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SCANDINAVIAN humour has taken an unusual turn with the emergence in Oslo of a female comedian whose routine consists of putting the boot into Islamic extremists.
There are guffaws from the audience when Shabana Rehman appears on the stage in a burqa. The garment is useful for scaring away children, she says, but not very practical when you are assembling a bit of furniture from Ikea.
collision of Nordic social democracy with Muslim mores has seldom been a subject
for debate, let alone jokes, in politically correct
But now Rehman, a 26-year-old of Pakistani origin, has sprung up. Her show has catapulted her to fame as a champion of liberal Muslim women aspiring to a Scandinavian lifestyle.
Female circumcision and the stoning of adulterous women are as much a target of her vitriolic wit as the willingness of multiculturalists to overlook abuse of women among Norways immigrant population. Rehman also jokes about suicide bombers and the amputation of thieves limbs.
The act has provoked the fury of conservative Muslims. Moderates, for their part, are not amused by her attacks on them for failing to speak out against backward practices. Ive received loads of hate mail, she said last week. They tried to frighten me. They wanted to kill me. They said I had been corrupted by western culture. They called me a whore.
Unperturbed, Rehman posed naked in a political magazine, her body painted in the colours of the Norwegian flag. The picture has become a symbol of the integrationist fervour for which she is renowned in an increasingly heated debate about the extent to which immigrants should be obliged to tailor their customs to those of Norway.
I wanted to make it clear that even as a Muslim woman I am free to dispose of my body as I wish, she said. I also wanted to demonstrate to Norwegians that you can be Scandinavian even if you were born in the Punjab.
mockery of the mullahs involves stripping off the burqa to parade in a revealing
red cocktail dress. The routine includes
would be a lot of stone-throwing in the northern part of Norway, she exclaims,
referring to the stoning prescribed by sharia
of her most pointed barbs are reserved for halal hippies, Norwegian
do-gooders whose embrace of foreign cultures extends to
To her critics she is simply whipping up prejudice against an immigrant community that has grown to 7% of the population. Yet Rehman has prompted a debate about how traditional immigrants customs can be merged with progressive laws. She is an important voice, says Erna Solberg, the minister responsible for immigration. Her humour allows her to go further than others and incite real reflection.
her stage performances, Rehman rants in newspapers and on television about the
oppression of forced Pakistani marriages. A year ago, when a young Kurdish woman
was killed by her father for choosing to live with a Swedish man, Rehman led a
four brothers and three sisters are supportive, even if they are occasionally
the butt of her jokes. In our culture brothers are
Last year Rehman was awarded a freedom of expression prize by a Norwegian foundation and, trophy in hand, parodied the conventional words of thanks offered by Oscar winners. I would like to thank the mullahs, she said, without whom I would not have had a career.