Norway: a horrendous tragedy

On Friday, Norway was the victim of twin attacks. A massive car bomb ripped through the government district in Oslo, close to the offices of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, killing seven people. Hours later, a nearby island summer camp for the youth wing of the ruling Labour Party, AUF, was attacked by a lone gunman who managed to shoot at least 85 people. So far, 92 people have lost their lives. Prime Minister Stoltenberg termed it a “national tragedy”. He said, “Last night, it became apparent that what happened at the Labour Youth League summer camp on Ut√łya was a national tragedy. Not since the Second World War has the country experienced such an atrocity. It is incomprehensible. It is like a nightmare.” A 32-year-old Norwegian man, Anders Brehing Breivik, was arrested and charged. The Guardian reported that Breivik “boasted online about his discussions with the far right English Defence League and other anti-Islamic European organisations”. This is indeed a new development.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani strongly condemned the horrendous terrorist attacks in Norway. In separate messages to the Norwegian leadership, both the president and the prime minister conveyed the complete solidarity of the people of Pakistan with the Norwegian people. Since Pakistan has seen countless terrorist attacks in recent years, the people of Pakistan can understand the pain of the Norwegian nation. Norway is not a usual target and the perpetrator is not from the usual cast of suspects either. This incident is something new altogether. It shows that terrorism has crossed all faiths and boundaries. Terrorism is now emerging as a fascist phenomenon all over the world in all hues and colours. Norway is a very open and peaceful society. Thus it was all the more shocking that such a country was targeted. It was indeed Norway’s 9/11. The world has shown solidarity with Norway in this trying time and offered its full support to its people.

On Friday we saw many ‘experts’ speculating that al Qaeda could be behind the twin attacks but their claims fell flat after further news and information about the incident came out. It is these knee-jerk reactions and stereotyping of ‘Islamic terrorism’ that makes Muslims all over the world quite apprehensive whenever terror strikes somewhere. Europol – the European police agency – is now setting up a task force of more than 50 experts to help northern European countries investigate non-Islamic terror threats. “There is no doubt that the threat from Islamist terrorism is still valid,” Europol’s spokesperson Soeren Pedersen, said. “But there have actually been warnings that (right-wing groups) are getting more professional, more aggressive in the way they attract others to their cause.”

Terrorism is no respecter of borders or religions. No doubt most terrorist attacks in recent years were committed by al Qaeda and its affiliated groups, but this does not mean that Muslims as a community support terrorism. Islam is a religion of peace and denounces the killing of even one human being as the death of entire humanity. The west should now, as Europol is doing, look keenly at non-Islamic terror and also Islamophobia. There are extremists in the west who consider Islam a threat and Muslims their enemies. This kind of thinking also has to change. The world must unite to fight terror but not label every terrorist attack, even those committed by al Qaeda, as ‘Islamic terrorism’. Terrorism, as Norway proves, has no religion.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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