Immigration, Integration Draw Attention In Norway The brutal twin attacks by self-proclaimed Christian crusader Anders Behring Breivik have reignited an immigration debate in what had appeared to be the most serene multicultural society in Europe.‪
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Immigration, Integration Draw Attention In Norway

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Immigration, Integration Draw Attention In Norway

Immigration, Integration Draw Attention In Norway

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

Police in Norway are questioning Anders Brievik for the second time today. He's the man who's confessed to killing at least 76 people in a bombing and shooting last week.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Investigators are still trying to determine if there were others involved in this plot. Brievik will also be examined by psychiatrists. His lawyer has claimed that Brievik is insane.

LOUISE KELLY: Meanwhile the violence has touched off a new debate about immigration in Norway. About 11 percent of Norway's population is made up of people born outside the country. As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, the fast growing Muslim population is testing Norway's reputation as a haven for those seeking a better life.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE CHATTING IN CAFÉ)

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: The atmosphere changes sharply in a nearby square. It's lined with trendy shops, sushi bars and outdoor restaurants. Here we meet Eric Lundesgard, a member of the Conservative party, currently in opposition. He says integration is the key to immigration.

ERIC LUNDESGARD: Integration, to some extent, means being more Norwegian, but, you know, Norway is quite a homogenous country.

POGGIOLI: But that thought would seem to echo the ideas propagated by Anders Brievik in his 1500-page screed against Muslims and multiculturalism.

LUNDESGARD: I believe that many of his, you now, his thoughts are quite about the multi-cultural society and political correctness is quite common.

POGGIOLI: Quite common?

LUNDESGARD: Yeah.

POGGIOLI: When Lundesgard leaves, Yassim Mansour, a Tunisian, rushes up and tells us how hard it is for an immigrant to live in this society.

YASSIM MANSOUR: When they show their passports - if you go there with 16 other Norwegians, they take the Norwegian one. And this is a fact. Here, when I am at work if I'm going to pray, I am Muslim, I have to hide myself, and don't tell nobody. If they ask me, where have you been, I say I have been in the toilet.

POGGIOLI: The number of immigrants has more than doubled since 1995. And growing tensions have led to more division. Indigenous Norwegians have increasingly fled neighborhoods inhabited by immigrants, citing worsening educational standards in public schools. And, says Iranian-born human rights activist Ali Esbati, the notion began to circulate that Muslims in particular, because of their religion, cannot become good Norwegians.

ALI ESBATI: This new kind of rightwing milieu, the Eurabia literature, the idea that the west is being taken over, these kind of ideas have been very marginal until quite recently. But they have moved more and more towards the center of things, towards the main public discourse. And that's the real problem, I think, for long-term social development.

POGGIOLI: But Sociologist Thomas Eriksen hopes something positive will emerge from last week's tragedy - that people here will treat each other with more respect and more recognition.

THOMAS ERIKSEN: So that it actually becomes more difficult for people on the rightwing to generalize in pejorative terms about Muslims, and be concerned about the fact that we do have an emerging multi-cultural society here and that everybody needs to have a place in it. That we have to create that sense of solidarity among the whole population and loyalty among the immigrants.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Oslo.

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