Friday, June 24 2016

Reflection in wake of Breivik trial

There is extensive and ongoing coverage on the BBC, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent and in other media outlets on the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the man responsible for the terrorist attack which killed 77 people in Norway last July.

Breivik admits to carrying out the attacks but has pleaded not-guilty to the charges against him. Video footage shows him expressing no remorse for the attacks, and he has stated that he “would have done it again”.

The trial has invited a mood of reflection and introspection on the ideology that inspired Breivik to commit these terrible acts. This reflection extends beyond Norway to the wider European region, which, in the wake of his trial, is beginning to come to terms with the fact that for too long the threat of far-right violence and terrorism has been overlooked and marginalised.

The EU Observer carries a report citing Sindre Bangstad, an anthropologist at the University of Oslo who commenting on the European ‘blind spot’ on counter-jihad, said:

"The threats from the far right and radicalisation in Europe are quite real. In the Norwegian experience, the authorities have taken a one-sided approach. The PST, the police intelligence services who monitor terrorism threats in Norway, had only limited knowledge of right-wing extremists,"

EU home affairs commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, is cited as having told the inaugural meeting of the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network in September last year, "Let's face it: neither the EU member states nor the European Commission have taken enough action to face the growing problem of radicalization."

The claim that far-right and other forms of violent extremism have been overshadowed by a propensity to focus exclusively on cases of Muslim extremists is evident in media reporting, which has tended to overlook far right extremism and violence. According to the report produced by the EU policing agency, Europol, acts of violent extremism carried out by Muslims have been responsible for just 0.5% of terrorist activity in Europe. Yet 50% of Europe’s counter-terrorism budget has been dedicated to fighting ‘Islamist’ extremism.

This oversight was also identified in a Home Affairs Select Committee report published earlier this year, ‘The Roots of Violent Radicalisation’, in which MPs argued that there “appears to be a growth in more extreme and violent forms of far-right ideology,” and cautioned the Government against "neglecting this area of risk" in its counter-terrorism strategy, Prevent.

The need of all sections of society, and for our politicians, to reflect on the poisonous extremism which motivated Breivik in his actions is well summarised in a comment piece by Aslak Sira Myhre in the Guardian. He writes:

“The terror of Oslo and Utøya has given us Norwegians a shared trauma that will stay with us for ever. We are also bonded by our sympathy for the survivors, and the family and friends of the 77 people killed last July. In the aftermath of the attack we gathered in marches and public displays of sorrow.

“But I fear this response differs little from how we would have reacted to a natural disaster or a fatal accident of the same dimensions. As the trial against self-confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik starts, Norwegian politics seems to be back to normal. Though Behring Breivik's deeds, trial and psyche totally dominate the national media, we seem to be shying away from the political matters close to the terrorist's heart.

“Those who insist that Islam poses a threat to Europeans and Norwegians, and claim the past 1,500 years is a story of a never-ending clash between a Christian civilisation and Islamic barbary, are just as insistent as before…Both rightwing politicians, and anti-islamic webpages … ha[ve] after some months of afterthought return[ed] to business as usual.

“…the Islamophobes object to claims that they have something in common with Behring Breivik, and they are now fighting even harder to defend their paranoia.

“We close our eyes to the fact that Behring Breivik's worldview is shared by many all over Europe.

“The collective disgust for his acts is not matched by the same unanimous disgust for his motives.

“We should reconsider the most serious question of them all: how do we deal with a future where people of different religions and cultures live side by side in Europe? And how do we deal with the ideology that tells us this is impossible? We need to poison the soil that Behring Breivik grew from.”

You can follow live blogs of the Breivik trial on the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 22:48

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