At the peak of the crisis that was once again ignited by an offensive film against Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Norway, with its strong civilization, announced the appointment of a young Muslim woman, who is around 30 years of age, as a minister of culture.
This is the same Norway where a fanatic man named Anders Behring Breivik went on a rampage last year, killing about 70 people in protest against the cultural heterogeneity and the migration of Muslims to the Nordic country.
When young Muslim Hadia Tajik was appointed minister of culture in this country which is known for its profound respect for culture, this is an indication that even though there are fanatics such as Breivik, the scope of tolerance is much wider to be narrowed by a crime or a number of crimes of religious nature. This greater tolerance has enabled a young Muslim woman to become a culture minister in a country which has recently witnessed the phenomenon of hate culture which was not known before.
To appreciate the significance of the appointment of a Muslim woman as the minister of culture in Norway, we should remember the sensitivity of this post in a country which has deep-rooted traditions. It is not conceivable that someone who is not fully aware of the cultural sensitivity would be given the charge to look after the cultural affairs of the country despite the risks of him or her committing mistakes which might be harmful to the individual and to the culture as well. The obvious symbolic meaning behind this appointment is that Norway will always stick to its cultural openness to the point that it would not hesitate to put a daughter of a Muslim migrant of Pakistani origin at the head of the ministry as long as she is competent and qualified for the job.
This happens at a time when Islamophobia, which was dormant for a long time in the West, is unleashed again and further enhanced by the incidents of 9/11. Enemies of Islam used Islamophobia to frighten the world of Muslims and Islamic culture.
When we read the CV of Hadia Tajik we find a young woman who was very successful in her studies, work and other activities. Hadia, who is now 29, became a Parliament member in 2009 when she was 26 years old. This makes it clear to us that the Western societies, regardless of the fanaticism against Islam and Islamic culture especially in the recent years, will reward the successful citizens of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. The Muslim communities there should not unnecessarily be bogged down by the feeling of injustice. They should fight prejudices against them only with their educational and vocational excellence not violence. They can form strong organizations and lobbies to counter propaganda against them.
Here, we see that a non-Muslim country has given a Muslim woman an opportunity which would not have been given even by some Muslim countries.
Hadia Tajik is not the first Muslim minister or Parliament member in a European country. There are many Muslim ministers in a number of Western countries. In France, which is adamant on its rejection of Islamic hijab (veil), President Francois Hollande and his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy both appointed Muslim women ministers.
The final result is that the experiments of the minorities in the democratic Western countries have proved to us that these minorities can have all their rights and can climb to the highest political, social and economic ladder when they are organized and know how to avail themselves of the opportunities extended to them by the political systems in these countries. We hope that this will also happen to the Muslim minorities in the West.
This, however, makes it imperative for the Muslim countries to stop meddling in the affairs of their communities in the Western countries. We actually do more harm than good to our communities outside.
The article was published in the Saudi-based Arab News on Sept. 27, 2012