“Stereotypes are not necessarily untrue, but they are incomplete.”
I first heard this quote on a Ted Talk by Chimamanda Adichie – https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=nb.
I thought of it again today when I read a speech a friend of mine held yesterday. Abid is a Norwegian. He is born in Norway and grew up all his life in Norway near the capitol, Oslo. But Abid is not blue-eyed and blonde. Rather his skin is dark and his eyes equally so. He calls himself a brown Viking. Abid differs also with respect to his religion. He is a Muslim which is not the dominant religion in Norway. Abid grew up in an immigrant family. His parents came from Pakistan to seek a better life for themselves and their family. If anyone outside of Norway were asked to describe a typical Norwegian, I’m pretty sure Abid would not fit the bill. Yet, he not only is 100% Norwegian, he is also one of the country’s most prominent members of Parliament.
So, why am I telling you this? Yesterday was Norway’s national day, the day when all of Norway celebrates its independence and its constitution; the next oldest after the US. The original document was signed on the 17th of May 1814 in Eidsvoll, Norway. And that is exactly where Abid held his speech yesterday. In his speech he to referred to the original provisions of the constitution which forbade Jews entrance into the Kingdom of Norway. But many Norwegians took issue with this clause and eventually it was removed so that Jews could take their rightful place as good citizens of Norway. In that same spirit he asked that his fellow countrymen and women also open up to the idea of Muslim immigrants coming to Norway and participating in the building of Norwegian society along-side Wethnic” Norwegians. Now this may seem like a case of someone pleading the case of his co-religionists, but that isn’t the full story. Abid also recognizes the challenges we all face in our globalized world. He then went on to commend Norwegians who fought against the poison of Nazism. Likewise, we all need to stand up to Islamism, another violent ideology that threatens to undermine the rights and freedoms we so cherish and that are enshrined in the Norwegian constitution.
I think we all need to constantly question the “truth” we” know” about the other recognizing that even when our images of the other are true, they may not be the whole picture.
For those interested in the text of Abid’s speech you will find it here – http://www.vg.no/nyheter/meninger/17-mai/nasjonen-maa-bygges-paa-et-verdifellesskap/a/23685677/.
It’s in Norwegian, but if you plug it into Google translate you’ll get a good idea of the gist of it :-).