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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 14:22 GMT
Norway 'rife with racism'
Friends mourn for Benjamin
Benjamin's killing caused a national outcry
By the BBC's Lars Bevanger

Norwegians have a long way to go to rid themselves of racist thoughts and ideas, according to the author of a new book on multi-cultural Norway.

Marianne Gullestad, of the Institute for Social Research, in Oslo, was speaking after two Norwegian neo-Nazis were jailed for killing 15-year-old Benjamin Hermansen, whose father was Ghanaian.

There are employers who simply don't invite people to interviews if they, for instance, have Arab-sounding names

Editor Tor Bach
The killing sparked large anti-racism demonstrations, but Ms Gullestad says it did not turn out to be the beginning of real soul-searching in Norwegian society.

She says many still view non-white immigrants as people with few resources who need help.

"The demonstrations indicated that official Norway was willing to rethink its attitudes to racism, but all that quickly ended," she says.

Her book, Norway Seen Through New Eyes, examines the changes Norwegians face in today's multicultural society.

Surprising resistance

Last year, Norway had a fierce debate on the use of the word "negro".

A high-profile black Norwegian athlete said he wished people would stop using the term, which to him was offensive and racist.

"I was very surprised at how much resistance his comments were met with," Ms Gullestad says.

"There are between 150 and 200 self-declared racists in Norway - everyone else say they are not.

Neo-Nazi sympathiser outside court in Norway
A tiny minority in Norway would call themselves racist
"Those who publicly refused to stop using the term 'negro' were all kinds of people, none of whom would consider themselves racist.

"We still have a long way to go to get rid of racist thoughts and ideas which - more or less - everybody is guilty of using in this country."

Tor Bach, editor of the Oslo-based anti-racist magazine Monitor, says Norwegians from ethnic minorities encounter racism at all levels of society.

"It is virtually impossible for a young Somali to secure his own accommodation in Norway at the moment," he says.

Lack of reaction

Those with an immigrant job also face difficulties finding work.

"There are employers who simply don't invite people to interviews if they, for instance, have Arab-sounding names. I know people who have changed their names because of this," says Mr Bach.

Although Benjamin's death caused widespread outrage, commentators who work closely with immigrants and non-white people in Norway, say there is a lack of public reaction to every-day injustices.

With the conviction of Benjamin Hermansen's killers, a painful period for many in Norway comes to a close.

But as Norwegian society becomes increasingly multi-cultural, the issues of racism and lack of social inclusion will not go away.

See also:

01 Feb 01 | Europe
Norwegians march against racism
30 Jan 01 | Europe
Charges over Oslo 'racist' murder
23 Oct 99 | Europe
Swedes rally against racists
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Norway
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