No, you aren't imagining it. There was a time when the Scandinavian countries could reasonably boast that it was in the grim, cold north of Europe that the most liberal, socially tolerant societies were to be found. But something, it seems, is stirring; a disturbing acquiescence to the rising tide of religious fundamentalism. While criticism of the (American) Christian right are still regularly found in Stockholm and Oslo's "quality" dailies (most of it overdrawn, but often entirely justified), the increasing fundamentalism of their fellow citizens is either ignored or excused. Take this most recent example, detailed here by Norwegian journalist Rita Karlsen, of the "Role Model of the Year" gong, awarded by Norway's Ministry of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion. (And yes, having a ministry with such a silly title is itself a problem.)
According the government, Mahdi Hassan won plaudits for his tireless work on behalf on indigent local youths:
We know that good role models mean a lot when it comes to creating opportunities for children and teenagers. Mahdi Hassan is such a role model. He is visible, he has knowledge and a strong sense of commitment and makes use of these things to create a better day-to-day life for young people in Tynset. People like Mahdi Hassan make a difference and his award for ”2009 Role Model of the Year” is highly deserved.
Well, huzzah for Hassan. The only problem, though, is that Hassan the Role Model has a wee problem with the gays; typically something that disqualifies one from being publicly celebrated in Scandinavia. According to Karlsen, "Hassan told the newspaper Arbeidets Rett that he wants a ban on homosexuality, based on the Koran." Does he support the death penalty for gays? That's "up to each individual country to decide." Wouldn't want to judge the wonderful diversity of Koranic interpretation, now would we?
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Seems like a nice chap; the type of role model I'd expect in my local Big Brother program. Obviously, Hassan's tolerance (of capital punishment for homosexuals) has angered Norwegian gay rights groups. But Stein Petter Løkken, leader of the Socialist Left Party in Hassan's home kommune of Tynset, defended the choice: “There is freedom of speech in Norway and in the Tynset Socialist Left Party we consider it unproblematic that Mahdi is opposed in principle to homosexuality. It is in accordance with his religion.”