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Progress Party Brochure Sparks Racism Charges
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Reactions were swift and strong after the populist Progress Party’s new election campaign brochure appeared, its cover featuring a man wearing a balaclava and brandishing a shotgun alongside the quote: “The perpetrator is of foreign origin … !”
“For the Fr. P (Progress Party) a stricter immigration policy and a stricter crime policy is about safety… . Safety for people to walk the streets without fear of being raped or robbed,” the brochure reads, and the Fr.P argues they have facts on their side.
Olaf Thommessen, a deputy leader of the Liberal Party called the leaflet “absolutely appalling” and Nadeem Butt, the head of The Anti-Racist Center in Norway, said it was “not worthy of a Norwegian political party”.
The Progress Party (Fr.P), one of Norway’s most popular, is no stranger to controversy, and took a calculated risk by flirting with its more nationalistic past.
“This is a low and places the Fr.P on the outermost right-wing in European politics,” Thommessen said. The prominent Liberal politician compared the brochure’s content with the arguments of Le Pen and Haider and believed the approach would repel voters.
Butt particularly addressed Fr.P leader Carl I. Hagen’s charge that no other Norwegian politicians were willing to take the up the issue of immigrant criminality.
“Carl I. Hagen underestimates other politicians. I have not met a single Norwegian politician who doesn’t take criminality seriously, but no one overdramatizes and mixes immigration policy and crime the way Hagen and the Fr.P do,” Butt said.
Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik also expressed dismay over the party literature.
“The Progress Party plays on the fear of foreigners. I expected that this would happen during the election but I think it is sad,” Bondevik told newspaper Dagsavisen.
Carl I. Hagen rejected Bondevik’s accusation of spreading fear.
“Bondevik is wrong here. The brochure says that very many immigrants are law-abiding citizens that do a fantastic job for Norway. But unfortunately there are all too many who are not law-abiding. Statistics show that clearly that criminality is growing among immigrants,” Hagen told Dagsavisen.
The Fr.P stance is likely based on the last figures from Statistics Norway (SSB) that calculate crime rates and ethnicity from 2002. The rate of non-Western immigrants convicted of crimes then was 30 per 1000, compared to 14 Norwegians per thousand.
SSB noted that the higher percentage of young males in the immigrant population was a contributing and explanatory factor behind the high representation.
“What we are focusing on is that we have had an immigration policy with a lack of integration and a lack of demands on immigrants. Many youngsters with an immigrant background end up in a route to crime … and we think it is important to focus on that. But if others want to put a lid on the problem and not debate it, we won’t solve these problems,” said Per Sandberg, Fr.P immigration policy spokesman.
(Posted on August 16, 2005)