Norway shooting: a resurgence in violence amongst extreme right-wing groups?
The terrorist attacks that recently took place in Norway, have raised many questions about violence related to extreme right groups, and whether or not we should be prepared to expect more in the future. Although this may not be the case,
unemployment blamed upon immigration is most likely to increase the popularity of nationalist far right parties, which could ultimately lead to more violence.
Even though the meaning of the term has been variously re-interpreted with every historical era, terrorism continues to define an act of violence which aims to create a sense of vulnerability within a large population. According to Rapoport’s classification, there are four types of terrorist organizations currently operating around the world, categorized mainly by their source of motivation: left-wing terrorists, right-wing terrorists, ethno nationalist or separatist terrorists, and religious or “sacred” terrorists.
It has been long argued by political analysts that ‘religious terrorism’ also known as ‘sacred terrorism’ has a deeper impact because it does not have a clear political purpose and its main goal is not to change, but to completely replace the existing social system. It has also been claimed that this type of terrorist organizations is much more unpredictable and dangerous than the other three because ‘religious’ terrorists consider themselves to be involved in a ‘Manichean’ struggle in which they represent the ‘good’.
Anders Breivik’s lawyer claimed his client considers the attacks were ‘atrocious but necessary’ and that he ‘wanted a change in society, and from his perspective, he needed to force through a revolution. He wished to attack society and the structure of society.’ But, as in the case of Islamis terrorists, Breivik’s main motivation was fanaticism, fact proved by the destructiveness of the attacks. Breivik’s admiration for Bin Laden revealed in his 1,500 page manifesto, proves that his Islamophobia and anti-multiculturalism was just the pretext used to justify the destructive attacks. As the Norwegian authorities noticed, he acted driven by narcissism rather than by a clear political goal.
The terrorist attacks in Norway on the 23rd of July proved that right wing terrorism can be as much of a threat as ‘religious terrorism’, particularly because governments have chosen to focus on trying to prevent the latter and ignored other possible threats. Norway, the ‘Nobel Peace Prize country’ seems uneasy about accepting the fact that one of its own nationals meticulously planned and carried out the attacks with cold blood.
Nevertheless, if one is to consider Breivik an isolated ‘mental’ case, one runs the risk of underestimating the whole ideological dimension of the attacks. It is not yet clear whether he carried out the attacks alone, thus similar attacks could take place based upon the same ideological leanings. Anders Behring Breivik sent his manifesto to 1,003 email addresses 90 minutes before he detonated the bomb inOslo. Yet, no one seems to have notified the Norwegian police about his intentions.
It is difficult to establish whether Breivik’s claims that the organization which supposedly was created inLondon 9 years ago actually exists, or whether he had connections with far-right groups such as the British EDL. The EDL, formed two years ago has had a series of demonstrations, some of which have turned violent. Nevertheless the group issued a statement on Sunday condemning the attacks inNorway and saying that the league was a peaceful organisation which rejected all forms of extremism. It also denied any connection with Breivik.
Of course, the attacker might try to mislead the police into thinking a terrorist network was indeed formed in Londonback in 2002. But the Norwegian police have recently revealed that Breivik was not alone when he tried to buy fertiliser earlier this year. According to the Norwegian domestic intelligence chief, Janne Kristiansen, there is so far no evidence of links between mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik and the English far-right. Even if there is no actual connection, Britain intends to revise its counter-terrorism strategy. Zaheer Ahmad, president of the National Association of Muslim Police criticized the British counter-terrorist strategy for focusing too much on the threat coming from Islamic terrorism, and neglecting the right extremism.
Another concerning issue following the attacks is the lack of competence of the Norwegian police, which was unable to organize itself and respond to the attacks. Fewer people might have died had the police reached the Island earlier. Even the attacker himself expected to be killed or captured before reaching Utøya Island. Not only that, but the police had been alerted by Breivik’s buying of tons of chemical fertilizers from a Polish firm but did not take any measures because the transactions were legal.
Thus the question to be asked is whether Norway is too soft. Until now it represented the closest example to the ideal democratic state. But its inability to respond to such a terrible threat might question the sustainability of the Norwegian model. Breivik might get away with just 21 years of prison, the current maximum punishment under Norwegian law. He could also be declared mentally ill. Even though this is less likely to happen, as Breivik will always be considered to pose a danger to society, the very fact that such a probability exists poses a great challenge to the Norwegian penal system.
The increase in popularity of the BNP in the UK and Le Front National in France denote a far right tendency within some European states. Unemployment blamed upon immigration is likely to increase even more the popularity of nationalist far right parties. It has also encouraged politicians across Europe to adopt a more drastic approach towards immigration.
Angela Merkel’s claim that ‘multiculturalism has failed’ has only fuelled frustrations and anti-immigration feelings within the German society. Not to mention Francesco Speroni’s statement that ‘Breivik’s ideas are in defense of western civilisation.’ Even though as an Italian MEP and former minister in Berlusconi’s government, he sustains that he does not defend Breivik’s terrorist attacks, his claim that the very ideology that lay at the basis of the attacks is justified indirectly implies a certain degree of approval of his actions. Mario Borghezio, another Italian MEP and member of the Northern League went as far as suggesting that the attacks might have been part of a plot to discredit hardline conservative thinkers.
As Cronin argued, it is difficult to include terrorism in a schematic typology, not only because it has evolved, but because it refers to an activity that tends to be subjective. But ‘new terrorism’ should not be considered synonymous with ‘sacred terrorism’. The growing destructiveness of the attacks is related to the recent technological developments of the modern world, not to the doctrine that lies at the basis of the terrorist attack.
Ultimately, Breivik’s attacks have proven that no type of terrorist organization is more dangerous than another, but rather they are all equally dangerous particularly because of their distinctive and subjective nature. Of course Al-Qaeda continues to pose a great threat to the Western world because it has established itself as the centre of a nexus of terrorist groups spread all over the world. What is certain is that counter-terrorist measures should not continue to focus on preventing attacks from Muslim terrorist organizations only.