On 22nd July Oslo was hit by terrorism, first a bomb went of in the government quarter and then the massacre at Utøya. 77 people was killed and during the last week there have been funerals all over Norway. During the first week Norwegians were glued to the newspapers and TV, soaking up every detail of the incident. Trying to make sense of it, trying to understand what we couldn’t imagine anybody doing.
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard of 7/11-2001, and the same is true of 22/07-2011. I will not forget those moments.When the Norwegians first heard of the terror attack the initial response was to gather information, figure out what was happening. In the back of everybody’s minds were the thought that we had been hit by Muslim fundamentalists, but both people, the government and the media were expecting more information before drawing any conclusions. The media was more concerned with gathering information of what was happening. Of course there were some reports of Norwegians chasing Muslims down the streets, but an overwhelming degree of people didn’t. There will always be somebody who behaves badly towards innocent people after such incidences, but it doesn’t represent the general public and we shouldn’t treat such incidences as if they do represent the majority of people. The next day we were told it was a Norwegian who was behind the terror.
The police, hospitals, health staff, fire brigade etc. responded quickly and dealt with the situation effectively and professionally.
Our response was to maintain our society, and not rush into more security, more surveillance, passing laws that restrict the general public etc. A commission has been formed to get an overview of Anders Behring Breivik (ABB) activities the last ten years, and come up with recommendations.
There has been debate on what degree we should allow extremist opinions in the public debates and especially on the internet, and it has been a good debate. We are also seeing the beginning of a “new” discussion – immigration and attitudes towards Muslims. Some believes that the response would have been different if the perpetrators had been Muslims and there is truth to that statement and that we only can “afford” a response of openness and love because the offender was Norwegian. I think Norwegians would still behave in the same way, but there would be a lot more outbursts of hate etc. towards Muslims. Here’s the thing: It’s possible to do two things at once: React with love and hate/fear at the same time. One reaction doesn’t reflect badly upon the other.
Let me come with an example. I’m a vegetarian which means I hear a lot of comments from meat lovers. Many years ago I was at a funeral, and afterwards I attended the memorial service afterwards. They only served sandwiches with meat, so I declined. The sister of the deceased heard me decline the sandwich, and started yelling at me very loudly for being disrespectful. I don’t agree with her reaction, but I don’t let that incident color my view of other people or the society as a whole. Her or the many other bad reactions I have received doesn’t reflect on those who meet me with an open mind and acceptance. Most people accept my decision, they have just made a different decision from mine.
Norway responded perfectly to this tragedy, and I couldn’t be more proud of what it means to be Norwegian. The very best qualities of the “Norwegian personality” really shined through. I love Norway and the people here, it’s such a beautiful nation.
And we need to have a debate on immigration and attitudes towards Muslims and their impact on Norway, hopefully using valid references, numbers and statistics. We can have it both ways and they don’t reflect badly upon each other no matter how hard the words will be.