Cablegate: Pakistani Norwegians Ripe for Radicalization?


DE RUEHNY #1099/01 3121528
P 081528Z NOV 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 001099


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2017



REF: A. A: OSLO 993

B. B: 2006 OSLO 1451

Classified By: Charge d´Affairs Kevin M. Johnson for reasons 1.4 b and d

1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraph 23.

2. (C) SUMMARY: Norway is increasingly a land of immigrants, with over twenty three percent of the capital city,s population now designated as non-Norwegian,. The largest non-Western group is Pakistani, a population that has established deep roots in the country since the 1960s, but which continues to face many hurdles to integration and has shown signs of radicalism. Some hurdles are self-inflicted as some Pakistanis send their children to Pakistan for elementary and high school education. The almost exclusive intermarrying is also self-imposed and causes significant cultural conflict. There are brazen criminal elements in the Pakistani populations that until recently the police have been reluctant to confront. This combined with well-knownpower struggles among leaders of religious and secular institutionsthat suggest a risk of radicalization. Following Norway,s first ever terror arrest in September 2006, which was of Pakistani-Norwegian Afran Bhatti, and last year,s cartoon controversy, Norway should be considered a possible risk for home-grown terrorism. This cable is the first in a series examining different Muslim communities in Norway. The following cables will cover the Iraqi, Somali, Turkish/Kurdish and other significant Muslim communities in Norway. END SUMMARY.

No Longer Homogeneous: Facts on the Ground

3. (U) Immigrants compose 8.4 percent of Norway,s total
population but are concentrated primarily in Oslo and other
urban areas. In Oslo, the immigrant population is 23 % of
the population, with 19% of the population coming from
non-western countries. Drammen, a city only about a half
hours drive from Oslo, has the next biggest percentage of
immigrants with 17.5% of its population non-native Norwegian.
Pakistani-Norwegians compose 7% of the total immigrant

4. (U) First and second generation immigrants from Pakistan
represent the largest non-western immigrant population in
Norway at nearly 30,000 people, Iraqis are in second with
20,000 followed by 18,000 Somalis. Other significant
non-western groups include 18,000 Vietnamese, 15,000
Bosnians, 14,000 Iranians, 14,000 Turks (statistics do not
show what percentage of this number are Kurds) and 12,500 Sri
Lankans. European immigrants are also numerous with Swedes
24,000, Danes 19,000 and Poles (officially 12,000 immigrants
but unofficially 100,000 Poles working in Norway at any one
time) forming the largest groups.

The Pakistani-Norwegian Community....

5. (U) Pakistanis came to Norway through a pipeline of
connections that started with mass immigrant labor arriving
in Norway during the late 60s and early 70s. The majority
still have strong family connections in Punjab, specifically
in &Little Norway8--a community of repatriated
Pakistani-Norwegians--in Kharian, an area of the Hindustan in
Punjab province.

....Long Established, but not Integrated

6. (SBU) Of first generation Pakistani immigrants, 38 percent
have been living in Norway for more than 20 years. This is
in stark contrast to the recent wave of other immigration
from Muslim countries such as Iraq and Somalia, which has
been much more recent and mostly through asylum-seekers, not
as imported labor. Despite their long stay in Norway, the
Pakistani population statistically is the most homogenous,
with about 95% of all marriages in this community in the last
ten years being with other Pakistanis, and as many as 75% of
those marital partners coming from directly from Pakistan.
Net immigration continues to add about 1,000 new members to
the Pakistani population a year, mostly through marriage,
many of which are arranged and a number of which are forced.
Arranged marriages remain a hot topic in Norwegian society;
government proposals to raise the age limit for marriage aim
at discouraging arranged or forced marriages.

.....and Lagging in Education and Employment

7. (SBU) The situation for Pakistani immigrants in Norway,
despite the long history of the community in Norway, is worse
than many other immigrant groups. According to the most
recent statistics, only 10.5% of the community had a
university or college education, which is a third of the
national average and still only a half of the average for all
non-western immigrant groups (21.3%). Although these numbers
are better for the so-called second generation, immigrants
born in Norway, it is still significantly below the national
average for immigrants. The same is true for work
experience. According to the latest statistics the
percentage of the Pakistani-Norwegian population that was
working was at 38%, compared to 60% as the national average
and 40.7% for Asian immigrants in general. Only a little
over a quarter of the women were working, in part because of
the larger family size and tendency for many of the Pakistani
women to immigrate as adult marital partners without any
Norwegian language skills or significant educational
background. (The Norwegian government has tightened
immigration rules and all immigrants will be required to take
Norwegian language courses). The average salary is lower
among Pakistani families compared to immigrants in general
(including Swedes and Danes) as well as compared to
Asian/African/Turkish immigrants, which is a more telling
statistic. Pakistani Norwegians complain that the Norwegian
job market is closed to them, forcing many of them to take up
poorly paid service positions (taxi drivers, for example) or
to work at Pakistani-owned businesses where the salaries are
lower and the opportunity for advancement is limited. This
fact likely accounts for the low employment rates among
Pakistani women, who are not hired by Pakistani businesses.

8. (SBU) At any given time, 3-4,000 Pakistanis with Norwegian
citizenship are living in Pakistan. Many of these are
children attending school. It is a common occurrence to send
children to school in Pakistan until they are in their teens.
Certainly this disenfranchises them from Norwegian society
when it comes to educational and professional opportunities.
At one point, an attempt was made to get funding for a
state-supported Norwegian school in the Little Norway,
district of Pakistan to help these children learn Norwegian
at an early age, but the government denied the funding

Fanaticism ) Officials Downplay Risk...

9. (SBU) The frustrations that non-western immigrants face in
being accepted and integrated in Norway may offer a stimulus
to fanaticism. However, both the Norwegian authorities,
including security officials, and leaders in the Pakistani
community publicly and privately downplay the risk of
radicalization. The official police (PST) threat evaluation
for 2007 states that international terror organizations are
not a direct threat against Norway. It also states that
there is no indication of radicalization among Islamic
residents in Norway although the report acknowledges that the
radicalization process can change quite quickly. The police
view outside individuals, not residents, as presenting the
greatest threat of radicalization.

...but Risks are There

10. (C) Pakistani community leaders downplay the risk of
fanaticism despite clear indications that the Norwegian
Pakistani population is having difficulties in assimilating
and apparent conflict between Pakistani culture and Norwegian
mores. The Secretary General of the Islamic Council in
Norway specifically told visiting Farah Pandith that Imams
have turned away anyone who tries to radicalize their mosque,
and he assessed the risk as very low. (See reftel A) It is
difficult to judge the reliability of these assessments,
especially as Norway remains the home of Mullah Krekar and
his Al-Qaeda supportive blog While these
positive statements may reflect the current reality, there
are several indicators that developments in the Pakistani
community show that a population at risk. The first is the
arrest of Arfan Bhatti, who is on trial for allegedly
planning attacks against the U.S. and Israeli embassies in
the summer of 2006. The second is the reaction in Norway to
the release of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad with a
bomb in his turban, the so-called caricature controversy,.
The third is the growing radicalization among younger
Pakistani Norwegians, possibly stemming from the lack of
opportunities for the future.

Gangs: A Potential Facilitator for Radicals

11. (C) Bhatti, a product of the strong gang culture
prevalent among Pakistani Norwegian youth, is an example of
what may await Norwegian authorities in the years ahead as
members of second generation Pakistani Norwegians gravitate
to criminal activity which may lead to terrorism. The
Pakistani-Norwegians constitute the leadership and main
membership in both the A-gang, (and related Young guns,
group) and the B-gang,. The gangs have had a running
conflict since the 1980s which culminated in a mid-day
inter-gang shooting on Oslo,s popular boardwalk Akerbrygge
last summer. The attraction of these gangs is significant, as
they offer a way to fast money, fast cars, and peer respect
to Pakistani youth. Bhatti became the youngest ever member
of the Young guns, at age 13 and may be considered a hero
by Pakistani youth.

12. (C) In 2006 the police admitted a hesitance to confront
gang members or to curtail their activities because they felt
outgunned. Some police sources have told the embassy that
the Oslo Police limit their patrols of largely Muslim East
Oslo. The Akerbrygge shooting was a public relations
disaster for the police and they recently have begun efforts
to crack down on the gangs. Over the last year this has led
in part to the further evidence of the largest tax fraud
scheme in Norway,s history, involving the gangs and Oslo,s
taxi drivers, many of whom are Pakistani and operated as
getaway drivers for gang activities using their taxis.
Police investigatons also led to the discovery of a huge
money laundering scheme involving real estate and other
assets in Brazil. Gangs will continue to represent an
attractive option to Pakistani youth as long as the feeling
of disenfranchisement lingers in the community and they
remain outside of the working world and higher education
community. Comments from high school students to Farah
Pandith during her visit, and information from NGOs such as
Youth Against Violence reflect the growing sense of
frustration among Pakistani youth who see no future for
themselves in Norway due to lack of opportunities and
perceived discrimination.

The Cartoon Controversy and Leadership Struggles in the
Pakistani Community

13. (C) In the cartoon controversy,, images depicting
Muhammad as a violent figure led to eventual mass protests in
Norway in 2006. Although the images were initially released
in a Danish paper, they were reprinted in Norway and led to
significant unrest in the local Islamic population, as well
as to a surprisingly muted reaction from Norwegian
authorities and social commentators on the right of free
speech. Large demonstrations in Norway remonstrating against
the insult to Islam were accompanied by less-public death
threats against the Norwegian publisher of the image, who
owns a Christian publication called Magazinet, and who was
later blamed by the Norwegian government for having partial
responsibility for the attacks on Norwegian interests
overseas. These death threats, while not directly
attributable to Pakistani-Norwegians, reflect a milieu in the
Norwegian immigrant culture.

14. (C) The Pakistani Student Association at the University
of Oslo was the most publicly active organization in
arranging demonstrations, even in the face of calls for calm
by the Norwegian Islamic Association. This group had been a
standard student group led by moderate student leaders.
However, in the past year the old moderate leadership has
been replaced with much more religiously conservative
leadership. The struggle between moderate and radical voices
in the Pakistani community was also reflected in the
well-documented power struggles for the leadership of Oslo,s
newest mosque, which resulted in a stabbing.

Problems on the Horizon

15. (C) Many Pakistani-Norwegians, particular younger members
of the society, have a perception that they will never be
considered Norwegian by other Norwegians. During Farah
Pandith,s visit to a Norwegian High School, the students
expressed their feeling that they had no options ahead of
them even though most were born in Norway and speak fluent
Norwegian. (see reftel A) This is a common theme among
immigrants but it may be particularly grating for
Pakistani-Norwegians who have resided in Norway the longest.

16. (C) Bhatti,s planned terrorist actions, the violent and
public reaction to the caricature controversy and leadership
struggles demonstrate the danger of possible fanaticism in
Norway. With low employment, low education, and the
attraction of criminal activity, Pakistani youth appear to be
a real risk group. Unrest in Pakistan also could play a role
in radicalizing the Pakistani-Norwegian community. Other
Muslim communities have, to one degree or another, brought
their internal conflicts to Norway and shown a willingness to
use violence (as seen in a 2006 Afghani street fight that led
to multiple injuries and one death and recent conflicts
between Turks and Kurds). It is easy to see how internal
conflict in Pakistan could heighten tensions or
radicalization of a different Muslim group could negatively
impact Norwegian Pakistanis.

The Good News

17. (C) Not all the news is grim. Norwegian-Pakistanis have
significant local government representation, and did make it
into the Parliament for the first time in the last election
cycle. Pakistani youth have a number of roles models ) from
self-made billionaire Tire King Tommy Sharif to media-hound
lawyer Abid Raja as well as many doctors, lawyers, and
teachers. The police, military, and intelligence services
have slowly begun to hire Pakistani Norwegians, which will
improve cultural understanding as well as improve
communication. In the face of new, immigrants from even
more exotic locations, the Norwegian-Pakistani population is
often seen as established and comprehensible to some
Norwegian commentators, who hear them speaking Norwegian
(even though they may refer to it as Kebab Norwegian,) and
see them participating in Norwegian cultural events and
entertainment programs. This sense of establishment may
encourage greater self-criticism and calls for integration in
the Pakistani population as time passes. Books, OpEds, and
participation in TV debate programs over the last few years
by Pakistani-Norwegian journalists and politicians suggest
that this process has slowly started.

The Government,s Approach

18. (C) The government is aware of the need to integrate
immigrants and despite some clumsy steps in the past, such as
the hot debate over raising the legal marriage age, is trying
to take steps to facilitate integration. The appointment of
Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen as the Minister of Children and
Equality may be a significant step as she is the first
Norwegian Minister from an immigrant background (from
Martinique). The overall government approach however has
been tentative and slow. There is a lack of common agreement
on terms of the immigration debate and whether immigrants
should be encouraged to assimilate or not. Immigration and
assimilation are also major partisan electoral issues. Few
are willing to consider the possibility of radicalization in
Norway and few police and PST assets are focused on this.
Attention to this issue is slowly increasing but remains
behind Danish and Swedish efforts.

19. (C) The government,s hand is being forced in part by
the rise of the Progress Party. The Party has a major
platform focused on forcing integration. They consistently
have the second largest poll figures, demonstrating that
their message is resonating with a substantial number of
Norwegians. In response, the government is speaking more
about the challenges and debates are focusing more on the
meaning of being Norwegian.

Comment: Can Social Changes Limit the Threat?
--------------------------------------------- ---

20. (C) Regardless of the government,s efforts, real
success in avoiding radicalization of the Pakistani-
Norwegians will depend on Norwegian society evolving to give
immigrants a real chance to be fully accepted and a decision
by Pakistan Norwegians to focus on becoming Norwegian, as
opposed to Pakistani. While both of these are happening, the
pace is very slow. In the meantime, forces aiming to
radicalize are working hard and may tap a responsive section
of the Pakistani Norwegian community. Unfortunately, the
conversion of only a very few to radicalization could have a
huge impact in the country that continues to feel immune from
terrorism. End Comment.

Challenge and Opportunity for the U.S.

21. (SBU) Post´s outreach program has thus far
included(details found in reftel B):

--held immigration and integration dinners.

--meetings with the Norwegian Islamic Council.

--visits to several mosques and meetings with moderate Imams.

--meetings with a leading Norwegian Muslim professor at the
University of Oslo.

--meetings with the NGO Youth Against Violence which works
with at-risk youth from the immigrant community.

--DCM invited the debate editors for Norway´s four leading
dailies to discuss
immigration, extremism, and anti-Semitism in Norway.

--Ambassador hosted a large group of religious leaders for a
Thanksgiving dinner. Attendees included Muslim, Christian,
Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish faith leaders.

--Embassy meetings with leading experts on Islam and

--meetings with key diplomats from Muslim countries including
Pakistan, Egypt, Bosnia, Turkey, and Morocco to learn more
about their missions in Norway and citizens who reside in

--a cricket match with Pakistani youth and embassy personnel.
--the first ever Ambassador hosted Iftar dinner this fall for
prominent moderate Muslims.

--recruitment of nominees for the Young Leaders Summer
Institute from the Muslim minority community.

--visit by Farah Pandith to Oslo (see reftel A for details).
22.(SBU) In the coming year we are planning to repeat many of
these events as well as:

--engage with the Islamic Council Youth wing to determine
what kind of programming opportunities would be relevant and

--include Muslim youth in our youth-oriented programs
(science students to meet Buzz Aldrin, election programs,
environmentally active students who are being invited to the
lunch in honor of Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.

--seek opportunities for our two Roving Fulbright Scholars to
speak at middle and high schools in Muslim communities.

--recruit among the Norwegian Muslim community for our grants
to students to participate in the European American Studies
Conference which will take place in May here in Norway

--continue city visits with local immigrant community
leadership in as many city visits as possible. Although a
large percentage of Norway´s immigrant population resides in
Oslo, there are many immigrants residing in smaller cities
who were settled there by Norwegian authorities in an attempt
to dilute the immigrant population in Oslo.

--join with Embassy Stockholm and Copenhagen to bring over
Eboo Patel or his trainer from IFYC to meet with immigrant
youth groups in Norway to counter radicalism and gang culture
by redirecting youth towards social activism.

--work with Embassy London and the British governement to
bring successful American and British Pakistani entrepreneurs
to Norway to meet with aspiring young business leaders to
encourage creative ways for immigrant youth to enter the
Norwegian job market.

23. (C) Action Request: Post believes Norway may be only a
brief time away from serious problems with integration and
radicalization which increased terror threats in other
European countries. Proactive engagement by the USG now
could help keep Norway from going down dangerous paths we
have seen elsewhere. In addition to post plans above, we
request the following from the Department to address these
issues now.

--Provide funding for a summer leadership institute which
will bring together young European Muslim leaders, to which
each target country should be invited to send two

--Fund a Micro scholarship Program to bring English into the
classrooms in low-performing schools in disadvantaged
communities, provide contact between American teachers and
Muslim minority youth, and teach about the United States in
the high-density minority communities.

--Create a youth-specific outreach tool, such as Radio Sawa
or a web-based English language version of HI magazine.
--Create a special summer IV Program for European Young
Muslim Leaders.

© Scoop Media

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