I am currently in the depths of rural France, which is why I haven’t posted for a while. However, not much has happened for me to write about and I am very much missing my Economist subscription (incidentally there was a very good round up of the Arab uprising in last week’s edition). ‘What?’ I hear you ask, ‘a lot of news-worthy stuff has happened this week.’ Yes, I know, the attacks in Norway have dominated the headlines but it is nearly impossible to analyse the actions of a crazed, hateful far-right activist.
What is interesting, however, is watching the various reactions to the news. One particular moment stands out in my mind. I heard the story break on French radio. Although I am not fluent in French, I could tell that the details were sketchy. No one knew who had carried out the atrocities, or, more importantly, why they had done so. Someone I was with said that it was a terrorist attack and someone replied ‘No, they say he is Norwegian.’ The comment made me realise that, in the West, terrorism has become directly associated with Islamic jihad. The two, although connected, do not go hand in hand. It is sad that we seem to think that they do.
Terrorism, as described by the Oxford Dictionary, is the ‘unofficial or unauthorised use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims’. It has no relation to a specific group at all. In the case of Norway, the attacks were indeed an act of terrorism. The perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, was protesting against his country’s tolerance of multiculturalism and Islamic integration. He published a document on the internet, which he called his manifesto, hours before the attack. In the 1500 pages he outlines his plans and motives, proving to hold extremely far-right views. It is, therefore, no surprise that he targeted a youth camp for members of the ruling Norwegian Labour party, which is a left-leaning party. In yesterday’s Sunday Times (which I managed to get at the local news agents, much to my surprise) it was reported that Norway’s top intelligence official believes that Breivik had plastic surgery to look more Aryan – the ethnicity that the Nazis deemed to be superior. This has not been confirmed, but his friends have suggested that he had surgery in the United States on his chin, nose and forehead in order to achieve Aryan proportions. These rumours highlight Breivik’s far-right views.
What he hoped to accomplish is anyone’s guess, but his actions have shaken a country which prides itself on its peace and stability. The same is true for the rest of Europe which has been equally stunned by an attack on a country by one of its nationals. Experts, including the BBC’s Europe Editor Gavin Hewitt, believe that European governments will now direct their intelligence agencies to re-examine far-right extremism. It is hoped, however, that Anders Behring Breivik’s attacks, which killed 77 people, will not open up a torrent of anti-multiculturalism, which is a quality I think needs cherishing.