Lars Gule, a researcher on extremism and Islam, told broadcaster NRK that one way Norwegians could contribute to the integration of people from foreign countries would be to pay more attention to the fact that many Muslims don't drink alcohol.
“Food habits and customs surrounding alcohol can create barriers. Many [Muslims] would never even set foot in a bar because it is a place that serves alcohol,” Gule said.
As Norwegians enter Christmas party season, Gule suggested that workplaces that have foreign employees should consider making the events void of schnapps, wine and beer.
“Maybe one should think about having an alcohol-free Christmas table or serving alcohol-free beer on payday. You could also go out and drink coffee or a soda or eat something instead of drinking all the time,” Gule said.
He added that showing respect for non-drinkers was simply a smart thing to do and stressed that Norwegian drinking culture “is not the norm in many countries, and that doesn't just include the Muslim countries”.
“If those who don't drink get invited to alcohol-free meetings, where they won't feel pressured to go along with things that are contrary to their traditions or religious believes, it could mean that the next time around they would be more willing to participate in things that they might be initially very sceptical of,” Gule said.
Per Sandberg, a spokesman for the anti-immigration Progress Party, made it clear that he had no interest in taking up Gule's suggestion.
“Gule can just invite everyone he'd like to an alcohol-free Christmas party. In the Progress party, we have no plans of carrying that out,” he told NRK.