Meeting People at Obama's Summit: Mahmona Khan
WHO SHE IS: Mahmona Khan
WHERE SHE LIVES: Norway
WHAT SHE DOES: Launches and publishes magazines and books on Norwegian-Pakistani identity
WHAT SHE WANTS: For Norwegian-Pakistanis to embrace hyphenation
As a young journalist, Mahmona Khan wrote an article about Pakistanis who emigrated to Norway some 40 years back. Her dad was one of them, she says, but he never talked up his own experience. She hadn't given it much thought until she came across a picture during her research of the sort of metal field beds her father slept on as an immigrant.
“Here I was sitting and feeling bad for myself. 'Oh, who am I?' and this and that,” she says. “And then I discover the struggle he had to come to Norway, coming from a very difficult situation.”
Khan has since worked to open opportunities for Norwegian-Pakistanis to embrace their identity as Norwegians. She is the founder of X-Plosive, a Web magazine devoted to minority issues and culture in Norway, and the author of a book about the Pakistani immigrant experience in Norway. As a writer who focuses on youth culture, she says that Norwegian-Pakistani women are attaining high levels of education, but—since 9/11—young men are tuning out.
Is discrimination a reason why young Pakistani men drop out of school in Norway?
“Some of them say, 'Why should I take a degree? I won't get a job.' I feel that's the wrong attitude. You have to fight for getting your rights.”
The attacks on September 11 had a galvanizing effect for the minority Muslim population in Norway—one with negative repercussions for the country, Khan believes. “Muslims have been in Norway for 45 years. Before 11 September, it was not visible that there were practicing Muslims there. But now? After 11 September, you see among young people—they are practicing more religion,” she explains. “Some of them are feeling alienated and they feel that their only identity is in their religion. In U.S., you have ethnicities and all religions, but you still have that American identity. I'm working toward that in Norway. That you can say, 'I'm a Norwegian.' I do.”
In Sweden and France, identity is a charged topic. According to Khan, things are different in Norway, but she's still concerned about the future. “Compared to other European countries, Norway is the best country to live in” she says. “But what I'm seeing is that some of the groups are feeling more and more like outsiders. I'm afraid if that continues, we will have trouble. We can do a lot to prevent this.”
Pakistani-Norwegian women are attaining higher levels of education in Norway. So do they face fewer hurdles in business and entrepreneurship?
“In a way they do, but there is a glass ceiling. You're treated differently if you have a minority background. You're a black woman, or an Asian woman,” says Khan. “When you come to a level where it's leadership positions, there you run into a problem.”
See all of GOOD's coverage of the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship here.
7 Unlikely Male Feminists Lately feminism has been all about … men. Here are seven dudes who prove that gender equality really is for everyone.
The NFL’s Most Violent Man on How to Curb Football Injuries Jack Tatum’s modest proposal
Understanding Africa’s Ebola-Denying Communities While Americans panic over a tiny risk, some Africans in Ebola-stricken counties think the entire virus is make-believe.
Why Your American Wiener is Unimpressive We should all be envious of Iceland’s tasty, high-quality hot dogs
Stepping Inside a World of Private Violence A new documentary probes domestic violence in America via the gut-wrenching story of one survivor seeking justice.
Building Foundations for a Stronger Future Dr. Franciamore was able to channel her education into a jumping off point to change her world.
Can Kickstarter Keep It Real? An interview with Yancey Strickler The co-founder of Kickstarter on progress, patronage, and potato salad.
The Organization Creating Starry-Eyed Future Scientists Universe Awareness introduces kids ages four to 10 to the wonder of the cosmos.
The Multicultural Power of the Stoner ComedyFans of Cheech & Chong and Harold & Kumar never have to ask “dude, where’s my diversity?”
Y U No Show Consequences? A meme review of the dramedy Men, Women, and Children Where do we start with Jason Reitman’s new film? Let’s discuss in the parlance of the internet: memes.
Everything You Need to Know About Cooking with Blood An interview with “blood lady,” Elisabeth Paul The Nordic Food Lab's innovative approaches to a culinarily neglected ingredient
American Women Are Finally Talking About Their Abortions
A new online community and a growing chorus of female politicians are de-stigmatizing the controversial choice.