We have a nazi terrorist problem. And the first step to solving a problem is to admit that we have one. The ongoing trial against Philip Manshaus, as well as the way in which it’s being discussed, is a clear indicator of that, and a clear indicator not much has changed since the trial against Breivik in 2011 – except that we seem a bit more jaded, a bit less surprised now.
We are, however, still reluctant to talk about the problem. While we speak of “the gunman” we consistently fail to address the issue of terrorism, and the ideology of hatred that lies behind it.
I stand by my definition of violent extremism as the violent denial of diversity. The denial of diversity is however apparent across Norwegian media that consistently tiptoes around the issue – the step-sister Manshaus murdered before going to the local mosque, the Al-Noor Islamic Centre, on his failed rampage, was adopted and of Chinese origin. By avoiding the mention of this, by leaving it out of the language. By consistently using her Norwegian first and last names but skipping past her Chinese middle name we deny the background of Johanne Zhangjia Ihle-Hansen and the diversity she represents – the diversity feared and hated by extremists like her brother Philip – the diversity she eventually was murdered for representing.
Norway has deep-rooted issues with racism. Not only does our migration policy make extraordinarily hard for migrants and refugees to settle and build decent lives in Norway we also have layers of systemic racism throughout our society often disguised as “scepticism”. Norway has also not been immune to the growth of far-right populist parties exploiting the global fear brought on after 9/11 nearly two decades ago, the subsequent wars across the middle east and the resulting rise of ISIS.
These parties allow for, popularize and legitimize a form of hatred, of racism and fear of diversity that amplified the already apparent issue – that Norway is a hostile society for those who do not fit the mould, for those who don’t look like “us”, talk like “us”, eat like “us” or pray like “us”.
The result of this is alienation – people pushed to the fringes, and into hatred and violence. Nazis like Breivik and Manshaus finding fuel in ideological allies in parliament and minorities finding that they don’t fit in and aren’t valued as equal by society at large – perhaps a contributing factor in the radicalisation of terrorists who grew up and lived in Norway before going abroad to become terrorists in foreign lands.
This weekend, I spoke on Pakistani TV about this. I hope we’ll continue having these conversations in the days, weeks, months and years to come – it’s time we deal with the roots of this, before the lives of more young people, with their futures ahead of them, are lost to the violence of madmen fuelled by racist and Islamophobic fear and hatred against our minorities and those who support the diversity of our homeland.
Check out the full segment in the first 10 minutes of their broadcast here: