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Norway Attacks Reveal Growing Violent, Anti-Muslim Sentiment in Europe

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Anders Behring Breivik, who has admitted to the mass shooting and bombing in Norway, has been described as an anti-Islamic, right-wing extremist who claimed to be acting in order to save Norway and Europe from “Marxist and Muslim colonization.” To discuss the prevalence and legitimacy of these views, we speak with Kari Helene Partapuoli, the director of the Norwegian Center Against Racism. She says Breivik’s ideology was shaped in part by the Norwegian Defence League and the group Stop the Islamisation of Norway. “He didn’t just go on a shooting spree. He was also shaped by this political environment on the right wing,” says Partapuoli. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the phone by Kari Partapuoli, the director of the Norwegian Center Against Racism. She is usually based in Oslo, Norway, but happens to have been in a fishing village in Bulgaria when the attack took place, and that’s where we’re speaking to her today. Kari, can you talk about your understanding of who the shooter is, how it fits—how he fits into what you have been studying?

KARI HELENE PARTAPUOLI: Well, the traditional right-wing groups in Norway have—are still very small and very fragmented and not very well organized. However, Breivik was not really part of that picture. He was more inspired by what Ali Esbati also talks about, the theories about—the paranoid theories about how there is an Islam-Muslim takeover in Norway and in Europe. And even though the sort of traditional right-wing extremist groups are small, there are other things that have been happening, specifically online, where these debates and theories are very free to develop and quite, quite widespread also, especially internationally. You have Norwegian websites that will write about these theories, but Breivik also went abroad and had a focus in Europe and in the U.K. and also, as he says himself, in the United States. But so, he’s part of that ideology, if you want, where there is this Muslim takeover, where multiculturalism is a threat to our societies. And he also—he also mixes in some things of race theory, so you have some of the more sort of traditional right-wing elements, as well. And he also calls himself a nationalist. So, it’s kind of a mixed picture.

When I say that the right-wing extremist groups are small and fragmented, we have, however, seen, the last year or so, that there’s been a development. There’s been attempts to organize groups in Norway, modeled on, for example, the English Defence League in Britain, which is quite successful and widespread, and also something called Stop the Islamisation of Europe. And in Norway, there has been established something called Stop the Islamisation of Norway and also a branch of the English Defence League called the Norwegian Defence League. Now, these groups are not very successful, and a lot of sort of anti-racists—anti-racist networks have worked quite hard to stop these groups from being established and from getting out on the streets.

But Breivik, again, wanted these organizations to be established in Norway, but I don’t think he was very pleased with the fact that they didn’t really get a good standing. So he’s kind of—he’s been connected to a lot of these movements, both the sort of theoretical movements online and to some of these sort of—or at least he wanted these two groups specifically to be organized in Norway, but he has also looked outside the border. So this is part—this is not just a Norwegian—he’s not just a result of the Norwegian arena; he’s also a result of the—specifically the European debate, where there is just certainly a growing Islamophobia, specifically.

AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering, Ali, about your own experience in Norway. You were born in Iran?

Ali Esbati, I was wondering about your own experience in Norway. You were born in Iran, is that right?

Sorry, he’s not able to hear us. But Kari Partapuoli, could you talk more about the issue of neo-Nazism and how this fits in?

KARI HELENE PARTAPUOLI: Yeah. I mean, this is not an neo-Nazi—he’s not part of a neo-Nazi group. But we—in the ’90s, Norway had a slight peak of the neo-Nazi groups. But in 2001, there was a racist murder where a young boy, age 15, called Benjamin Hermansen was killed by two neo-Nazi young men, and there was a national outrage against this murder and also a lot of activities from the police and the whole society, basically, to get people out of the neo-Nazi groups. So, after 2001, the sort of traditional neo-Nazi groups have been really, really small and not a force to be reckoned with.

But time has passed, and things are changing, and you see now that they have a different enemy picture. It’s the Muslims. It’s the sort of threat to our culture, a threat to—they see immigration as a threat to the establishment, to our societies. And we have also some groups being established, as I said, the Stop the Islamisation of Norway and the Norwegian Defence league. But these things are—they’re very—they’re not forces to be reckoned with, so I think now it’s more the online environments and milieux that we have to pay close attention to. And, of course, there isn’t a one-to-one relationship between words and actions, but certainly, I agree with Ali Esbati that we have to also see Breivik as part of a social and political context. It didn’t—he didn’t just go on a shooting spree. It was—he was also shaped by this political environment on the right wing.

AMY GOODMAN: Kari Partapuoli, what about the influence of Americans on him, like Robert Spencer, who operates the anti-Muslim website Jihad Watch, which was quoted 64 times in his manifesto?

KARI HELENE PARTAPUOLI: He definitely—that’s definitely—he definitely needs these theoreticians, or if that’s the correct word, to support his ideas, because I don’t think he’s found what he was looking for, ideologically wise, in the Norwegian context. Although these things are developing in some right-wing groups, it just is not as developed as, for example, in what you mentioned, as Spencer here. So he would have to lean on a lot of other international thinkers, if we can call them that, to sort of develop his own theories. But it’s the whole mix, it seems. I mean, some of the researchers who now are studying his manifesto say that, you know, he mixes things together. So he puts things together from different thinkers, from his own mind, and also some of the sort of racial thinking.

And then also religion gets into it, maybe because of—you know, this is part of the Crusades still fighting the Muslims, like Europe has done, in his view, for so many years, and now he’s sort of continuing that, that struggle. So, religion comes into it, as well, and then some sort of version of Christianity. He, himself, criticizes the Norwegian Church for being too Social Democratic. It’s a Protestant state church in Norway, and he criticizes that for being too Democratic—priests marching in the streets alongside pro-Palestine demonstrations, for example. And he says that he doesn’t really prefer that any longer. He would rather have more of a Catholic Church.

So, you know, there’s a whole mixture of ideas and thinkers and ideologies in this. Bloggers that he relies on heavily, there’s a Norwegian, still anonymous, blogger called Fjordman that he quotes extensively. And this Fjordman is now being very silent about that, but he—I mean, taking—not supporting at all Breivik’s actions. But so, you know, there’s a whole mixture of things that come together in his manifesto and in his thinking. He’s been developing this for years. This is a person who’s been developing his worldview. It doesn’t happen overnight. And it actually—as it looks now, it seems as if it started, you know, before these sort of major anti-Muslim sentiments actually became part of mainstream European politics.

AMY GOODMAN: Kari Partapuoli, we’re going to break, and then we’re going to bring in Glenn Greenwald, who has also been writing about what’s happening, Salon.com blogger. We’ll go down to Brazil to speak with him, as well. Stay with us. Kari Partapuoli is the director of the Norwegian Center Against Racism, based in Oslo, Norway, though today she’s joining us from Bulgaria. Stay with us.

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Glenn Greenwald: Norway Attacks Expose U.S. Media’s Double Standard on “Terrorism”

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