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. 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 country”s blond and blue-eyed identity, to help redefine what it means to be Norwegian.’ Last summer she saved up money to buy the expensive Norwegian national costume, the bunad. 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, the 17-year-old youth activist criticized the populist Progress Party, Norway’s second largest political party, and the anti-immigrant message of its leader Siv Jensen:
[stextbox id=”alert”]She knows well that people have immigrated for thousands of years, and that it has gone very well. It always turns out that people who move to a country adapt to its culture and its way of life. It just takes some time. If Jensen is really afraid of Muslims, she can see the birth rate of Muslim women in Norway. It has fallen significantly. It is an example of the way people who live in Norway have adapted to Norway. We integrate ourselves….There is no doubt that Oslo would grind to a halt if it went one day without the work of immigrants. Would it not be better to view immigrants as a tremendous resource? Let Norway use the resources of its immigrants. Give us time to integrate, preferably without discrimination.[/stextbox]
Bano Rashid embodied that capacity for integration. Kurdish, Muslim, Norwegian, and a Labour party activist, she was also an anti-racist and a strong critic of discrimination of all kinds. Such transformations 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. 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. In these dark times we need to remember that such things are possible, and perhaps to hold onto these words from 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. 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]