First Published in: Dunia Magazine
As the good people of Norway try to make sense of the gruesome 7/22 massacre that left at least 76 people dead and 96 injured, there is rising concern about the recent surge in right wing populism in Norway and other Nordic countries – Finland, Denmark and Sweden – where anti-immigration sentiments and islamphobia could also turn deadly.
Last Friday, a Norwegian man, 32 years old, changed his country forever when he detonated a bomb in a state building in Oslo, the main city of Norway, killing at least 7 people. A few hours later, according to the Norwegian police, the same man went on a shooting spree in Utoeya, an island just outside Oslo, killing mostly teenagers.
You would think that after such a massacre, the killer would turn the gun on himself and take his life, but the killer in this case was arrested alive and as of the time of this writing, is in police custody. The killer, identified as Anders Behring Breivik, told police that he orchestrated the massacre but is not criminally responsible.
He appeared in court on Monday, 25 July 2011, calm and ”unaffected,” and did not plead guilty to killing 76 people. The defiant Anders attempted to justify his monstrous action by arguing that the goal of the twin attacks was to ”save” Norway from ”Maxist and Muslim colonization.”
This extreme stance expressed in a deadly fashion by Anders Behring Breivik is shared by a growing number of people in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The past couple of months have seen a surge in support for extreme right-wing views in these countries.
In Sweden, an extreme right political party, Sweden Democrats (known in Swedish as ”Sverigedemokraterna”) that promulgates xenophobia and islamophobia won seats in parliament for the first time since the party was founded in 1988. The party secured 20 out of 349 seats during the historic September 2010 parliamentary election that changed Sweden’s political landscape. This right-wing political gain came a few months after a group of neo-Nazis staged an anti-mosque demonstration in Gothenburg – Sweden’s second city, on Sunday 11 April 2010.
The September 2010 victory for extreme right populism in Sweden set the stage for extreme right gains in neighboring Finland.
In April 2011, an extreme right party in Finland, True Finns ( known as ”Perussuomalaiset” in Finnish), made significant gains in parliament – winning 39 out of 200 seats, despite the fact that the party supporters and representatives make no secret of their hard-line stance.
On the first day in parliament following the April 2011 election, for instance, a parliamentarian representing the True Finns made outright derogatory and racist comments on camera against Muslims and Africans. He used a well known and unacceptable racist word to refer to African asylum seekers and mimicked a Muslim call for prayers.
In Denmark, the story is not different. The Danish People’s Party (known as ”Danks Folkeparti” in Danish) kicks against immigration, multi-culturalism and the ”Islamification” of Denmark.
It is worth highlighting that Norway’s confessed mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, reportedly shares the same views as Finland’s True Finns, Sweden’s Sweden Democrats and Denmark’s Danish People’s Party and all three parties are becoming increasingly and disturbingly popular in their respective countries.
As a matter of fact, a poll published by Helsinki Sanomat, a national daily news outlet in Finland, on 25 July 2011 showed that support for the True Finns has continued to grow, reaching 22.7 per cent after the April 2011 election, while the National Coalition Party has dropped to second place with 21.1 per cent.
Incidentally, the poll was published on the day Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed killer who shares the views of the True Finns, went on a shooting spree in neighboring Norway – in a bid to ”save” Europe from Muslim immigrants.
Make no mistake - the surge in anti-immigration sentiments, islamophobia and extreme right-wing populism in the Nordic countries is real. Urgent steps must be taken to ensure that extreme views promulgated by increasingly influential right-wing political parties and individuals do not turn deadly.