Minotenk: A Message of Diversity and Human Rights

Minotenk manager Linda Alzaghari (in the middle) in another Minotenk activity in Oslo

LATEST ARTICLES

A
tribune is all what we need to voice up our ideas, needs,
revendications and orientations. The parliament is a platform that
fulfills partially this purpose; yet less formal ones with open
possibilities to effective experiences’ exchange, mutual listening
and real knowledge enrichment are still required. They may be virtual
spaces like in social networks, events such as seminars and
conferences or structured bodies that allow different categories of
the society to come together and speak out their convictions.

This
question is often raised in democratic systems as they should
assimilate all components of the society notwithstanding their size
and volume; for people, all kinds confused, deserve to be heard,
represented in a due form and present in the decisions’ making
process.

Minotenk
is one of the organizations in Norway that give minorities the
opportunity to learn, to discuss, to talk and to show up.

Let’s
just remind that a minority has this status because it carries
somehow few “weaknesses” in term of number, rights’ enjoyment,
maturity, power or political and media impacts. Majority and minority
are two notions that vary throughout the time, within the geographic
area and according to the perspective we are looking from. They are
as elastic as the criteria that determine them: they are evolutive
and reversive; so ”dominants” today may become a minority
tomorrow, and vice versa. ”La roue tourne” French say.

To
sketch a picture of minorities’ practises in Norway, TNP had this
interview with Linda
Alzaghari, manager of Minotenk.

1-
What was the idea behind the creation of Minotenk? And what is the
mission of this organization?

Minotenk
was founded in 2009 by Abid Raja, a Pakistani-Norwegian lawyer and
politician. Minotenk is a think-tank that chiefly works with issues
concerning theminority population in Norway, but also seeks to
address minority challenges in a global perspective. Minotenk
emphasizes working with young adults on strengthening their autonomy,
resources and self-confidence.

Minotenk
has adopted open debate as its main tool. Dialogue has become our
brand. We have managed to mobilize members of the minority as well as
the majority, young people as well as old, regardless of sex, ethnic
or religious background. Many of those who have participated in our
meetings have gone on to become well known voices in the media and
gained access to our network.

Minotenk
also has an advisory council consisting of leading experts in Norway
in the fields of history, anthropology, journalism, the medical
profession, cross-cultural studies and religious studies. Minotenk
goal is to cultivate valuable knowledge about diversity and we work
to ensure that the people working with multicultural issues get
access to this information.

A recent event by Minotenk at Litteraturhuset with the participation of Iram Haq and author Mahmona Khan

2-
How do you define “Minorities”? Have they mainly an
immigration background or are there also Norwegian minorities?

In
our approach, minority does not solely refer to ethnic minorities,
but also the physically and mentally challenged and gender-related
discrimination. Integration as a social concept is not only related
to ethnic minorities or immigration background, but also to building
a society with equal opportunities, duties and rights for everybody.

3-
Are minorities represented politically, and is there any study about
their political tendencies? What political party for what minority?

One
of our main goals is to strengthen the democratic rights and
participation in the public scene within the minority population. In
some arenas, minorities are well represented, as for an example in
the City Council of Oslo.

Traditionally,
minorities with immigrant background, has been left-oriented in the
political scale, but I think this is about to change and we see that
minorities are voting and engaging in also rightwing-parties. Which
is only natural, since minorities in Norway are as different as
anyone else. This year, we will get more representatives with
minority background than ever before in our parliament, which is very
positive. But at the same time, we have to keep in mind that at the
last parliamentary election, only 52 percent of Norwegian citizens
with immigrant backgrounds did vote, compared to 76 percent of the
population in general. I’m eager to see if all the campaigns that
were targeting minorities this year to vote, has actually helped or
not.

Media
representation is also an important aspect of democratic presence,
and here we got a long way to go. A recent study by Retriever shows
that people with immigrant background is only used as sources in 2%
of the articles in ten of the largest newspapers in Norway, in the
period between 2010 and 2011. The survey looked into which role the
people with minority backgrounds are given when they are used as
sources. Around 8 out of 19 cases is the role of “ordinary
citizen” but “expert” role is only 2% of the cases.

IMD’s
annual report from 2009 shows that 71 percent of articles on
immigration and integration in Norwegian media have a negative focus.
I never turn down a journalist who wants to get in touch with
minority voices, but I try to convince them not only to use
minorities in “stereotypic ways”. I can’t count how many
request I’ve got for a Muslim girl in hijab, who the journalists
want to talk to about “honour” related issues or forced
marriages.

I
believe it’s crucial in terms of integration, that media start to
use minorities in all kinds of cases; it’s demystifying to see
minorities in regular roles.

4-
How is the participation of the youth coming from these minorities in
the political scene?

In
the last years we have had several up-coming young politicians with
minority background, as for an example Prableen Kaur, Abdullah
Alsabeehg and Himanshu Gulati. They make great role models and I bet
they are an inspiration for both minority and majority youth who are
into politics.

But
there are also some young people who doesn’t feel that strong
belonging to our society and therefore don’t believe that it’s
any use in raising their voices. This is a challenge we have to take
seriously, and to facilitate as much platforms for open debates and
dialogue as possible. This is the only way we can deal with sensitive
issues related to diversity and migration.

5-
How do you read the results of the last elections?

Minotenk
is politically neutral, our most important task is to make sure
minorities participate in the democratic processes – not to tell
them what to vote or influence anyone in a political sense. Our
ideological foundation is The Declaration of Human Rights and we want
to stimulate awareness from and human rights perspective.

6-
Finally, what are the next activities of Minotenk?

We
are currently working on a very exciting book’s project with young
contributors, sharing their experiences with being multicultural,
especially related to love, relationships, family and identity. We
will launch the book in January 2014.

We
will also arrange several public dialogue meetings this autumn, about
different subjects as extremism, gender equality and the importance
of education and drop-out challenges.

All
our activities will be announced at our Facebook page, for people who
might want to come.  

Source:
Jo Nesbø Self Biography/TNP November Issue

Comments