Posted on January 3, 2006

Two Young Immigrants Portray ‘The Norwegian Dream’

Aftenposten (Oslo), Jan. 2, 2006

Two teenagers whose parents brought them to Norway from Pakistan and Iran were singled out by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg when he delivered the annual New Year’s Day address to the nation on Sunday. The teens’ outstanding academic achievement, Stoltenberg said, makes them prime examples of “The Norwegian Dream.”

“This was overwhelming,” claimed Faryaneh Roshan after hearing the prime minister specifically mention her name on national TV. “If anyone wants to associate me with a dream, then I feel very honored.”

Roshan, whose family emigrated from Iran, and classmate Zaheer Ahmed, whose family came from Pakistan, both graduated from Lørenskog High School with higher grades than any other ethnic Norwegian students. Both are now studying medicine in Oslo.

“They’re doing so on the basis of their own strength and will power, and the platform that (Norwegian society) gave them,” claimed Stoltenberg, making his first prime minister’s address since winning office last fall. “They are the picture of ‘The Norwegian Dream.’”

Stoltenberg said he was convinced that both children and adults, no matter their ethnic background, want to succeed at something, and that all deserve to do so. “Our strong fellowship gives each one of us greater possibilities to seek happiness,” he said. “That what’s become the Norwegian Dream, that more people have more possibilities.”

A new study, however, shows that roughly a third of all Norwegians remain skeptical about immigration, even though Norwegians themselves led one of the biggest emigration waves in history, when an estimated 800,000 left Norway to seek a better life in the US. Now others are seeking a better life in Norway, but it’s not easy.

Neither Roshan nor Ahmed say they felt any extra pressure to excel in school, but Ahmed said he now understands that he had to perform better as an immigrant than an ethnic Norwegian did.

The new study on immigration, conducted by the state government, indicates that four of five Norwegians believe immigrants must pass a language test before being granted Norwegian citizenship. Around 10 percent approved of limiting immigrants’ rights in Norway, most of them elderly or retired persons with little education and little contact with foreigners.