Terror in Norway: An Extraordinary Letter from Oslo

A special guest blog by Jorgen Lorentzen in Oslo

Dear friends,
A terrible action of terror hit Norway on Friday. It is now clear that it was one man’s work: a 32-year-old ethnic Norwegian with right-wing sympathies named Anders Breivik. The theory now is that the blast in downtown Oslo, outside the Prime Minister’s office, was just a diversion from his main plan — to kill as many social democratic youth as possible who were gathering on a peaceful island near the city.

We now know that 85 people have been shot to death and others killed in the bombing. He was screaming and celebrating while he was shooting. The island is small and it took the police one hour to get there. Thus, he was able to work systematically for a long time without being disturbed. The action was well planned.

Downtown Oslo looks like after a war; several governmental buildings are total damaged. The bomb was homemade and very strong.

Five of my son’s friends were at the youth camp, four of them are safe, but one wonderful girl, 16 year old, is still missing. Her name is Bano and she was working to strengthen Norwegian democracy. She is the daughter of a family from Iraq who fled the terror in their own country, settling in one of the most peaceful areas of the world. It is hard to believe we are now hoping she somehow survived this political massacre.

We are in deep shock, crying … but I think everybody, all politically-active people of the country, are very, very clear that this shall not destroy the important and strong, but vulnerable, Norwegian democracy. The prime minister gave a very strong speech underlining this.

For those like myself, working on issues of masculinities and violence, this massacre sadly does not come as a surprise. My first thought right after the blast was that this was not the work of Islamic fundamentalists (as many first thought) but the work of a right-wing, conservative man.

Such men are, and have for a long time been, the real danger in Norway and most other European countries as well.

Among this right wing, we find a specific combination of aggressive masculinity and nationalism that needs to be taken more seriously. This particular man has been active for many years in anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic websites. He was a member of the [right-wing] Progress Party in Norway, but he left the party because he thought it was too soft.
It is strange that the police did not have any clue for all the signs tell us that this man was a potential danger to democracy: He was active in the anti-Islamic movement, he owned several guns, and he bought tons of fertilzer.

Right wing terror like this must change our language and political rhetoric towards a more inclusive and tolerant political dialogue. His actions must be met by a new ethic of tolerance where there is no place for hate.

Right now, though, my thoughts go to the families that have been hit by the cold and crazy actions of this man. We are all in deep sorrow.

Jorgen Lorentzen, Oslo, July 23, 2011

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