Saturday, January 13, 2007

Nyamko Sabuni: an Afro-Swedish breath of fresh air

Who's Nyamko Sabuni? She's the new Swedish Minister for Integration and Gender Equality.

Sounds awfully PC, doesn't it? But Sabuni is anything but. In fact, she's already raised a storm of controversy in Sweden with her statements on the subject of assimilation.

Sabuni herself has impeccably PC credentials, a fact that probably infuriates her enemies, much as the African-American-ness of Condoleezza Rice or Bill Cosby infuriate their Leftist critics in a special way. Her father was a political refugee from the Congo to Zaire and then Sweden, jailed in his native country for opposing the government. Sabuni was twelve when she made the journey to Sweden with her family, learned the language, and thrived in her new environment.

Her father is Christian and her mother Muslim, but Sabuni herself was raised without religion (although Wikipedia's entry on Sabuni has a different tale to tell than the NY Times on her parents--it says both are Muslim).

What has Sabuni done to ruffle so many feathers? Oh, just a couple of little things: called for a ban on wearing the veil for girls under fifteen, proposed that schoolgirls be checked for evidence of genital mutilation, criticized "honor culture" mentalities, and asked that arranged marriages and the state financing of religious schools be banned.

It's hard to argue with the fact that the institution of such policies might indeed foster "integration and gender equality" in Sweden. Nor do they run counter to the prevailing customs of Sweden. But argument most certainly has been mounted; Sabuni is considered unsympathetic to the plight of immigrants (read: Muslim immigrants), despite her own status as an immigrant and daughter of Muslim[s].

Sabuni, who calls herself "Afro-Swedish, maybe," answers her critics thusly:

We have a society that has failed to adapt to new times. We don’t offer people their rights, but we are also unclear about their obligations. So people end up in a kind of no man’s land, where they are neither Swedes, nor Turks nor Congolese.

Hmmm--with rights come obligations. And immigrants to Sweden should end up becoming--Swedes! How revolutionary is that?

{NOTE: Peaktalk wrote an interesting post on Sabuni back in October.]

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