Posted on April 22, 2005

City Spots Want To Be “White”

Aftenposten (Oslo), Apr. 14

Oslo’s bars, restaurants and clubs want a “white” image and discrimination of employees with a multi-cultural background is a widespread problem.

Newspaper Dagsavisen has looked into the incident reported by NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) on Wednesday, where a security firm was dismissed because the bouncers they provided for bar/restaurant The Scotsman in downtown Oslo ‘made the place look like an asylum seeker reception’.

Samad Elhami, of Pakistani origin, said he was fired by The Scotsman before on the grounds of his dark looks, but this story is one that is heard at regular intervals about Oslo’s nightlife spots, though most often from potential guests who feel they are barred because of their ethnic origin.

“Many restaurants and bars think like this but very few cases become known,” Elisabeth Haugseth at the Center for Combating Ethnic Discrimination (SMED). Haugseth would not comment on the possibility that property tycoon Olav Thon, owner of the company behind the Scotsman firing, was worse than others.

“But we get the impression that this is a systematic mentality when it comes from so high up in the Olav Thon Group,” Haugseth told Dagsavisen.

Claus Jervell of the Oslo Hotel and Restaurant Employee Union said that complaints of discrimination are common but tend to be very difficult to substantiate, and also stressed that the problem was more widespread than just establishments in the Thon Group.

Dagsavisen reported that they had heard much of the tape recording of Jalal Yousuf’s SSG security. SSG decided to tape the conversation when the Thon Group refused to supply a written explanation of why they wanted to stop using the company.

According to Dagsavisen the tape contains remarks of “a serious racist character”.

Yousuf called the remarks “pure racism” and said he was getting out of hospitality security since the industry was permeated with racism. SSG has engaged legal counsel and filed charges against the Thon Group on Wednesday.

The Thon Group was apologetic, and concern director Dag Tangevald-Jensen said the company took exception to the remarks if they were reported correctly.

Tangevald-Jensen said that the remarks were from one of their 4,000 employees, the manager of the Scotsman, and not in line with Thon Group policy. Tangevald-Jensen said the manager had been suspended but no final decision had been made about possible consequences.