Posted on August 28, 2008

Somalians ‘Won’t Integrate’

Olga Stokke, Aftenposten (Oslo), August 25, 2008

A Somalian woman who came to Norway more than 10 years ago is harshly criticizing her fellow Somalian immigrants and Norwegian authorities. In a new book, she claims Somalians themselves don’t want to integrate into Norwegian society, and that Norwegian welfare programs make it easy for them to remain isolated.

A Somalian immigrant in Oslo is blasting her fellow Somalians for resisting integration. The Norwegian welfare system lets them get away with it, she claims.

The book written by Amal Aden, a pseudonym for the Somalian author, is already creating an uproar. Amal Aden wouldn’t use her own name because of fears for her own safety.

In an interview with newspaper Aftenposten, the author said she hopes to launch a new debate on immigration and what can be done to further integration.

“I wrote the book in the hopes that children will get better lives,” she said. “I want to see more integration, and the responsibility for that lies with the Somalians themselves and with the authorities.”

She claims that resistance to integration is widespread especially among Somalian men, who fear losing their culture and religion. Many are afraid of Norwegians and view them as infidels who can’t be trusted.

In her book, entitled “See us!” (Se oss!), Amal Aden claims the Somalians also exploit the Norwegian welfare state and have many children in order to qualify for more welfare payments. Many couples also “divorce” under Norwegian law in order for the women to receive even more welfare payments as single mothers, only to continue to live under Somalian customs with their Somalian husbands and have more children, the author claims.

She writes that violence is a part of life in Somalian homes, that young girls are often molested and women and children are intentionally kept isolated. Many Somalian men, she claims, prefer to live on welfare than accept jobs seemingly below their social status.

“I’m tired of being patient with a situation where children aren’t getting enough food at home, where women are beaten by their husbands, where welfare payments to the (Somalian) families are used by the men to buy (the narcotic) khat, where the willingness to simply obtain more welfare money is stronger than the ability to care for children,” writes Amal Aden. She accuses many spokesmen for the Somalian community of hypocrisy, saying they say they support integration when in reality they don’t.

Several Somalian activists in Norway are already rejecting the book and blasting Amal Aden for criticizing immigrants traumatized by war and poverty in their homeland. “Half of the Somalians in Norway have been here less than five years, have little education and have problems integrating,” claims Said Abdulwahab. “It doesn’t help to criticize them.”

Abdulwahab has five daughters himself aged four to 14, but has sent them all to school in Kenya. Not, he claims, because Norwegians can’t be relied upon but because he wants them to get a good education.

Major publishing firm Aschehoug has put out the book, saying that while it may be accused of stigmatizing Somalians, it’s important to “release new voices” on the issue. Aschehoug editor Halvor Fosli said Amal Aden had “a brave pen.”

Relatively large population in Norway

Somalians make up one of the largest immigrant groups in Norway, numbering around 20,000. Nearly half live in the Oslo area and most have come as refugees. Only 13 percent have had any higher education. and more than half are younger than 20 years.

Reuters reported on Monday that the number of people needing humanitarian aid in Somalia has leapt 77 percent this year to more than 3.2 million. A report by the Food Security Analysis Unit paints a bleak picture of a crisis compounded by failed rains, rising food prices, inflation, and the worst insecurity in the Horn of Africa nation since the early 1990s.

“Somalia is now facing the worst security situation in the last 17 years, with increased armed conflict and fighting, targeting of humanitarian aid workers, military build-up, increased sea piracy and political tension,” the report said. “This situation is severely undermining economic activities and humanitarian delivery, thus contributing to the overall deterioration in the humanitarian situation.”