State Secretary Laila Bokhari in an Exclusive interview with The Oslo Times
State Secretary and member of the Høyre Party Laila Bokhari, is also a political scientist and researcher on political violence, terrorism and radicalization. The Oslo Times met with the State Secretary Bokhari during the Høyre Party Congress earlier this month for a brief rendezvous.
During the short interview with the Editor-in-Chief of The Oslo Times International News Network, Hatef Mokhtar, Bokhari spoke about various issues ranging from Human Rights, Norway‘s policy regarding asylum seekers, to the rise of extremism in Europe and on the ways her Party as well as government is working on combating this global problem.
TOT: Will you please tell us about this Conservative Party Congress? What is its objective ?
ANS: This conference is a national party convention of the Høyre Party of Conservatives. We have delegate and party leaders coming here from all around the country. And this is also an important year for us because this is the year of local elections all over the country. So, it is important to reach out to the grass root and different people who are supporters of the conservative party all over the country.
TOT: Since coming into power, there have been protests against the Conservative Party particularly from Human Rights Organization regarding “asylum seeking” issue. What is your view?
ANS: I think in the baseline, this party, especially, of the Conserva
tive Party has given priority to Human Rights. It has addressed Human Rights issues in the bases, the focus has been put on Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights situation around the world. We have a new white paper on Human Rights by the Prime Minister on the document of education.
The right to education and rights young women have been addressed. The issue of asylum seekers is a grave international situation at
the moment. There has been a large increase in it because of the international situation. For instance what we recently saw in the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea. This is an issue which the entire Europe is grappling with. What the Prime Minister said today was that they promise to cooperate with Europe. We have already offered a financial humanitarian aid on the ground around the region, but we will also help when it comes to help improve the situation.
TOT: May tell us something regarding ‘gender inequality’ as there are many people who criticize that women are not on high ranking positions in the government?
ANS: I think here one will have to take global view into account. Norway is extremely fortunate. Norway’s economy today is, will never be like this if it was not for the women in the workforce. At the moment Norway has a woman prime minister, a woman finance minister, member of the opposition is also a woman. We have women leaders in the party and trade union leader. But it doesn’t mean we must be relaxed because we still have issues of getting woman representation on board especially in the private sector. This is something we will have to work on consistently.
TOT: There has been an increase in religious extremism throughout Europe, especially after the attacks in France and Denmark early this year, is causing fear among the general public, What is your view on Islamophobia and the rise of extremism in Europe?
ANS: This is one of my main area of work and concern. Now what we see in Europe is disturbing and we are concerned when it comes to increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, hate-crime and hate-speech. So in general you see a lot of tendencies of hate-speech and hate-crime, and we will have to tackle it. As a part of it there is the issue of radicalization and violent extremism. And we see that Norway is one country, where there was a person who was not a Islamist, and he caused a terror attack we have to keep an eye on that and this has been emphasized in the speech by the Prime Minister.
TOT: Now I would like to touch upon an international question regarding totalitarian regimes where hundreds of journalists are in prisons. What is your government’s standpoint on this?
ANS: We have always focused on the Human Rights even in our recently published paper. We have emphasized that this is one of the challenges we need to look at. We need to look at Human Rights situation across the World. We need to be critical of our own government and also the situation in Norway. We need to be open for discussions when it comes to our own situation. We also need to be open and accept that there must be a dialogue and our Prime Minister has been very keen on a number of these issues on the forefront when it comes to Russia and a number of other countries around the World.
TOT: Do you think it’s possible to bring the extremists to the dialogue table? Also are negotiations and talks a good way to address extremism or do you think the only solution to ending it is by raging a war against it?
ANS: I think we need both. I have always believed in dialogue for a very long time. We need to be able to get a number of violent extremists to the table and to speak to them. And at the same time we need to fight against the rise in violent extremism and terrorism needs to continue through all kinds of means. We need to have police and intelligence involved in the fight against it but at the same time we also need to have dialogues and we should be able to spread social message as well.
TOT: My last question today is regarding your personal view on Human Rights and it is a question we ask all our guests, What do Human Rights mean to you?
ANS: For me it means to be able to say what I want to. To have the belief in what I want and to be able to stand on any platform that I want and give out my view and also to give this possibility of what I want to achieve, to fulfill my dreams, the dreams of my family, my fellows and people in the World. It means to be able to open up to possibilities to make sure that everyone has the right to speak, to believe, to think as they as they want as long as they don’t harm other people.
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