Foreign Policy Blogs

Some Terrorists Are Blonde

As news of the horrific attack in Norway ticked in, we drew our conclusions regarding the perpetrator’s motives and background. The media were quick to point out that Norway contributes to the coalition forces in Afghanistan and Libya, and that Norwegian newspapers had reprinted the Muhammad caricatures that first appeared in the Danish daily Jyllands Posten. As a Danish national – knowing of the similarities in Norwegian and Danish foreign policy, and the two countries’ stance during the cartoon controversy – my first thought was: That could have been Copenhagen.

It could have been Copenhagen, I guess, but as it became clear the perpetrator was a Norwegian nationalist extremist, blond hair blue eyes and all, my presumptions had to be revised. Norway and Denmark do not only share similarities in their foreign policies, but also in the political debate surrounding Muslim immigration. Are Muslim beliefs compatible with the Scandinavian democracy? If not, what to do with this poorly integrated minority leeching on the generous Scandinavian welfare systems?

Similar debates have taken place throughout Europe. Concurrently, nationalist parties (I find that nationalist parties is more accurate than rightwing) have gained considerable popularity, and have been the trendsetters when it came to bringing immigration to the forefront of European politics. A common claim among these parties is that only they have dared to challenge the tyranny of political correctness, and call Muslim immigration what it really is; an encroachment upon Western democracies by a religious group with beliefs incompatible with democratic values.

In the Netherlands Geert Wilders believes that Islam by definition is a politicized religion which strives to dominate and transform Christian societies. In the word of the Danish People’s Party’s Søren Espersen “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims”. In the more sordid end of the scale, Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Press Society, proclaims that Islam’s view of women is so degenerate that incestuous rape is acceptable in Muslim families. This organization was founded in the wake of the cartoon controversy to protect freedom of speech, and initially counted prominent members, such as politician Nasher Khader and commentator Kathrine Lilleør, while Danish minister of integration, Søren Pind, was on the organization’s advisory board.

These prominent figures abandoned ship when Hedegaard’s exceedingly nutty comments became a burden – although several members of the Danish People’s Party continue to lend their support to Hedegaard. But this is not the point. The point is that the widespread notion exists, that there is a link between the protection of democratic values an anti-immigrant stance.

Mainstream nationalist parties (yes, in Europe, now days, there is such thing as mainstream nationalists) certainly do not condone political violence. Condemnation of Breivik’s acts has been swift and comprehensive across the entire spectrum of European politics. However, the European immigration debate has been exceedingly harsh and existential. Has the climate created by this debate contributed to the radicalization of Europe’s nationalists? After all, we have no problem pointing to the rabid rhetoric of particular Imam’s as the ideological fodder of Muslims terrorists. Surely the same argument can be made against the likes of Breivik? Indeed, Breivik mentions several nationalist political figures in his manifesto.

Events seem to force us to revise our notions of terrorism and who and what constitutes a threat to democracy. While Arabs in the Middleeast and Africa fight for democracy, European nationalist groups are reportedly becoming more radicalized. For example, Danish media reports of the strongly nationalist group, Denmark’s National Front, receiving weapons training from a likeminded group in Russia.

Obviously, all terrorists are not Muslims. Neither are all nationalists terrorists. But just as Europe has demanded that the Muslim community takes a critically look at its role in the radicalization of fringe groups, we must demand that nationally inspired organizations consider that they also play role in the process of political radicalization.

 

Author

Finn Maigaard
Finn Maigaard

Finn Maigaard holds an MA in history from the University of Copenhagen. As an MA student Finn focused on diplomatic history culminating in a thesis on US-Danish security cooperation in the Cold War. Finn also interned at the Hudson Institute's Political-Military Center, where he concentrated on the EU's role as a security institution, and at the World Affairs Institute as a Communications/Editorial Research Assistant. Finn currently resides in Washington, DC and works as a freelance writer, and as Program Coordinator at the University of Maryland's National Foreign Language Center.

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