Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Notes on Norway

A few quick thoughts following the tragic terror attacks in Norway last Friday that have left as many as 76 people dead. If you followed the events as they happened on Friday, you will recall that details were slow to emerge, especially about the perpetrator and any possible motives. Of course a lack of information did nothing to stop posters on Internet chat boards from afixing the blame on the usual suspects – Islamic terrorists. The standard arguments were trotted out: That this is just what we should be expecting since Islam is a religion of hate, that it was the goal of Islamic extremists (and by extension of all Muslims) to create one global caliphate under sharia law; blame was assigned, Norway's immigration laws were just too lax and that this was inevitable as they took in refugees from the Arab world (like war-displaced Iraqis); and motives were suggested, primarily Norway's support for NATO missions in Afghanistan and Libya.

Of course the perpetrator turned out to be a white Norwegian guy, who in America we would describe as being a “Christian conservative”. He seems to hold himself up as some sort of crusader, warning that Norwegian (and European) identity was being lost due to immigration and who hoped that his attack would spark a inter-cultural civil war within Europe.

The obvious take away here is not to jump to conclusions when some horrid event like this occurs. Evil comes in all colors and creeds. Are there Islamic extremists who would gladly perpetrate such an act? Surely there are. But it is just as wrong to scapegoat an entire religion of a billion people for the actions of a splinter minority as it would be to call Christianity a religion of hate because of this man's actions. The terror attacks in Norway seem to be turning the focus of European security agencies onto far-right groups across Europe, many of whom have been preaching an increasingly hateful anti-immigrant (which depending on the group, can be aimed at Muslims, Africans, or even other Europeans) message. These groups will likely fall under increased scrutiny following the Norway attacks. It's worth mentioning that when the US Dept. of Justice issued a report warning of the same possibility among American extremist anti-immigrant groups, the DOJ was roundly condemned both by Republican politicians and by the taste-makers on the Right, talk-radio hosts, even though it was a man who identified with America's home-grown far-right anti-immigrant/anti-government who was responsible for the worst pre-9/11 terror attack in American history, the bombing of the federal office building in Oklahoma City.

One final note, during their coverage of memorial services in Norway on Monday, the BBC reported that a number of Muslims were attending services being held in cathedrals around Oslo. When one Muslim was asked by the BBC why they were attending a service in a church, they replied that it was a house of God, and that they felt the need to attend and express their grief. As Norwegians.
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