A Norwegian View on the 'Mutation of Jihad'

By James Fallows

A Norwegian friend whom my wife and I have known since he came to the U.S. for graduate school in the 1970s writes about the events in his homeland. Note the difference between his concern about and interpretation of the spread of the "jihad" mentality to anti-immigrant and racist groups, in contrast to some of the kneejerk attributions of blame immediately after the attack (as Steve Clemons has discussed just now):

>>I've been following the Norwegian coverage of the bombings and shootings over the past 12 hours with special interest, not just because I am Norwegian, but I have many friends and colleagues working in the media group whose offices are adjacent to the government buildings that were demolished....

I think what we are seeing is a mutation of Al Quaeda / Jihadist tactics, to domestic political action, and the surprise is that it happened in peaceful Norway. (Yes, there was McVeigh and Oklahoma city, but it feels different, and maybe it is different just because it happened before 9/11).  The international press reporting on this is still confused, and I think the Norwegian press is hesitant to express what may be obvious to them --- maybe out of a feeling of shame.  

Here's my read on the story: Anders Behring Breivik looks like (and has the profile of) the prototypical "west end" Oslo'er.  Like (too) many of the inhabitants of the Norwegian capital, where more than 25% of the inhabitants are immigrants, he turns into a racist. For most, racism is a mental state, but not for him. And. in the absence of a party like the Front National in France, where the need for votes imposes restraints on extremism, he becomes an individual host for the Al Qaeda gene [attracted simply by it's ability to project the voice of a minority, cf. his John Stuart Mills tweet], and in a completely open society he is free to develop and execute his plans at leisure (the only hitch being that the Labour Party youth summer camp coincides with the July "national" vacation month so you can't get maximum impact in both venues).

I hope that in Norway, the effect of yesterday, will be that any kind of racist tendency will be abhorred even by those who dreamed of a less diverse, and thus less complicated, society. They may have lived with this dream were it not for the ugliness of yesterday's crimes.  

But I fear that the virus of "jihadism" may spread to extremist national politics in other countries.  Let's hope not.<<

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/07/a-norwegian-view-on-the-mutation-of-jihad/242403/