The man behind the nikab

Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of the Islamic Council of NorwayOslo.Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of the Islamic Council of Norway.Photo: Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix
Advertisements opinions ( Written by KADRA YUSUF) – Behind every nikab a cowardly man hides, Kadra Yusuf writes to Dagsavisen.

Mehtab Afsar has for a long time struggled in the role of secretary general of the umbrella organization Islamic Council Norway (IRN). Now it appears that he is saved out of his misery by a nikab. Instead of discussing the poor job he as Secretary General and the supremely male-dominated board has done, we are now sitting and talking about a nikab clad lady. What a stunt! An impressive strategy to take the focus away from your own incompetence, I grant thee, Afsar.


For almost a year, the deep controversies within IRN have been visible to the public. IRN is basically an umbrella organization for more than 40 Muslim organizations and their 80,000 attending members, but has long struggled with internal conflicts. It has simply said boiled beneath the surface, and a large part of the responsibility for this rests on the Secretary-General Afsar’s shoulders.


Islamic Council of Norway is to promote unity, dialogue and belonging among Muslims in Norway. This has unravelled completely, and the Secretary-General appears more concerned with creating less feeling of belonging among Norwegian Muslims than the other way around. The main reason for the failure is Afsar’s lacklustre willingness to cooperate and compromise. Young Muslims like Yousef Assidiq, Faten Mahdi Al-Hussaini and Linda Noor has gone out against Afsar in social media, and calls him a bully who opposes Muslims who work against extremism and radicalization. They have pointed to repeated episodes where Afsar has behaved exceptionally rude, both in the form of verbal abuse and straight out threats.


That the Secretary General does not seem to worry much about extremism among radical Muslims is nothing new. He has compared people who join ISIS in Syria with those who participate in military service, and has stated that there are only about ten Muslim extremists in Norway. A rather modest estimate, that is. Not to say just a trivialization of the issue.


The internal conflicts have been mildly put intense, and it all peaked last summer when the entire board of the Islamic Council of Norway resigned in protest against Mehtab Afsar. The board’s attempts to get rid of the incompetent Secretary-General, was however, overruled by the Council of IRN. The Board therefore had to step down and in came far more conservative forces from some of the country’s most reactionary mosques. And therefore the Secretary-General continues to rule under his own sole discretion.


After IRN ended up in the media spotlight when it was revealed that they use very suspicious methods connection with the implementation of its highly lucrative halal certification, the headlines shifted focus  to the appointment of the 32-year-old nikab clad Leyla Hasic as IRN’s ‘public face.’ The money came from the Ministry of Culture who wanted to help bridge the gap and cohesion. It must have been experienced as an insult to meet suggestions that IRN not doing enough in this area, and what better revenge than to use the funds to hire one Norway’s least suitable bridge builders?


Hasic is not just anybody. She is central to the female Islamist community in Norway, among others with close ties to the Salafist organisation Islam Net. This has led to strong reactions among many Muslims and also non-Muslims. But even though many seethe with anger, Mehtab Afsar remains consistently calm in the face of media. Why? Because he like most cowardly men has managed the feat of hiding behind a woman. He obviously has long been prepared for the reactions.


The appointment appears to be a calculated strategy to turn the media focus in his favour. With this appointment Mehtab Afsar is released of criticism for his incompetence and can retaliate against the majority community. He secures favour with conservative Salafist groups that Islam Net and others have argued that mosques are pandering too much to the Norwegian society. But now Afsar is hailed for a “courageous and commendable” employment of nikab clad Hasic.


Islam Net and the Islamic Council of Norway are now making common cause, and appear

increasingly ideologically coherent. Men, who would not hesitate to trample on human dignity, suddenly talk about the importance of equality. They are so rude that one does not know whether to laugh or cry. Afsar and IRN are no noble knights who have ‘saved’ Leyla Hasic from unemployment, racism and integration problems. It is rather the case that she and the debate around her they hope will save a misguided IRN, which is about to collapse.


Hasic has long been an active advocate for nikab, a garment that covers the entire face except the eyes and virtually erases the woman as an individual. She has stood by her hatred of Jews and promoted conspiracy theories, and has made no secret of what kind of society she wants and what is her political project.


Now Afsar and the old men of the Islamic Council of Norway are clinging to nikab clad Leyla. For they are in dire need of something to hide behind, which can put their combat items back on the agenda. They need a diversion, so that we stop talking about and ask awkward questions about their incompetence, their lack of respect for society at large and the taxpayers who have funded the new position. An end to requests for transparency. They want us to ignore how the Islamic Council of Norway has thrown the majority of moderate Muslims overboard and kow-towed to the ultraconservative forces.


Source: / Written by KADRA YUSUF/ Norway Today