Bano Rashid, the 18-year-old Kurdish refugee and Labour party youth activist was the first of the ‘Marxist Hunter ‘ Anders Breivik’s victims on Utoeya island to be buried in Norway yesterday. Â The funeral service was presided over by an imam and a Christian pastor and attended by her Kurdish family, her Norwegian friends and Labour party political comrades, and her coffin was draped in the Kurdish and Norwegian flags.
Bano Rashid’s family came to Norway from Iraq in 1996, where they were given refugee status, and the New York Times has described how ‘Ms. Rashid wanted to stretch the limits of the countryâ€™s blond and blue-eyed identity, to help redefine what it means to be Norwegian.’ Â Â Last summer she saved up money to buy the expensive Norwegian national costume, the bunad. Â She wanted to be a lawyer and a politician and dreamed of becoming prime minister like her political idol, Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.
In an article last year for the newspaper Aftenposten, Â the 17-year-old youth activist criticized the populist Progress Party, Norway’s second largest political party, Â and the anti-immigrant message of its leader Siv Jensen:
[stextbox id=”alert”]She knowsÂ well thatÂ people haveÂ immigratedÂ for thousands ofÂ years,Â and thatÂ itÂ hasÂ gone very well.Â It always turns out that peopleÂ who moveÂ to a countryÂ adapt to its cultureÂ and itsÂ way of life.Â ItÂ just takesÂ some time.Â IfÂ Jensen is reallyÂ afraid ofÂ Muslims, she canÂ seeÂ theÂ birthÂ rate ofÂ Muslim women inÂ Norway.Â It hasÂ fallenÂ significantly.Â ItÂ isÂ an example of the way peopleÂ who liveÂ in Norway have adapted to Norway.Â We integrate ourselves….ThereÂ isÂ noÂ doubt thatÂ Oslo would grind to a halt if it went one day without the work of immigrants. Â Â Would it not be better to view immigrantsÂ as aÂ tremendousÂ resource?Â LetÂ Norway use the resources of its immigrants. Â Give us time to integrate, preferably without discrimination.[/stextbox]
Bano Rashid embodied that capacity for integration. Â Kurdish, Muslim, Norwegian, and a Labour party activist, she was also an anti-racist and a strong critic of discrimination of all kinds. Â Â Such transformationsÂ are anathema – and are in fact incomprehensible – to the Breiviks of this world and all the other bigots and racists who warn of the evils of multiculturalism and the threat to European and national identity from Europe’s Muslim communities.
Today, these forces are on the ascendancy all over Europe. Â And as Norway prepares to bury its ‘lost generation’ it is to be hoped that Europeans across the continent can learn from the savage and senseless death of this talented young woman who was clearly a gift to her adopted country and whose country was a gift to her – and also from the bright hopes and aspirations that inspired her.
As young as she was, Bano Rashid was clearly capable of being many different people at the same time. Â In these dark times we need to remember that such things are possible, and perhaps to hold onto these words from Â her childhood friend Siva Jagdar, another Kurdish Norwegian, who told the BBC
[stextbox id=”alert”]Her death won’t scare Muslims like me away from politics. Â If anything she has been an inspiration in life, and I hope she will be an inspiration still, to show Norway what we can be… I hope Bano can be a symbol for Norway’s youth, for Christian youth, for Muslim youth, for Kurdish youth. To show everyone that they can follow their dreams.[/stextbox]