Noman Mubashir: The one-man show

Noman Mubashir has single-handedly put Muslims and Pakistanis on the Norwegian cultural map.


At a fashion show in Oslo. PHOTOS: NOMAN MUBASHIR

Quirky, animated and flamboyant Noman Mubashir, a Pakistani-Norwegian, is a man of many talents. From cooking up a storm on his cooking show to reuniting families on his travel show, and making history in August 1998 as the first non-ethnic news anchor on Norwegian television, Mubashir has left his audiences with practically little else to desire.

As a news anchor, journalist and author, Mubashir has worked to change the make-up of Norwegian television and showbiz by paving the way for Pakistanis and other ethnicities. The idea which was alien to many two decades ago is now by and large an undeniable reality.

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In a village in Surinamese, Africa. PHOTOS: NOMAN MUBASHIR

“I always wanted to become a journalist or an author,” says Mubashir. He had never dreamt of becoming a TV host or a news anchor and it wasn’t until he moved to Britain to pursue journalism and returned to Norway for his holidays that he made his breakthrough in television. “I heard that the national TV was planning to launch a new programme about migrants in Norway,” he recalls, tracing the beginnings of the award-winning show Migrapolis. “They were searching for new, talented reporters with a foreign background.”

A year later and only 24, Mubashir began his career as a reporter for Migrapolis on NRK, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, and continued as a news anchor for the broadcasting company and instantly became the role model for younger generation Pakistanis in Norway. “People were not used to see[ing] a Pakistani man reading [the] news. But I think I entered a stage where the audience respected me for being [a] good news anchor [and] reporter and did not focus on my Pakistani background,” he says, recalling the reaction from his viewers.

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In Johannesburg, South Africa. PHOTOS: NOMAN MUBASHIR

Although foreign and non-ethnic anchors and reporters are common in today’s world, it was a rare idea not too long ago. Mubashir was the first Norwegian Muslim to lead the Saturday entertainment at NRKSommeråpent on July 30, 2005, and has since worked to increase the acceptance of Muslims in Norway. “Today, there are so many young Norwegian-Pakistanis in showbiz and at important posts in society,” he explains. “The first generation of Pakistanis who came to Norway, 40 years ago, are still associated with traditional ‘immigrant-jobs’ as taxi drivers or running small shops.”

But according to Mubashir that has now changed as many immigrants are doing quite well in Norway. “One of the news anchors on the largest private TV channel in Norway is Mah-Rukh Ali. Abid Raja is a well-known member of the Norwegian parliament. We also have Norwegian-Pakistanis who have won big talent shows such as the dancer Adil Khan and there are plenty of young doctors, lawyers and engineers of Pakistani roots as well.”

When Hadia Tajik was appointed the Minister of Culture in 2012, the youngest minister ever to serve in the Norwegian government as well as the first Muslim Norwegian-Pakistani, it was an indication that things were changing. During an interview, Tajik told Norway’s third-largest newspaper, Dagbladet, that after reading Mubashir’s interview in the paper she was inspired to pursue journalism and land a job at NRK or elsewhere.

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Relaxing in Cordoba, Spain. PHOTOS: NOMAN MUBASHIR

Like her, Mubashir has influenced countless other immigrants. “I became [a] role model for the younger generation that was struggling to find its feet in a society where they felt alienated,” says Mubashir who had no immigrant role models or non-ethnics to inspire him. According to Tajik, success becomes easier once you imagine yourself in another’s shoes and desire the same.

While Mubashir’s claim to fame seems effortless, hardships and rejections were aplenty. “Racism is an issue here as well, but it never stopped me from [attaining] my goals and dreams,” he says. In 1991, when 17-year-old Mubashir tried to sell his first article to a local paper about his visit to an Afghan refugee camp in Islamabad, Pakistan, he was turned down for not producing a local story. This did not however, discourage him and he resurfaced with even more vigour, carving out a name for himself in the local media and then going on to publish international stories.

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With comedian Shabana Rehman at the premiere of Taxi in Klingenberg, Germany. PHOTOS: NOMAN MUBASHIR

But even with Norway’s wide appeal, Mubashir was never distracted from his roots. In 2005 he started his own television show Back to your Roots, showing Norwegians a side of Pakistan they hadn’t seen before. The show’s first season was based in Pakistan, capturing the untouched beauty of Swat and Chitral, the history surrounding Lahore and the fast-paced life in Karachi. “I made seven programmes showing the audience the beautiful and picturesque mountains and villages of Swat [and] visited the colourful and charming people of Kalash.”

After focusing on Pakistan, Mubashir is currently producing the third season of his show in which he takes public figures in Norway to their roots. “It’s a combination of a traditional, travel programme and a root (background) search,” he says. Through the current season of the show he reunited Norwegian-Turkish supermodel, Vendela Kirsebom, with her father in Turkey after 45 years. Albeit subtle at times, problems faced by immigrants are always at the centre of Mubashir’s work.“Through my travel show viewers can learn more about why people move to Norway.”

Hosting, travelling and cooking are some of Mubashir’s many passions. His cooking show Yum Yum with Noman airs on NRK and he has even penned a cookbook with the same name. His other writing projects include three books; My Life as Ola Noman, his first publication, a humorous retelling of what it was like to grow up as children of Pakistani immigrants in Norway, A Noman in Pakistan, a travelogue from Pakistan based on his NRK series of the same name and Oslostaner based on extremists.

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Mubashir was awarded the Seer Prize in 2008 from Riksmålsforbundet (The Society for the Preservation of Traditional Standard Norwegian) for outstanding use of language on television. Along with his ability to captivate audiences with his linguistic strengths, he also turns heads with his edgy sense of style. He has repeatedly been voted the best dressed man in Norway by various magazines and newspapers and traces his source of inspiration to both Pakistan and Norway. By carefully selecting from the best of both worlds Mubashir has left his audiences with a tastefully diverse palette.  

Sundar Waqar is a subeditor on The Express Tribune Magazine desk. She tweets @sundar_waqar 

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 16th, 2014.

COMMENTS (1)

Sarosh | 7 years ago | Reply

Well done Noman, we are proud of you

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