On the Edge: With liberty and justice for all
“On the Edge” is the new opinion column in the Norwegian American Weekly offers opinions written by invited contributors to make some comments on the current issues that define modern Norway.
On Oct. 8 in Oslo, it was announced that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Chinese dissident and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.
That decision was an important one, and on that day in October I felt honored again to live in the country and the city that is the home of the Nobel Committee for the Peace Prize. Because I think the Committee has made some strange decisions in the past, it felt like the award was somewhat returned to its rightful place this year.
Both Norway and the United States are countries where democracy, the rule of law and human rights are the basic building blocks of the society. I believe these things are essential parts of a civilized society and that they are universal ideals that should not be seen as restricted to the Western sphere of the world. Cultural relativism is one of the most dangerous ideas we face in the world today. We cannot and shall not accept different standards for different people because of different cultures. There’s no doubt that China has gone through a period of extensive economic improvements, and we should acknowledge the improvements, at the same time as we should be willing to put pressure on China regarding their long history of human rights violations.
An important part of Norway’s foreign policy should be to recognize those that are willing to risk their lives for the cause of peace, freedom and human rights, despite threats. In April 2010, a great and important event took place in Oslo for the second time. The event was the Oslo Freedom Forum, which is an arena that brings together human rights champions from all over the world. I had the honor of introducing a true freedom fighter at this year’s conference. In July 2009, Lubna Al-Hussain was prosecuted for wearing trousers in her country of Sudan. Lubna refused to plead guilty and demanded a trial. When the court fined her for her behavior, she chose to remain in prison instead, but was freed to avoid more international embarrassment for the government. Lubna knows what the lack of freedom means and what the costs are for not backing down. We should stand firm and stand shoulder to shoulder with freedom fighters such as Lubna.
Immigration and integration policy is an area which sometimes creates a heated debate, including Norway. As the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel recently said: “Multiculturalism has failed.” The new prime minister in Britain, David Cameron, said something similar a few years ago. I agree with Merkel and Cameron on this. But let me be clear: A multiethnic society is a great thing, a multicultural one is not. And by multiculturalism I don’t refer to what kind of food people eat, or what kind of music they like. It is all about the basic principles that should be the basis of a society. As stated earlier, I don’t believe in cultural relativism. I don’t accept parallel societies, where there are different rules and rights for different people according to which side of the fence they’re on. When the Islamic Council of Norway needed to check with the European Fatwa Council on whether homosexuals should be punished with death, it was a worrisome sign.
Liberty and justice for all is an ideal to live by, not only for the United States, but also for Norway, and if we want to put action behind those words, we should be able to do this both when it comes to our actions on the international scene and when it comes to our actions on our national scenes. Standing up for human rights is about standing up for certain principles, universal principles.
Siv Jensen is the leader of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) and also the parliamentary leader for the Progress Party`s group in the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament). The classical liberal (libertarian-conservative) Progress Party is the second largest party in Norway and the leading opposition party. Ms. Jensen has been elected member of the Storting since 1997, representing the district of Oslo. Ms. Jensen is member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense and member of the Enlarged Foreign Affairs Committee.
This article was originally published in the Nov. 5, 2010 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email email@example.com.