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Rebellious Norwegians Find Life in Islam

Monday, June 8, 2015

OSLO – In what is perceived as a rebellion against Norway liberal society, a growing number of youth have been reverting to Islam, seeing it as offering a goal to their lives and showing guidelines and rules many of them miss in society.

“I think people need that, guidelines and rules and consequences in the form of punishment or praise,” 26-year-old Norwegian woman named Elsa, who didn’t want to be identified, told Aftenposten, NewsinEnglish.no reported on Monday, June 8.

“Something to believe in.”

Offering an insight into the Norwegian Muslim community, Aftenposten newspaper launched a series of reports over the weekend about Islam in Norway.

According to researchers, the number of ethnic Norwegians who reverted to Islam increased from around 500 at the end of the 1990s to around 3,000 today.

Though still representing a tiny percentage of the Norwegian population, the growth rate was regarded as significant, as is the perceived reason behind it.

“Converting to Islam is perhaps the most extreme form of youthful rebellion today,” Anne Sofie Roald, a professor in religion, told Aftenposten.

Islam, Roald noted, is a religion that can require a lifestyle for converts that’s “extremely different from the life they’ve lived earlier.”

Reverting to Islam more than 30 years ago, Roald cited the larger Muslim population now in Norway and its heightened visibility as factors influencing Norwegians who are looking for a religious alternative.

Those reverts usually launch into their new lives as Muslims wholeheartedly, she said in agreement with researcher Olav Elgvin of the University of Bergen.

“In general, many converts become ‘more Catholic than the pope,’” Roald, who reverted to Islam in 1982, told Aftenposten.

“The reality can be that the ideas about limits set by religion can be more appealing than the limits themselves.”

New Life

Surviving the massacre of July 22, 2011, on the island of Utøya was a changing point in the life of Morten Ibrahim Abrahamsen, now a 23-year-old man from Hamar.

Going through hard times on the island, when the lone gunman Anders Behring Breivik killed 69 people at the Labour Party’s youth summer camp, Abrahamsen decided to revert to Islam.

“I met a lot of resistance, also publicly, from people who thought I was vulnerable and had all but been forced to convert,” Abrahamsen said, after he’d declared his faith to representatives of the Islamic organization Islam Net in Oslo.

“But now it’s been nearly four years (since the massacre and his conversion) and I’m thriving with my religion.

“I have found the sense of calm I was looking for.”

Breivik, described by the police as a "right-wing Christian fundamentalist", killed at least 76 people in twin attacks on a government building and a youth training camp in Oslo in July.

The attacker said his assault was a self-styled mission to save European “Christendom” from Islam.

In a manifesto posted online before the attacks, Breivik wrote that he was targeting "traitors" whose leftist views and softness on immigration had brought the country low.

Abrahamsen and his fellow Muslim friends oppose extremism, asserting that the Qur’an instructs Muslims to follow the laws of the land where they live.

Clearing misconceptions about his faith, he added that Muslims cannot demand introduction of Shari`ah law, noting that Shari`ah law itself “is often not practiced as it should be, and many people who gain power often make mistakes.”

Norwegian Muslims are estimated at 150,000 out of the country’s 4.5 million population, mostly of Pakistan, Somali, Iraqi and Moroccan backgrounds.


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