Reactions on the Carnage in Norway

29 July

Much of this week’s news in Norway and Sweden has dealt with the Islamophobic discourse inspiring Anders Behring Breivik’s acts of terror and manifesto. The manifesto published online by Breivik just hours before the detonation in Oslo and the massacre at Utøya borrows extensively from, amongst others, the UNA bomber Theodore Kaczynski, and so called “Anti jihadists” such as Bat Ye’or (Gisèle Littman), Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Littman, Geller and Spencer have rejected all responsibility for inspiring the Norwegian terrorist and claim that these accusations are a strategy used by “the Leftists” to silence all critique of Islam.


Similar reactions have been seen and heard amongst right wing populists and Islam critics in Norway and Sweden. Apparently Breivik was a member of the right wing populist party Fremskrittspartiet (FrP), focusing most of its politics and rhetoric against multiculturalism and, especially Muslim, immigration. Two days after the detonation in Oslo and the shooting spree at Utøya, Siv Jensen, leader of FrP, announced that she thought the atrocities executed by Behring Breivik was horrible, but that “the fact that some media wants to find a connection between Anders Behring Breivik and FrP is just as horrible.” She later claimed that she had been misunderstood. The political attack on FrP cannot in any way be compared to the killing of innocents, she said.


The Norwegian journalist Øyvind Strømmen, specialized in right wing extremism, has collected some of the reactions from the far right on last week’s act of terror. He shows how a number of more or less well knows bloggers and writers say they support Breivik ideologically, but reject violence and the taking of lives. But some even seem to agree also to violent methods in what is conceived as a war between “the West” and Islam. Strømmen also shows that a common opinion is that what happened is a natural reaction on immigration and Muslim presence in Norway. In the end the Muslims and their leftist allies are, according to a number of voices, to blame for what happened in Oslo and Utøya.


Also in Sweden similar reactions have been noticed. A number of far right wing and nationalist bloggers and politicians have stated that they reject the killings in Norway, but can support the ideological stand of Breivik. Amongst the most noticed is former Sweden Democrat (SD) Isak Nygren, today spokesperson for the Swedish Defense League. Nygren was amongst a number of persons who received the manifesto in an email sent directly from Anders Behring Breivik himself, less than two hours before the detonation in Oslo. On his blog Nygren states that he to some extent does agree with Breivik ideologically, but does not support his methods:


Even though this terrorist is anti-Islam, anti-Multicultralism and so on, like me, I don’t really have something in common with this guy. I don’t support violence.


Another Sweden Democrat, Erik Hellsborn, received national attention writing on his blog that “Islamisation” and “multiculturalism” more than anything else lies behind the carnage in Norway. “In a Norwegian Norway this would never have happened.” The blog post was later removed after pressure from party members.


Yet another noticeable strategy amongst fellow right wing extremists is to claim that Breivik is to be regarded insane, and that the acts of terror are not ideologically informed. Some has also tried to find other discourses which, rather than the Islamophobic or nationalist, can explain the reasons why. Another member of the Sweden Democrats, Thomas Karlsén, claims Behring Breivik was used as a tool in the hands of the Freemasons, conspiring against the world. Asked to clarify his statement by EXPO, a Swedish magazine covering issues regarding racism, nationalist and right wing extremism, Karlsén says: “You are fucking retards. It is you that’s behind what has fucking happened!” Karlsén seems to think that the journalists at EXPO, as representatives of “the Left”, can somehow be held responsible because of them wanting to “put the lid on all critique against Islam”.


In an online article EXPO claims that the ideological stands of Anders Behring Breivik are reflected by the politics of the Sweden Democrats (SD). By comparing statements and blog posts on “the islamisation in Europe” by leading Sweden Democrats, to quotes from Breivik’s manifesto they want to show how it is all part of the same Islamophobic ideology.


Jimmie Åkesson, leader of SD, as well as Kent Ekeroth, the party’s international secretary, is enraged that media and “the Left,” by their understanding, are using the atrocities in Norway to silence “the discussion about the failed politics of immigration and integration.” Both are wound up by having their own ideological stands compared to those expressed in the manifesto of Behring Breivik, and claim there is no connection between the two. “It is a fact,” writes Ekeroth, “that Breivik does not have anything to do with the growing Islam- and immigration-critic movement what so ever.”

Voices have also been heard, as well in Norway as in Sweden, that the secret police has been focusing too much on possible threats from Muslim terrorism, neglecting the far right and nationalist extremism, and demands are put forward that these milieus are to be more carefully investigated and supervised.

Swedish Parliament Debated Violent Extremism

28 Jan 2011

Wednesday January 27 the Swedish riksdag (parliament) held a debate about violent extremism, initiated by the far-right populist Sweden democrats (SD). SD leader Jimmie Åkesson started the debate off with a reference to the Stockholm suicide bombing in December 2010. He argued that the attack wasn’t an isolated event, pointing to the Swedes suspected of planning a terror attack on a Danish newspaper, as well as two Swedes of Somali descent who have been convicted of planning terror crimes. According to Åkesson, the debate in Sweden about Islamic extremism has been muffled, and because of political correctness there is no room to criticize Islam.

While Åkesson wanted to solely discuss Islamic extremism, ministers from the rest of the parties wanted to take this as an opportunity to discuss all sorts of extremist violence in Sweden, not just Islamic. For instance the case of a man who shot at a great number of individuals of foreign origin in Malmö in 2010, leaving many severely injured and in at least one case dead. Åkesson was annoyed by this comparison, and meant this had nothing to do with terrorism.

Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask countered by warning that one shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from the Stockholm suicide bombing. “Sweden is an open society where people can have different backgrounds and religious convictions and live side by side,” she said. “There are people who refuse to accept the foundations of our society and who are ready to hurt others to have their way,” she continues. The government is currently reviewing its strategy for how best to prevent extremism from taking root in Sweden, the minister said.

At the debate, as well as in an op-ed published the day before, Åkesson called for a national action plan for fighting terrorism, arguing for laws that prohibit people from traveling abroad to participate in terrorist training camps. He also called for a closer examination of young muslims’ attitudes toward Islamism, saying that Islamism as such must be surveyed and combated.

In response to this Ask said that Sweden already has a national action plan and, in addition to that, co-operates with the EU in anti-terror operations. Then the Green Party’s Maria Ferm warned against increased right of surveillance.”If we give up a little of our freedom for a little more security, we risk losing both,” she said. She also held Åkesson responsible for collectively blaming Sweden’s Muslim population for the atrocity of one man. She cited statistics holding that only 0.34 percent of European terror attacks are carried out by Islamic extremists, while the greater numbers are the deeds of left-wing and right-wing extremists.

Sven-Erik Österberg, head of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary group, said the problem with “Muslim extremism” should not be overstated, but not ignored either. He said the Social Democrats want to co-operate with Muslims on this matter. But he also stated that those who take up the fight against extremism need our support against all forms of extremism”.

Johan Pehrsson of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) called for more resources and better measures for helping young people who want to leave extremist groups. Lena Olsson from the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) criticized Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats’ approach to the debate. “Listening to the Sweden Democrats and their xenophobic solutions is like listening to a guitar with only one string,” she said.

Most commentators concluded after the debate that the Sweden Democrats lost, that they forced open doors and that the established political parties kept together, across party lines, against the Sweden Democrats wanting to make it an anti-Muslim event, rather than an open debate on violent extremism.

Interview with Jimmie Åkesson on BBC Hard Talk:

Sweden Democrats Attack Muslim Politician in Rostrum

November 5, 2010

The far-right populist Sweden Democrats’ speakers William Petzäll and Kent Ekeroth attacked Islam, and especially Abdirizak Waberi from the Moderate Party, from the rostrum Wednesday 4 November.
They accused the Moderat Party of letting an Islamist into the parliament. They said it’s their duty to speak up against Islam, just as they would against any other totalitarian force, such as Communism or Nazism.
They further claimed that Waberi defends domestic violence and doesn’t agree to men and women shaking hands or dancing.
Waberi, who was not present, later commented the attack by saying he does not advocate violent acts towards women, and that he agrees to common Swedish values. Rather he thinks the Sweden Democrats talk against him just because he’s a Muslim.