Tragic face of Norwegian multiculturalism
24 Jul, 2011 06:14
The double attack which claimed the lives of 93 people in Norway has been dubbed the country's worst tragedy since World War II. Analysts say the incident may act as a catalyst for deeper ethnic tensions in the country.
Norwegian police have warned that number of victims from Friday’s deadly double attack could rise to 98.Ninety-seven people were wounded in the double attack in Norway. Ten of them remain in a critical condition. Police say 67 were wounded on the island and 30 sustained their injuries in the Oslo blast.Memorial services have been held across Norway, including at the main Lutheran cathedral in Oslo, to commemorate all who died in Friday’s attacks.Norway's King Harald V and his wife Queen Sonja attended the service, accompanied by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. The cathedral was filled to capacity, leaving many mourners standing outside in the rain. Grieving people continued to bring flowers and candles to the square near the Cathedral which is walking distance from the site of the blast. A national day of mourning is expected to be declared next week once all the missing have been accounted for. Anders Behring Breivik, the man charged with Friday's shooting spree at a Norwegian youth camp and bombing in the capital has admitted responsibility for the twin attack. A second man was seized by Special Forces, but it is not clear if he has any connection to the two incidents.Peaceful nation in shockBrave Kristina Ilke was hit by the car bomb which exploded in Oslo's city centre. In a daze and surrounded by broken glass, she stayed in the blast zone to help the wounded. “I was just standing, chatting when suddenly… You just feel like a fist going through your body. There were bits of glass in [people’s] eyes, [they were] covered in blood, smashed glass all over them,” Kristina said.A shop-owner who was near the scene patched up victims before giving out hot drinks. As a nation which has never suffered at the hands of terrorists before, he says, Norwegians just did not know how to react.“Lot of alarms from cars and buildings [were going off], people [were] shouting, screaming,” he recalled. Another shop-owner, Trigve Godheim, said his wife suffered severe shock when their windows were blown out by the blast. But he admits they are lucky to be alive and says his thoughts are with the many young victims of the second attack. “I think about all the children killed, their parents – this is a catastrophe,” Godheim said. “50 per cent of Norwegians are against multiculturalism”The two atrocities produced many acts of heroism. But as the dust settles on the world's worst mass shooting, observers say there is also a rising anger that the attacks were allowed to happen in the first place. Anger that the authorities ignored dozens of anti-Muslim messages from suspect Anders Behring Breivik.“We have not really been prepared for right-wing extremism in Norway,” a Peace Research Institute representative said. Breivik expressed fury at the government's open-door policy on immigration in numerous blogs and Twitter feeds. Some analysts believe the shootings may reflect growing national disillusionment with the country’s immigration policies. “The political establishment of Norway consists of relatively well-off people who live in areas where there are simply no immigrants, so it’s just poor people that are being pushed out of places they used to live and whose jobs are in jeopardy,” Norwegian terrorism expert Helge Luras said. There is growing unease amongst Muslims who feel the double tragedy has heightened prejudice against them.“They want these guys to be Muslim. It is a little bit strange, because he is Norwegian. So, they talk too much about Islam and about us. It is not good,” one passerby said. Norwegians are said to be fed up with their country’s brand of what has been dubbed “radical liberalism”. Some say the country’s multicultural policies have set the government against its own people. “In Norway, far-right sentiment is wider than Norwegians are ready to admit. And there is a polite and respectful attitude towards those kinds of views in the mainstream media. But the reality is that 50 per cent of Norwegians are against multiculturalism,” political journalist Nabila Ramdani said. As people here try to pick up the pieces and make sense of this twin attack, many are already saying it will sour relations between communities. Some expect a crackdown by police on burgeoning far-right groups in Europe, while others fear an escalation of tensions amongst Europe's Muslim communities. The victims are beginning the slow process of putting their shattered lives back together. But experts fear this might not be the last such attack, as outrage grows at the perceived failure of the multicultural project. Investigative journalist, Tony Gosling, says he doesn’t believe when mass-murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, calls himself a true Christian. “It’s maybe the same kind of strange version of Christianity that Bush and Blair have been coming up over the last ten years or so. I think that this is, actually, the tip of an iceberg as there’s quite a lot of neo-Nazi activity going on out there. And now I think the anti-terrorist authorities all across the world must take that brand of terrorism much more seriously,” he said.