Last Sunday, in the Chapel of the Royal Castle in Oslo, the Norwegian Princess Ingrid Alexandra (15) was confirmed in the Church of Norway, where she became a member at the baptism as a baby of a few months. According tradition in the Evangelical-Lutheran denomination of the Protestant Church, and other denominations and branches, one should confirm one’s faith as a young adult. Just a generation or so ago, literally every young teenager attended the Bible study preparations and confirmation ceremony; today, seventy percent of Norwegians are church members, but only about sixty percent attend confirmation. The other youth attend a humanist-ethical ceremony or they skip it all together. Confirmation also symbolises the transition from childhood to adulthood, and in general, it is a celebration of the young teenager.

In ‘New Norway’, with about 800,000 immigrants in a population of five million, including a few hundred thousand Muslims, members of other faiths, and citizens who are not members of any religious association, there is need for a neutral, non-religious feast to celebrate the youth. It can be separate from or in addition to the traditional Christian or secular event. In the years to come, I look forward to seeing proposals from the Islamic Council Norway and other religious and non-religious organisations. In a new time, we need to change and modernise many traditions, building on the past and adding new values and ways.

I would like us to consider aspects of the Norwegian confirmation ceremony for Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who some time in future will be the Queen of Norway and head of state. In the meantime, her grandfather, King Harald V (82), is still reigning, and his son, Crown Prince Haakon (46), who is Ingrid’s father, is then to shoulder the task. Ingrid will be the first woman to be head of state of Norway in five hundred years or so; the Constitution of the land was only changed in 1990 to make the first born child of the head of state to ‘ascend to the throne’, as the term goes. True, not even those Scandinavians have always had gender equality in all fields! As a matter of fact, if they had changed the constitution a bit earlier, it would not have been Crown Prince Haakon, but his sister Princess Märtha Louise who would have been next in line to become head of state. She was born in 1971 and her brother in 1973, but that time, it was only males who could inherit the throne. The law was changed but not retroactively.

Furthermore, I would like to draw attention to another unequal law pertaining to the head of state of Norway; he or she must confess not only to the Christian faith, but to the Evangelical-Lutheran denomination of the Protestant Church. When the Constitution was revised some years ago, King Harald V personally is said to have wanted this paragraph to remain. In the UK, the head of state must confess to the Anglican Church. In other words, a Catholic could not be head of state in either of those countries, nor could a faithful belonging to another religion or none at all. This is not quite democratic, is it?

In Pakistan and in other Muslim countries, there are also rules that bar non-Muslims from holding the highest offices, such as head of state, prime minister, and army chief. In Norway, I believe it is only the head of state that must confess to a specific denomination and faith. The majority of the cabinet must no longer hold membership in the Church of Norway, as was the law until 2012 when the State Church was dissolved. Not even the minister responsible for church and religious affairs needs to be a member of a Christian association.

If certain posts in a country cannot be held by certain citizens, based on religious or other criteria, that is undemocratic, whether it is the head of state in Norway, UK, Pakistan, or elsewhere. I also have some problem with too many formal qualifications being required for incumbents to secular jobs. Qualifications are not necessarily based on degrees, but on broader experience and competence. True, we all want a pilot to have passed required tests; we also want a doctor to know what he or she is doing. But in many other fields, skills are not all that technical and requirements should not be too specific and excluding many who could have done the jobs. In earlier days, to keep privileges for ones tradesmen meant to keep competitors out.

In Norway today, there is openness to other denominations and religions, but the state still has a ‘Christian atmosphere’ although not being confessional. Also, one should realize that the term ‘Christian’ may be quite broad, including ‘culturally Christian’. Of the seventy percent of the population that belongs to the Church of Norway just about fifty percent say they are confessional Christians, according to opinion polls.

I believe that change of conventions, traditions, opinions and values always take time. In due course, I am sure that in Norway, there will not be any restrictions as to who it is that can become head of state. Just in the last generation, women have gained equal rights to men. That was about time! But then, is it democratic at all to have the rule that the head of state ‘inherits the throne’. No, it isn’t. However, for the time being, Norway has that way of naming its head of state, and in opinion polls and in parliament, a clear majority supports the monarchy.

In a country with fifteen to twenty percent immigrants, some belonging to other religions, it is also likely that the country’s ‘first family’, the royal family, will mix through marriage and close association with the ‘new Norwegians’. Already, Princess Märtha Louise, has a companion and soul mate, as she says, who is African-America. From 2009-2013, Norway had a deputy speaker of parliament (fourth vice president, as it is termed) in Akhtar Chaudhry (b. 1961), an immigrant from Lahore. Currently, Abid Raja (b. 1975) is the fifth vice president of parliament, and he is the second Muslim to have been elected to that office; he was born in Norway to immigrant parents from Pakistan. The deputy chair of Norway’s largest political party, the Labour Party (AP) is Hadia Tajik (b. 1983). Her parents came to Norway as immigrants from Balochistan. When she in 2013 was appointed minister of culture, she was the country’s youngest minister ever, and she was also the first Muslim to be a government minister, and a woman. In the past, many vice chairs of AP have ascended to become chair, and then prime minister; only future will tell if a Muslim woman of Baloch heritage will become PM of Norway.

The young Norwegian Princess Ingrid is part of history, as are all the other individuals I have mentioned. They are all doing well in life and jobs. Let us watch the youth and learn from them – and support all who update and change institutions.