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Fri. December 08, 2023
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Perspectives on Oslo
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There has been surprisingly little interest in the Oslo attacks 2011. While the attacks clearly resemble what usually is understood to be a terrorist attack – the political motive, the use of violence for pursuit of some political goals, the attack on civilians carried out by a sub-state agent – the attacks have not been put in the context of terrorism as it is so abundantly present in the general discussion since 9/11. This is surprising given the scale of the attack. It is not necessarily surprising when one understands that the current counterterrorism policies are directed largely at the Muslim population. Countering terrorism is understood to be countering Islamic fundamentalism. But what about right-wing extremism? What about Germany, what about Oslo? The general public as well as the establishment and the media clearly seem to turn a blind eye towards some of such happenings, as they do not clearly fit the image of the ‘evil’ to be pursued. Breivik is Norwegian, he is white, educated, Western, middle class. He does not fit the profile of what we understand terrorism to be. And while profiling is known to be useless in identifying or describing terrorists, as they present in too manifold ways, an assumption of a certain profile, of what constitutes terrorism against the West, is clearly present. Terrorists therefore are usually Muslims, they are immigrants, and not well integrated into our societies, all other interpretations would disturb our self-image on the national, European and wider Western level too much. And it seems easier to classify an enemy in simplified ways. The additional problem with Breivik is that allegedly he is insane. Does this not make him a terrorist? Or does it make him an insane terrorist? Disregarding the question of guilt and responsibility, one can assume that Breivik held certain ideas of Islamophob extremism. In his manifesto, he clearly describes the rationale for his deed, which is to save Europe from being taken over by Muslims and Marxists. His ideas, while apparently created under psychotic influence, where formed and shaped in exchange with other rightwing individuals, through the use of online discussion forums as we know. So, even if he was probably psychotic while he pursued with his attacks, he followed ideas which were – and are – present in the wider population. A similar case happened recently in Germany. The German authorities are pursuing it well, and it seems as if finally the German state will decide to act against the right-wingers within with more determination. However, even on the European level, right-wing terrorism is oftentimes silently accepted and even ignored. When Europol publishes its report, right-wing terrorism mostly doesn’t feature highly. This could be due to underreporting from the member states police chefs, and would be a sign for a soft approach taken towards rightwing extremism. The reason why Breivik wasn’t discussed more in European society and in the framework of a war against terrorism – while clearly being a terrorist in the traditional meaning of the term – is that he belonged ‘to us’, and he did not fit the image of rather leftwing radicalism but in fact opposed it. He therefore fought ‘on our side’ against whom we perceive the potential enemy to be. Have we all moved into a state of mind predicted in Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’, or is this a sign of underlying racism still present in European societies? Let us just imagine Breivik was a Muslim, and he would have justified his deed with the need to struggle against Western capitalism, instead of Islam and Marxism. The debate about the need to strengthen counterterrorism policies would have been fueled anew, we would be engaged in a lengthy discussion about immigration laws, profiling and monitoring. The intelligence services and police would receive a boost of popularity. All this did not happen because we consider Breivik to be ‘one of us’. It is disturbing to think that one of us could do something as horrible as he did. Dr. Cornelia Beyer is a lecturer in Security Studies Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Hull

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Thu, January 12, 2012 07:00 AM (about 104366 hours ago)
The situation is clearly described, the connections are lighted up. we may not apologize the intention for murder, but how we can avoid further crime?
Wolfgang Beyer München
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