(City Journal) -- 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.
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