The experience of Muslim employees is that Norwegians don't accept abstaining from alcohol for religious reasons.
Counselors at the Advisory Center for issues related to alcohol, drugs and addictive gambling in the workplace (AKAN) spoke with employees who said that there are basically only two acceptable reasons for abstaining from alcohol when meeting with colleagues: being pregnant or driving.
"We Norwegians don't accept temperance for religious convictions. In theory yes, maybe, but in practice, when we sit in the pub after a tiring workweek, it's quite incomprehensible that people can't just grab a beer," according to a new book on alcohol culture in the workplace.
Religiously motivated temperance often raises eyebrows and questions. A Pakistani-Norwegian: "I often have to explain myself when I cant' drink alcohol. Norwegians are very engaged by it."
Based on surveys and interviews with Muslim employees, the researchers say that they stay away from situations where it's common to drink alcohol. Or they drink a bit in order to meet with colleagues.
A Palestinian-Norwegian women says why she takes a few sips of wine at the Christmas party or conferences, though she never drinks in other contexts: "Everybody wants integrated minority employees - and alcohol can be a measure of how integrated other perceive you to be."
Others are afraid of being perceived as 'extreme Islamists' if they don't drink.
"I'm more Muslim when people understand that I don't drink alcohol," comments one Iranian-Norwegian employee.
AKAN researchers asked if there was anything special in the role of the colleague that made it more difficult to refuse alcohol. "
A Pakistani-Norwegian in his 50s answered: "Even if I feel guilty afterwards for violating my religion, I have better contact with my Norwegian colleagues."