With a population exceeding 600,000, Oslo is divided into two parts by Akerselva, a modest brook that runs from the mountains in the north down into the Oslo Fjord. West Oslo is the upscale side of town, with fancy townhouses near the city center and, farther out, elegant neighborhoods full of large, handsome houses and wide, well-tended lawns. East Oslo is grungier: on the downtown end, you’ll find East Village–type districts with cool bars and clubs and plenty of graffiti, plus a couple of largely Muslim areas, Tøyen and Grønland; farther east lies Groruddalen.
A broad, flat, relatively nondescript valley (dal means “valley” in Norwegian), Groruddalen is home to more than a quarter of Oslo’s population. Think San Fernando Valley, and you won’t be far off. For a few decades now, the valley has been associated in the Norwegian mind with Islam. On August 28, 2017, Rita Karlsen of Human Rights Service (HRS), an Oslo-based think tank, noted that it had been 16 years to the day since Labour Party politician Thorbjørn Berntsen had declared: “There’s a limit to how many immigrants Groruddalen can accept. That limit is beginning to be reached. I know of people who want to move because the city of Oslo is filling entire apartment buildings with asylum seekers and refugees. . . . We must simply admit that cultural conflicts are beginning to be noticeable.” Other politicians rejected Berntsen’s concerns. The Labour Party’s then-head in Oslo, Bjørgulv Froyn, insisted that Groruddalen’s problems had “nothing to do with immigrants.” The leader of Oslo’s Conservatives, Per-Kristian Foss, agreed, accusing Berntsen of “stigmatizing a neighborhood and a population group.” Foss, who is openly gay, chose not to address the fact that it was already becoming uncomfortable for homosexuals to live in certain parts of Groruddalen.
Berntsen’s warning, issued in 2001, has proved prescient. From 2008 to 2010, more than 6,000 ethnic Norwegians moved out of Groruddalen, while almost twice that number of immigrants—mostly Muslims—moved in. In 2009, fully 67 percent of the children born in Stovner, a borough at the far eastern end of the valley, had non-Western mothers. In 2010, immigrants made up more than 40 percent of Groruddalen’s population, and Lars Østby, chief demographer at Statistics Norway (SSB), the nation’s official statistics agency, predicted that, before long, a majority of the valley’s population would consist of immigrants and their children. Yet Østby did not see this as a problem—notwithstanding the grim reality of certain urban areas in next-door Sweden, such as Rinkeby in Stockholm and Rosengård in Malmö, that had become Muslim enclaves: parallel societies where sharia trumped Swedish law and where community leaders, imams, and gangs had largely displaced the authority of the Swedish government, police, and courts.
In 2011, Aftenposten broke the prevailing media silence on the topic by reporting on the experiences of ethnic Norwegians living in Groruddalen. “It has been difficult to be an ethnic Norwegian in Groruddalen,” Patrick Åserud, a schoolteacher who had lived in the valley all his life, told the newspaper. “It’s about huge language problems, plus a pressure to adapt to norms that feel totally alien to those of us who have a Western lifestyle and mind-set.” Åserud said that at some schools in the valley, “children are threatened with beating for having salami in their packed lunches. Girls are harassed for being blond, and dye their hair to fit in. It’s not okay to be gay at school, or an atheist, or a Jew. . . . An Indian family I know are expected to live as Muslims because they’re brown-skinned.” Out of 18 parent-teacher meetings that Åserud had recently held, ten required translators. Conditions in the valley had worsened over the last three years, he said, and he had decided—reluctantly—to decamp: “I’m not going to let my children grow up here.” Aftenposten’s reporter suggested that Åserud was being “oversensitive” and was “out of touch with the new Norway.” The teacher replied that if this was the case, there were many ethnic Norwegians in Groruddalen who felt the same way.
Two years later, in 2013, a remarkably candid SSB report acknowledged that 1,000 ethnic Norwegians were leaving Groruddalen annually, with an equal number of non-Western immigrants moving in to replace them. During that year alone, muggings in Groruddalen rose by nearly 80 percent. The great majority of perpetrators arrested were teenagers with immigrant backgrounds and Muslim names; almost none of their parents bothered to show up for their trials. (One father did take action: he tried to intimidate mugging victims into changing their testimonies.) Yet the police and politicians continued to insist that Groruddalen was doing fine. They pointed to statistics on crimes other than mugging, which seemed, superficially, to back up their claims. But many—perhaps most—crimes in the valley went unreported. Muslim victims of crimes committed by other Muslims knew better than to involve the police: their families, imams, and other local Muslims would view them as traitors and respond accordingly. Such matters, they knew, were to be handled within the community. Many non-Muslim victims feared going to the cops, too, because they knew that they risked retribution from their immigrant neighbors that would make the original transgressions look mild.
In 2015, sociologist Halvor Fosli published Fremmed i eget land (A Stranger in One’s Own Country), a book based on interviews with 20 ethnic Norwegian residents of Groruddalen. Fosli deliberately chose people who had some level of involvement in their communities—those who had kids in school, for example, or who sat on their co-op boards. What was it like, he asked them, to become a minority in one’s own corner of the world? Their answers were disturbing. Non-Muslim boys in secondary school were leery of coming into the crosshairs of Muslim gangs—but they couldn’t be sure what to avoid doing or saying, because Muslim classmates judged their conduct according to a set of codes entirely alien to Norwegian society. As for non-Muslim girls and women, simply going outside alone—to the mall, for instance—earned them the angry stares of long-bearded Muslim men who believed that they should not leave their homes unescorted by males and with their heads uncovered. Jews had it especially tough. Gays? Forget it. In short, a place where people had once lived without fear and treated one another with respect and friendliness had become charged with tension, dread, and bigotry—not anti-Muslim bigotry, mind you, but anti-Norwegian bigotry.
Fosli’s book unleashed a predictable tsunami of condemnation in Norway’s mainstream media. Left-wing multiculturalists living in Groruddalen called Fosli a liar. In an Aftenposten article titled “No, I Am Not a Stranger in My Own Country,” Inger Sønderland wrote of moving to the valley three years earlier and feeling immediately welcome. “I feel at home here!” she wrote. “In this environment where we’re all so different, I can feel free. I can relax, be myself. . . . I love this mixture of peoples.” Øyvind Holen, who had worked at most of Norway’s major newspapers, written several books on hip-hop, and published his own account of Groruddalen ten years earlier, also weighed in, charging in Dagbladet that Fosli and his interviewees were “obsessed with Islam” and that they had engaged in a “monomaniacal assault on the Pakistani and Somali minorities.” With any positive media attention, Fosli’s book might have forced the hands of politicians, police, and immigration officials; instead, the media’s full-throated efforts to discredit him ensured that his book had no impact on national or local policy. Life went on as before: in 2016, school officials received reports of almost 2,000 cases of violence against Oslo teachers, but they told the police about none; a January 2017 report stated that youth crime in Groruddalen had risen sharply.
In February 2017, Forskning.no—a website that claims to provide reliable news about science and research worldwide—maintained that according to a new report by NOVA, a Norwegian research institute, most young people in Groruddalen were doing fine: “They’re thriving at school, have good relationships with their parents, are satisfied with their local surroundings, and drink less alcohol than other young people in Oslo.” But when Nina Hjerpset-Østlie of HRS looked at the NOVA report, she found that it mostly dealt with Muslim boys, for most of whom the valley was, indeed, a veritable amusement park. NOVA’s report made it clear that for Muslim girls, and for non-Muslims of both sexes, living in Groruddalen wasn’t nearly so enthralling. They felt unsafe because of the aggressive, predatory behavior of many of those happy, thriving Muslim boys. One in five young people in the valley—mostly non-Muslim boys—had been subjected to violence or threats of violence. Muslim girls experienced less violence, at least outside their own homes—probably, suggested Hjerpset-Østlie, because they had fewer opportunities to be exposed to such violence, given that their movements in the outside world, in accordance with the rules of the Islamic honor culture, were tightly controlled and monitored by their families.
On March 11, 2017, to many viewers’ surprise, the nightly news program on government-run NRK television ran an honest segment on the dramatic rise in crime in East Oslo, with a focus principally on Groruddalen—where, as journalist Anders Magnus reported, about 50 percent of the population now had non-Western immigrant backgrounds. Twelve-year-olds were selling drugs; 15-year-olds were carrying guns, knives, and baseball bats; Muslim youth gangs were assaulting adults in the open street; and Muslim parents, with few exceptions, were showing utter indifference to the activities of their criminal sons. Meanwhile, in accordance with long-standing Norwegian tradition, police continued to patrol unarmed. Magnus interviewed a hockey coach who said that some of his team members had quit because they were scared of getting beaten up on the way to practice. One young local said that Muslims in the valley had formed a “parallel society,” one in which the kids simply weren’t afraid of the police. True to form, Aftenposten ran an angry rebuttal to Magnus’s segment: Øystein E. Søreide and Mobashar Banaras, two leading Groruddalen politicians, accused NRK of “stigmatizing” people in the valley and of increasing divisions between “us” and “them.”
Then, in May, for three consecutive nights, dozens of Muslim teenagers in Vestli, at the far eastern end of Groruddalen, went rioting—throwing stones, setting fires, and committing knife attacks. Only three marauders were arrested, and they were quickly released. The reality of life in the valley was getting harder to deny—yet, as Rita Karlsen of HRS wrote, even now the mainstream media and police spokespeople covered up the news and issued fierce denials that Groruddalen had taken on “Swedish conditions”—that is, uncontrollable crime levels and the ceding of authority to Muslim community leaders. But HRS had its own police sources, who revealed that the police did recognize the gravity of the valley’s problems. In huge numbers, Muslim youths were issuing threats against teachers, security guards, businesses, police, firefighters, ambulance personnel, and others. More and more fires were being set, as in the Stockholm and Paris suburbs.
Police efforts to get Groruddalen under control in recent years have been a bust. One problem is the difficulty of getting official permission for police to carry firearms—a policy change furiously opposed by Norwegian politicians and journalists. Another is the inability of top Oslo police officials to face up to the situation in the valley. (They couldn’t have been happy when a Stovner-based policeman admitted in a broadcast interview that cops avoided parts of Groruddalen out of fear, along with the sense that it would be “unthinkable” for them to enter.) But the fundamental problem remains the traditional Scandinavian approach to crime: seeking out root causes, treating offenders as victims of society, and seeing compassion as a cure for criminality. This approach may work with some wayward ethnic Norwegian youths, but it makes no headway with their Muslim counterparts, whose cultural conditioning leads them to see such kid-glove treatment as a sign of weakness—and to exploit it.
August marked the beginning of a new school year. On September 28, VG, a Norwegian newspaper, reported that since the start of the term, so many violent episodes had taken place at the high school in Stovner—one involving an ax and a crowbar—that the principal, Terje Wold, said that he could no longer guarantee the safety of teachers and students. In response, the nation’s acting minister of education, Henrik Asheim, called an emergency meeting; police officers were soon posted at the school on a daily basis. VG noted that Stovner was hardly alone: violence in other schools in Groruddalen had also intensified in recent years, leading to the development of what in Norwegian is called an ukultur, literally, an “un-culture”—marked by a lack of culture—violent, anarchic, and savage.
And so it goes. Muslims keep pouring into Groruddalen, and ethnic Norwegians keep leaving. Muslim reproduction rates put those of ethnic Norwegians in the shade. In some classrooms, only one or two children can speak Norwegian. Reports at the HRS website and at document.no (which also addresses Islam-related issues with a frankness rarely found in the mainstream media) make clear that violence in the valley continues to rise and is growing more intense, with more gang slugfests and Paris-type car burnings. Reports have circulated of ethnic Norwegians banding together, vigilante-style, to patrol and protect their neighborhoods. If Groruddalen isn’t yet a full-fledged no-go zone, on the scale of Rinkeby or Rosengård, it’s pretty damn close. Before long, it will be fair to describe it without qualification as an Islamic dominion within a secular polity. Yet politicians and journalists continue to paint it as a paradise of integration and multicultural enrichment.
In August 2017, Hege Storhaug of HRS took note of a promotional poster for the new library in Stovner. It depicted three dark-skinned girls, two wearing hijabs, happily reading books together. “Here,” commented Storhaug, “is the future.” Thorbjørn Berntsen saw it coming 16 years ago. Others did, too, but most stayed silent. Even now, as Groruddalen plunges toward anarchy and full Islamization, few dare to speak up. Meantime, beyond the hills and mountains that surround Groruddalen, the shadow that has fallen upon the valley is slowly darkening the rest of Norway.