Marking 50 years since Pakistani labour immigrants came to Norway

Noman Mubashir .Photo: Ola Vatn / NTB scanpix

Norwegian-Pakistanis praised their milieu on Thursday by awarding prizes to gays and pioneering women. ‘’Other immigrant groups have a lot to learn’’ said the organisers.

‘’Many Pakistanis have learned from Norwegian culture about how important gender equality and higher education are. I believe that other immigrants who have come after Pakistanis have a lot to learn from how we have integrated’’ said Aamir Javed Sheikh to NTB news.

He is the leader of the 14th August committee, which works to reduce separation between Norwegian-Pakistani population and Norwegian society.

On Thursday, they mark 50 years since the first labour immigrants came to Norway. Today, 38,000 Norwegian Pakistanis live in Norway according to Statistics Norway (SSB).

To celebrate the new home country, representatives were invited to a party that is open to everyone at the Radisson Blu hotel at Alna.

This is for pioneers in the Norwegian-Pakistani milieu who include parliamentary representatives, taxi drivers, journalists, and doctors.

‘’It is the first time that everyone who has created history could meet under the same roof’’ Sheikh said.

Great progress

He came to Norway as an eight-year-old in 1978. Like so many others at that time, he came a few years after his father had travelled here to work.

‘’The first arrived from Pakistan because Norway needed labour. They had no plans to settle in Norway, but eventually they had the opportunity for family reunions. When the children started school, it was difficult to move back’’ said Aamir Javed Sheikh.

Now he says that most Norwegian Pakistanis consider Norway as their home country. They strive for Norwegian values such as gender equality, higher education, and free choice of spouse.

However, Sheikh acknowledges that this has not always been the case.

‘’Some first generation immigrants have not integrated as well, but it is different with the second and third generations. Now most people can marry the one they want’’ Sheikh said.

The biggest challenge the milieu is facing right now is the debate on Islam and terrorism. According to Sheikh, this is something talked about daily in the Norwegian-Pakistani milieu.

It is perceived as difficult that we must actively go out and distance ourselves every time there is a terrorist act, it is clear that we are away from that! We are as concerned about this as ethnic Norwegians.

Controversial price

To mark the progress made over the past 50 years, several prizes will be awarded on Thursday. Prize winners range from workers to politicians, and the openly gay NRK presenter, Noman Mubashir.

He is one of several gay Muslims who have appeared in the media in recent years and told how they feared reactions from the Norwegian-Pakistani milieu. That is why the prize is so important’’ said Aamir Javed Sheikh.

‘’ It is groundbreaking and controversial. But it is important to show that there is more tolerance towards gays in our milieu.’’

Norwegian-Pakistani women will also be celebrated during the selection. Especially Arbeiderpartiet Deputy Chairman, Hadja Tajik and Høyre politician, Afshan Rafiq, who is also married to Sheikh, will receive prizes.

‘’It was the men who came to Norway first. But when we go through history, we see that there are women who have succeeded in Norwegian society. It is thanks to Norway, and we shall mark that tomorrow’’ said Aamir Javed Sheikh.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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