Norway the Victim. Norway the Perpetrator.

EDITORIAL, 1 Aug 2011

#175 | Johan Galtung - TRANSCEND Media Service

Anders Breivik was driven by a calling to save christianity–catholic essentially–from a European civil war with islam.  Islam enters Europe on roads paved by multiculturalism, built by social democrats–like the Workers’ Youth League (Arbeidernes ungdomsfylking, AUF) at Utöya.  Dialogue with an implacable, fanatic enemy is impossible.  Violence against government quarters, and massacre of young supporters, however regrettable, was necessary.  Norway, Europe needed a wake-up call to return to its origins.

These three crazy articles of faith found an evil terrorist carrier?  Oh yes, but those words serve as a road sign, “no further thinking needed”.  That is not the way to handle a catastrophe, only a lazy, easy, way out.  Instead we have to ask trying questions:

Is there something to it?  What does this remind us of?  And how do we prevent a repeat (a coup in the USA may be very close)?

Of course there is something to it.  There are acts of war in Europe, by islamists, by islamophobes.  They feed into each other.  A society open to immigrants, and basically tolerant, is vulnerable.  And there will always be fundamentalist carriers of deep intolerance, however tolerant may be the rest of society; be they loners or well linked.  Problematic.  But not more than a reasonably competent police–open or secret–can handle; a commodity Norway does not seem to have. Maybe the heads of the police directorate and of the security police should have resigned by now? Or, if not, have been invited to do so?

But these are small ripples on the tsunami that hit Norway, like whether or not Breivik cooperated with one or two more “cells”.  The next question is worse: what does this remind us of?

Yes, this neo-fascism is reminiscent of nazism, with culture instead of race, multiculturalism instead of miscegenation, anti-islamism instead of anti-semitism.  Very old figures in European thought, and not only in Europe.  An updating of an old, bad, story.

But there is another answer that will now cause tremors deeper than the massacre itself in the Norwegian body politic: it reminds us of ourselves.  Breivik becomes a mirror reflecting ourselves.  Had he been darker skinned with a beard—let’s stop there.  But he was light-skinned, blond, blue-eyed, christian.  We see ourselves.  And looking more closely we see Norwegian sharp shooters and gunners in tanks, with the sickening idea that democracy serves as a license to kill in Afghanistan, and for massive bombing by Norwegian bombers in Libya.  The acts are disturbingly similar.  Not easily processed.

By what theory-ideology-manifesto does Norway do this?

“When NATO goes in we go in, when NATO goes out we go out.” “When the UN Security Council so mandates–.”  Authoritarianism, hiding under the top of US-Europe.  And what theory do they have?

Not merely a European but a world civil war, Bernard Lewis’ clash of civilizations wrongly attributed to Samuel Huntington.  Dialogue is impossible, the Taliban–like Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda–are autistic terrorists, living in their bubbles.  Violence is regrettable–and there may be collateral damage–but necessary.  From a failed state they want to conquer the world.  Build a new state, like Norway with democracy and civil society.  And Breivik?

European civil war=world clash of civilizations; AUF=Taliban?; violence is necessary, become like me-us.  Depressingly similar. If one is crazy, so is the other.  If one is terrorist so is the other.  Breivik hides under God and History; Norway under NATO and UNSC.  A comfort for the bereaved anywhere who lost their beloved ones?

There will be thunderous the two are entirely different! to deafen that little inner voice saying maybe not that different.  But some will have the heart to reach out to the bereaved–by Norwegian bullets and bombs–in muslim countries, and see the Norwegian prime-foreign-defense ministers’ faces next to Breivik’s in the mirror.

A deep victim-perpetrator double bond is a deep trauma.

What to do?  Let the hypocrisy surface, take it in, take it on.  With two road-signs guiding us: one dialogical, one theological.

Democracy is the setting, and multi-party election every four years is only a minor part.  Better information; less Murdoch, more diversity. More transparency: no major foreign policy decision in parliament behind closed doors, escaping challenges!  Premises, not only conclusions, please!  What do decision-makers know, what is their theory?  Do they know muslim versions of past, present and future?  What were the alternatives?  Did the parties do their job, not only moralizing and critiquing, but having constructive ideas?

More dialogues, meeting, exploring, and challenging a Breivik, exploring the consequences of his thinking, using Golden Rule or Kant or Ten Commandments or Sura 8:61 or the 8-fold path; whatever; not lazy self-righteous tolerance celebrating freedom of expression.  Beware: those people are well prepared, hard-working.  Be the same.

Reach across borders to muslim countries, badly hit by the West in the last centuries.  Reflect.  Repent.  Listen.  Solve. Do not kill.

Theology is the knowledge of God, different at different times and spaces.  The cultures we talk about are religions.  Search, and you will find jewels in them all; focus on them, see the gems in the eyes of your next, let him see yours.  Dialogos, theologos.  We are mourning, in churches, some in mosques–how about mourning together? The mezquita in Córdoba, with muslim service on Fridays, christian on Sundays, joint services on Saturdays?  And in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, building on Erdögan-Zapatero Alliance of Civilizations?

Whites and blacks worked together in Southern USA at great risks; moving the USA forward.  Show islamophobes, like Breivik, in Oslo, in Washington, and islamists, that dialogue and cooperation are possible. Invite them to join.  Moving the world forward.

* For solutions West-Islam see 50 Years: 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives, chapters 81-90; for going beyond religious divides see (with Graeme MacQueen)
Globalizing God: Religion, Spirituality and Peace, both TRANSCEND University Press, 2008,


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Aug 2011.

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7 Responses to “Norway the Victim. Norway the Perpetrator.”

  1. judith scheer says:

    Talking about religions: so the prayer service could perfectly be held in a synagogue! On shabbat day prayers..great idea, let’s make it happen

  2. I agree with Mr. galtung.

  3. Ola Bog says:

    Wise words. While stupid Norwegian politicians want to withdraw wagames from the stores – yes, Breivik played such games. How about withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan – in reality ..
    Ola Bog, Oslo, Norway

  4. satoshi says:

    Is Breivik a Christian terrorist? Is he imitating an Islamic terrorist? Is he a Christian Bin Laden? Was Bin Laden Breivik’s “teacher”? Both of them conveyed their messages in the form of violence. No thank you. Unfortunately, it seems that many more Breiviks and Bin Landens are waiting to be emerged.

    In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, they all greet “Peace be with you.” Stop greeting, “Violence be with you.”

    May Prof. Galtung’s messages in his editorial be manifested at every corner of the world.

  5. Marcel says:

    Thank you for wise words. I want to add some of my thoughts.

    First regarding the ideology and it’s roots. The so-called “clash of the cultures” is of huge interest for Israel. It’s understandable therefore, that it’s flames are fanned from stunch supporters of Israel. If there is a “clash of the cultures” – jewish-christian against muslim – then Israel will get lot’s of support to be defended as the outpost of “jewish-christian culture” in mostly islamic western Asia.

    Bernard Lewis was a stunch zionist coming forward with that theory, but not the first. Theodor Herzl himself noted this logic in his 1896 book “Der Judenstaat” as following:

    “We should there form a portion of a rampart of
    Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.”

    As far as I know, Herzl didn’t invent that logic neither. As far as I know – sorry I don’t have a source at the moment – it was designed a couple of decades earlier by christian anti-Semitic British colonialists, who wanted to catch two birds with one stone: get rid of jews in Britain and strengthen the colonial British grip on western Asia. The ideology of German Nazism was based on a world view very similar to this.

    What we see in the attacks looks to me in part like a blowback of promoting that old world view.

    Second, the ethics. Regarding Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber, one can read in the Wikipedia:

    “In interviews before his execution, documented in American Terrorist, McVeigh stated he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war and celebrated. But he said he later was shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners and to see carnage on the road leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army.”

    In Breivik’s manifesto one can read:

    “Q: What tipped the scales for you? What single event made you decide you wanted to continue planning and moving on with the assault?

    A: For me, personally, it was my government’s involvement in the attacks on Serbia (NATO bombings in 1999) several years back. It was completely unacceptable how the US and Western European regimes bombed our Serbian brothers.”

    In the book religions civilization there is an important rule, which Johan Galtung correctly cited: “Though shall not kill!”

    For me it pretty much looks like that a society which kills other people with levity not only kills other people but also puts itself in jeopardy. See the quotes of Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik. What’s the moral compass of society where the rule “Though shall not kill!” is not followed? Does anyone really believe that breaking that wise and thousands of years old rule – by it’s leaders and with impunity – will have no grave consequences for the killing society?

    Third, possible future steps to do better:

    Bring more effect and attention to the rule “Though shall not kill!” Some times it may be morally justified to kill other people – self defense is such a case. But what is going on in the wars of the world at the moment is something diffrent. It’s mostly conquering foreign territory, submission of foreign people and gaining economical advantages.

    “Though shall not kill!” Killing other people will not only destroy your victims but may also destroy yourself.

    It would become a better world when people stopped killing other people with levity. If there is anything good come out from Breivik’s crime, than if more people would understand that and act accordingly.

    Just my 2 Cents.

  6. […] Posted by N4CM Opinion 14 Aug 2011 By Johan Galtung, Ph.D | 1 August 2011 TRANSCEND Media Service […]