After Norway massacre: Will this country ever be the same?
A view from the secretary general of the Council of Europe, a former prime minister of Norway: I am often asked what will happen in Norway now. At first, I answered that it will stay an open society. But we need to become more aware of what terrorism is, where it comes from, and how we speak about it.
Since the July 22 terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utoya island by confessed perpetrator Anders Behring Breivik, countless foreign media have sought my opinion. They all ask the same questions: What will happen in Norway now? Will we be able to recognize Norway after this? Could something similar happen in other countries?Skip to next paragraph
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At first, I answered that Norway will continue to be an open society characterized by tolerance and the fight for human rights and peace. I still believe this.
But as I learned more about the terrorist, I began to add that I also hoped Norway would not be recognizable in quite the same way.
We need to become more aware of what terrorism is, where it comes from, and not least, how we speak about it.
It should be possible, for example, to no longer refer to terrorism committed by Muslims as “Islamic terrorism.” No one would dream of calling Mr. Breivik a “Christian terrorist,” just because he has described himself as Christian. We have never called the terrorism of the IRA in Northern Ireland “Christian.”
When it comes to Muslims, however, their actions are immediately associated with Islam as a religion. The term radical Islam has flourished in Norwegian debate. Does Breivik represent radical Christianity?
No. There is nothing in either Christianity or Islam that can justify terrorism.
When, through our choice of words, we link Islam to terrorism, we polarize the debate. The fear of Muslims and Islamization currently rampant in Europe is, in my opinion, the greatest internal threat we face.
Political leaders talk of multiculturalism having failed. Needless to say, the consequences of such a view must surely be that Muslims and all others who do not fit in are expected to leave. One French minister has even said that it has become difficult to take the bus, because of all the Muslims. What exactly did he hope to achieve by this? In the minds of fanatics like Breivik, it invites the answer he has given. Breivik sees himself as an idealistic savior. He takes life to save all of us from the Muslim threat.
Breivik’s terrorism and Al Qaeda’s terrorism come from the same thing: the desire to rid one’s environment of intruders.
The methods are the same, too: the ruthless violence, even against one’s own – the traitors; terror directed at one’s own ranks, against those who work with foreigners. Breivik did not direct his attack against Muslims, but against those who want them here.
Let's not link the crusaders to religions through our use of language. All religious leaders working for reconciliation between religions must support and encourage one another.