after 17 years in Norway because he had allegedly lied on his asylum application.
While oil-rich Norway is one of the world’s most effective welfare states and a traditional top scorer in various ratings, Muslim émigrés may find it hard to achieve an equal level of social security. Therefore, the most popular destinations include major cities such as Cairo or Istanbul, where the transition from living in Norway would arguably be less painful. Other popular destinations include Malaysia and the Arab Emirates, whereas some emigrants are specifically open to rural areas.
According to Ali, a burgeoning colony of European Muslim emigrants has effectively established itself outside the Moroccan capital Rabat. He claimed to personally know a two-digit number of young Norwegian Muslims aged 20-30 years who traveled to Morocco to remain there with their families. Lastly, Ali claimed Norwegians of Turkish origin resettling in Turkey to be another distinct group of émigrés.
In Islamic theology, the concept of Hijrah refers to Prophet Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina in 622, where he laid the foundation for the Islamic community. In a broader sense, it reflects a journey undertaken to avoid persecution or because of religious beliefs, especially with the ambition of building an Islamic alternative to “godless” societies. Incidentally, the very concept is used by so-called “foreign fighters,” in effect jihadists, who left for the Middle East to join the terrorists’ cause.
The exact percentage of Muslims in Norway remains a matter for debate, yet has been rising steadily since the late 1960s and is expected to hover at around 3.8 percent of the Norwegian population of 5.2 million. However, in Oslo County the percentage is creeping closer to 10 percent. In 2015, 395 Norwegian nationals relocated to four Muslim countries.
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