Norway’s migration and integration minister has faced calls to resign after telling the country’s Muslim immigrants they must adapt to a society in which “we eat pork, drink alcohol and show our face.” Sylvi Listhaug, a member of the country’s populist, anti-immigrant Progress Party, made the comments in a Facebook post Monday.
“I think those who come to Norway need to adapt to our society,” she wrote. “Here we eat pork, drink alcohol and show our face. You must abide by the values, laws and regulations that are in Norway when you come here.”
Listhuag was appointed to the role last December as part of the country’s governing coalition, which also comprises the center-right Conservative Party. In the space of a year, Norway’s number of new immigrants has fallen from a high of close to 31,000 in 2015 to an expected 3,550 by the end of this year.
While the number of asylum seekers has dropped in 2016 across Europe, Norway, which is not part of the European Union, has also instituted controversial policies. In April, the country’s authorities started offering a “bonus” of 10,000 krone ($1,200) to leave the country.
Last year, those fleeing war-torn Syria accounted for a third of asylum seekers arriving in Norway.
Listhaug’s post has been liked more than 20,000 times but has also sparked an immediate backlash. A member of the opposition Labor Party pointed out the contradiction between her words and the title of her position.
“If you are to be integration minister, you must begin to integrate,” Zained Al-Samarai wrote in an article for newspaper Dagbladet. “Do not frighten and separate people.”
Others went further and called for the 38-year-old former minister for agriculture to resign.
“If she does not understand the complexity and does not have the expertise to deal with these social issues in a good way, it's time to ask: should Listhaug reconsider her position?” Norwegian criminologist Omar Gilani Syed, who has worked with integrating refugees, wrote in the country’s Aftenposten newspaper.
Following the criticisms, Listhaug sought to clarify her remarks, insisting that they had been misconstrued.
“You misunderstand me, but that’s the way it is,” she wrote on Facebook the following day. “Not for the first time. I mean, of course they should not be forced to drink alcohol or eat pork. What I said is that I expect when you come to Norway, to align yourself with the Norwegian labor market. It’s about how one must endure serving pork if you will be working in a restaurant, or serve alcohol if you work at a piano bar. And in the same way, you don’t turn up in sweatpants and caps on a job interview, you have to think about how to dress to get a job.”