Atle Hetland Intolerance and discrimination exist in all societies, to a varying degree. Most countries have laws against discrimination and, at least on paper, all persons must be treated equally. In addition, there is the International Human Rights Declaration that most countries recognise. Yet, many aspects of the laws and ideals are not observed. And always, the real tests come only when there are concrete cases, not when we talk and preach in academic settings and calm circumstances. It is when a controversy appears that we will discover how tolerant we really are. In my own home country of Norway, I remember from the time I was coming of age that my parents spoke with shock about racism in the United States at the time when the Civil Rights Movement was at its highest, and the tragedy when Rev Martin Luther King, President John F. Kennedy and his younger brother were all assassinated. They were working to end Americas apartheid. But some people could not accept that. America has come a long way since that time, with President Barack Obama being a half-white American and a half-African Kenyan, yet being at the helm of the worlds only superpower. Martin Luther King Day, which is celebrated on January 18, is a public holiday in the United States. In this article, I shall mention a few areas where Norwegians, too, were quite intolerant. I do this so that those who read my articles often dont think I am always righteous, and too proud of being a Norwegian. And maybe I do it to buy space for pointing fingers later, and, in any case, for reminding us all that we all have to do better? We can agree that it is healthy to be self-critical in Norway and in Pakistan. We have come a long way to accept diversity and multiculturalism in my lifetime, spanning over two generations. Many Pakistanis may have become more open to different races, classes, religions, and other diversities. Ordinary Pakistanis are tolerant, but when issues become public, some seem to shy away for supporting the downtrodden. How come we can otherwise accept the terrible economic disparities in the country? And cannot the vast majority be more generous and accommodating towards the minorities? It was a deliberate policy in Norway, after the Second World War, to work for equal rights and conditions for all. The welfare state was created and nobody should feel that they had to beg for their rights. At the same time, though, it was an unwritten rule that all should be the same, all should be equal. That also meant that nobody should be better or cleverer. It was even seen as wrong to aspire to do well or, to become rich, for example. In Sweden, Norways neighbour with a similar thinking, as late as the 1980s, a candidate for chairmanship of the Social Democratic Party was rejected because he had become a rich man in his own lifetime. That was not compatible with his partys ideals and ideology. He should rather have worked for improving conditions for the less well off. One important contribution of immigration, in Norway a large number from Pakistan, is exactly that we have begun to understand that there is a limit to how homogeneous a society can and should be. People can indeed be good people, even if they are a bit different. Cultural, religious, ethnic and other diversity has now begun to be accepted. That is even important to the ethnic Norwegians, who between themselves, too, are actually quite diverse. Let me mention a few examples where my own Norwegian background is not so proud. As late as the 1960s, you could find advertisements in Norwegian newspapers in the capital Oslo, in southern Norway, reading, Room for rent, and in parenthesis, Not for persons from North Norway, which also included the ethnic Sami minority living in the north of all the three Nordic countries and Russia. This was outright discrimination, of course, as bad as that in America, and today, the newspapers would be taken to court for allowing such advertisements. After the Second World War, the Norwegians were quite ruthless in the way they treated Norwegian Nazis and Nazi-sympathisers. Norway had suffered from a five-year long Nazi-Germany occupation. Girls who fell in love with German soldiers were ostracised during and after the war. They were often forced to move to another town, where their background was not known and they attempted a fresh start. If a girl had a child with a German father she would often have to give up the child. In practice, she would leave it to be brought up by her own parents, making the discrimination of the child less, and also making the life easier for the mother. When I grew up, the mainstream societys attitudes against the Nazi-sympathisers were rarely questioned. And if they were, you were quite quickly called into line if you were too lenient. Yet, people knew, or must have known, that the uncompromising attitudes were wrong. Remember that there were up to 300,000 soldiers in Norway, in a country with three million people at that time (today, just shy of five million). Germans and Norwegians are ethnically the same; it would only be the uniform and language that would give them away. Thus, since Norwegians dont have arranged marriages, but the young girl would herself find a boyfriend, could you really blame her for falling in love with the wrong person? Or, if it happened, and when the war was over, should we not have forgiven and tried to forget? In the 1970s, it was revealed that a Norwegian Member of Parliament for the Socialist Party, not any right-wing party, had in her mid-teens had a German friend, however, apparently only for a short time when she was a young, impressible and innocent woman. Many groups were up in arms, righteous and unforgiving. Luckily, the late Honourable Hanna Kvanmo weathered the storm and she was later elected to be a member of the prestigious Nobel Peace Committee. Whether she had made a mistake or not, and who hasnt, her political achievements could only be admired. She had reached high in society against many odds. How is the integration of immigrants from abroad and from far away countries today? Have the Norwegians become more tolerant in practice, not only in theory, the way we were regarding segregation in America, and until the end of apartheid, in South Africa? Yes, I believe, all in all Norwegians have done well, without being blameless, though. Most Norwegians appreciate the immigrants, the large number of Pakistanis, Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans and others - 250,000 from outside Europe and a similar number from within Europe - in a population just below five million. I think we must also have learnt from our mistakes. The current policies of multiculturalism, emphasising diversity as well as integration, are successful. I believe that Norway was lucky that the largest group of immigrants were from Pakistan The first batch was not well educated or from wealthy backgrounds. Like the Norwegians themselves, they were ordinary, hardworking and sincere people. We could have done much worse Ethnic Norwegians have begun to realise that, and besides, the new Norwegians carve out their own space, in a land where everybody can succeed, depending on their own efforts at school and workplace. It is a bit more difficult for an immigrant, as it was for a Sami or another person from North Norway, or from a remote rural village, and indeed, a single mother after the Second World War. Today, the public debate is more open than before, and people have become more inclusive and tolerant. Norwegians have not only learnt from past mistakes, they have realised that diversity is positive and enriches any society. Other countries can borrow a leaf. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist currently based in Islamabad. Email: atlehetland@yahoo.com