Norway's 9/11. We are all in this together
It was supposed to be a good Friday leading up to a fantastic weekend. Devoid of the traffic and beehive of activity that usually characterise major cities, Oslo as always was nearly deserted and quiet - people were already away on their summer holiday or had already left their offices for lunch. Oslo is usually not crowded even in seasons other than summer.
But one man changed all of the quiet and peace of the city and the psyche of a country I would describe as the most serene and with a people as loving and endearing as can be.This is also the most habitable place on earth according to many credible human development indexes and one of the only few places on earth where there are no beggars. The only beggars one may see or find in Norway are Eastern Europeans, but never a Norwegian; Never.
I was in the north of Norway with friends. I had been invited to a party in my honour before I leave for Ghana. We had been fishing and everything seemed normal. I even joked that I wished I could just board a ship which would follow the coast-line straight to Ghana instead of going by air. We laughed and one of my friends said perhaps I could "walk along the coastline to Ghana, that would save you some money in airfare and perhaps reduce carbon emission."
Unbeknown to us, Norway was changing tragically. It was another friend of mine who called from Amsterdam to see if I was OK and that he was watching a breaking news item reporting a bomb blast in Oslo where it seemed the Norwegian Prime Minister was the target.
Norway? Oslo? I asked. Impossible. I broke the news to my friends and we hurried back to our cottage. The rest of the story, as they say is history. Shock, awe, anger - I saw Norwegians of all ages crying. Norway of all quiet places, of all pro-immigration places, of all friendly countries had been shaken up. It was Norway's equivalent of 9/11 or 7/7 except that it wasn't carried by Islamic terrorists. The attacks had the trappings of some events in the past to which I would come to later.
It was a barbaric terror attack not just on innocent people of Norway but on the Norwegian Labour Party and intended to bring down Norwegian values. As I write now, almost one hundred people have been confirmed dead, seven in Oslo and more than eighty people in Utoya, where the Norwegian Labour party had organised a summer retreat for its Youth wing. It also left several in critical condition with more than one hundred sustaining walking-injuries.
A lone gunman, whose name was given as Anders Behring Breivik, had dressed as an armed police man and gone to Utoya, the summer camp for the Labour Party activity ostensibly to provide security following the blast in Oslo. Anders invited as many of the camping youths as possible - ages between eleven and twenty five - pretending to have come to provide security and give them updates about the bomb blast in Oslo two hours earlier.
And when as many unsuspecting youths gathered to hear him, he opened fire, killing as many innocent children as possible, many of whom also drowned as they attempted to swim across a lake to safety.
Norway is in mourning, and understandably so because it has never seen an attack or anything that has claimed so many lives like this since World War II.
I was terrified, terrified because I am a Muslim and African living in a predominantly white neighbourhood. I was terrified because I hadn't seen any Black person in the neighbourhood but more so because of what a terrorist attack would do to the psyche of a people who are extremely warm and arguably the most endearing in all of Europe.
The media had so shrewdly poisoned many minds so much so that, immediately one hears of terror attacks or bombings, the first thing that comes to one's mind is "bloody foreigners" or "bloody Muslims." And such fears and naivety had been given more credibility by tinpot Ph.D. holders parading as experts on terrorism and gaining popularity and recognition to their otherwise obscure names and lifestyles.
The horrific attacks by 32 year old Norwegian Anders Behring provide us with very important lessons. You couldn't help but buy into the cunning conspiracies and speculations the so called experts on terrorism push down our throat every now and again. Upon hindsight, the attacks were no where near the trappings of Islamic Extremism especially after it emerged that Labour party Youths had been attacked. And the more clearer the picture became, the more commentators attempted, in their befuddlement, to still say "well yes he is Caucasian male, but he sure must have had links to al-Qaeda" especially with Oslo's large Pakistani population.
There is no history of Islamic Fundamentalists who have targeted political party institutions and attempted to obliterate as many future leaders as possible. We can take walk down memory lane and talk of the IRA in 1984 where Mrs. Thatcher was targeted at The Grand Hotel in Brighton. There was to be a Conservative Party gathering and the intention was to blow up Margaret Thatcher and bring down as many participants as possible.
The attacks in Norway had a similar pattern. The attacker had a bomb, and got as close as possible to the PM, detonated it with the view to killing the Norwegian PM, the Justice Minister whose office is close to that of the PM and to kill as many members of the party in government as possible. But as if that was not enough, he brazenly went to Utoya where over five hundred youths of the party in government were camping, and starting shooting innocent but politically conscious children - possible leaders of tomorrow's Norway..
Certainly, this was the work of someone local with a political axe to grind. The picture couldn't have been any clearer than this. Yet we saw this subtle attempt by so-called experts to irk Norwegians and incite them against foreigners.
We can also talk about the Gabrielle Giffords incident. She is the senior US politician who was recently shot in the head. I have heard a Swedish politician just this year, encourage Right Wing Extremism when he suggested that migrants, especially those from Africa, are more likely to rape and steal than people who are born in Sweden or Europe. We can talk about Konstantin Poltoranian, Spokesman for the Federal Migration Service in Russia. He said in April, before he was sacked, that "we want to make sure the mixing of blood happens in the right way here (in Russia)...what is now at stake is the survival of the white race"
The is no doubt that Right Wing extremism is on the rise in Europe and America. Clearly we have a twin brother of Islamic Extremism, which is the rise of Right Wing Extremism in Europe and America. The reality is, we are all in it together and the sooner we stopped stereotyping and dealt with the real issues, the better our chances of avoiding atrocities like 9/11 or the Friday massacre in Norway.
It is unfortunate to attempts to blind the world into thinking that Muslims and immigrants are responsible for the bad things in the World.
We have a problem when in a world with so much wealth for everyone, and abundant human and natural resources, people still live in poverty and in most cases entire families sleeping in just one tiny room. We have when the US with less than five percent of the world's total population consumes more than twenty-five percent of the world's resources.We have a problem when NATO decides to bomb Gaddafi out of Libya, and yet look on nonchalantly whilst Saudi Arabia oppresses her people in the same manner Libya is being accused of and we have a problem when corporate greed becomes the order of the day.
These are some of the issues that breed poverty in the South where people feel their only salvation is to come to the North to make a living, thereby putting pressures on the social systems of these Northern countries.
The Norwegian Prime Minister and his government deserve a lot of commendation. They have clearly showed why they are different and perhaps better than the rest of Europe. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and the Justice Minister, Knut Storbeget showed admirable leadership when they gave indications that Friday's cowardly act would not change Norwegian democracy, if anything, the attacks had fortified their resolve to make Norway more democratic, a free and a fair society.
As the world mourns with Norway, It would be difficult to justify giving Anders Breivik and his likes luxury facilities with the taxpayer's money. Prison in Norway is a luxury. But the state must ensure it doesn't set a bad precedence by pandering to this suspected murderer in the name of more democracy. If he's charged, tried and found guilty, Norwegians would understandably expect him to be severely punished. I don't know what form of severe punishment the perpetrator of this heinous crime may get as Norway abolished the death penalty in peacetime in 1902 and in wartime in 1979, the state owes it to the families of the victims to ensure that whoever is responsible for this would not be pampered with things like satellite television. That would certainly be a slap in the face of democracy.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."