Jonas Gahr Støre, Labour’s (Ap) Foreign Minister, has totally discounted the idea of establishing a Sharia council in Norway. He says a parallel court system is out of the question, arguing it does nothing to help integration.
“I believe desegregation is our society’s biggest social challenge. We must have a common fundament and a set of values anchored in universal principles of law if we are to succeed,” he tells Aftenposten.
According the paper, Norwegian Imams and the National Courts Administration have already said they’re open to the idea of establishing a council for civil matters such as divorce, inheritance, and domestic violence.
Støre, head of Labour’s integration panel that’s to present its report at next year’s Party Conference, argues there’s no place for a parallel system that makes judgements based on Islamic law. His Party has also given the principle the thumbs-down.
“We’re a constitutional state based on democracy, freedom of speech and religion, as well as equal opportunities and status,” says Støre.
Norwegian law forbids cultural traditions that discriminate against women, such as forced marriage and female circumcision.
“Practices not part of Norwegian culture shouldn’t be able to obtain legitimacy from alternative court systems,” he says.
“[But] increased diversity means our society will need both established and new conflict management methods. Many within the immigrant communities can help to solve disputes at a low level. I welcome this.”
Støre also hopes the integration panel’s work will help open up the public desegregation debate, as well as challenging traditional fears of raising the matter in a non-discriminatory way.
“We must take the concerns of immigrants and ancestral Norwegians seriously, for example when an 80-year-old ethnic Norwegian woman fears the neighbourhood is changing, or the anxiety a 30-year-old Somali single mother experienced during her encounters with things that are purely Norwegian.”