If you wanted to give some innocent soul a quick education about how things operate in today's Europe, you could do worse than to point to the career of a certain gentleman named Shoaib Sultan. In 2007, as Secretary-General of Norway's taxpayer-funded Islamic Council, he made headlines when he refused to publicly criticize the execution of gays in Iran; two years later, he declined to comment on Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi's praise for the Holocaust as a "gift from Allah." Not only did Sultan keep his job after those episodes; eventually, the Norwegian Centre against Racism (also taxpayer-funded) gave him an even better job– thus proving that its chief objective isn't really to fight racial hatred but, on the contrary, to insulate even the most hateful and violent aspects of Islam from criticism by demonizing its critics as racists.
Nor has Sultan's unwillingness to distance himself from the likes of Qaradawi kept him from becoming a mover and shaker in a range of Norwegian institutions: he's a leading member of the Green Party; he's sat on the boards of groups like the Global Migrants for Climate Action and the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief; when the University of Oslo decided to consider establishing a Center for Islamic Studies, he was appointed to the committee. He was also a director of a short-lived group called the Peace Initiative, whose goal was to pull Norway out of NATO and wrest it free from evil U.S. influences. (Sultan, by the way, has a bachelor's and MBA from Colorado State.) Now comes the news that the Culture and Education Committee of the city of Oslo has put Sultan in charge of this year's celebration of Norway's national day, May 17. Make no mistake: this isn't just a major assignment, but a significant honor. Indeed, it is, implicitly, a kind of anointing – a statement that Sultan is a model citizen, enjoying the respect of the people and state and embodying the fundamental values of Norwegian culture.