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The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in Europe The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in Europe

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Homepage / Foreign Affairs

The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in Europe

July 24, 2011

As Norway struggles to recover from the horrific attacks that left 93 dead on Friday, the media has struggled to explain the motivations of the massacre's perpetrator, the Christian fundamentalist Anders Behring Breivik, who apparently carried out the mass murders fueled by anti-Islamic sentiment. The Foreigner reports from Norway on Breivik's 1,517-page manifesto, much of which was copied from the Unabomber, that he published the day of the attacks. In the manifesto, Breivik writes that Oslo Muslims "have transformed my beloved Oslo into a multicultural shithole.” Breivik writes that he began planning the attacks nine years ago. He was an active member of the Far-Right Progress Party’s youth movement (FpU) at the time.

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Norway is still in shock. CNN reports that for Norwegians, "there is a sense they have woken up in a country that has 'lost its innocence,'" adding that "with a population of 4.7 million concentrated in the south, Norway's people pride themselves on their progressive, open society." Siri Gulestad, head of clinical psychology at the University of Oslo, told CNN that she doesn't believe Norwegians will respond to the attacks by calling for police to be armed or by calling for tighter security measures: "We won't be asking for extra security -- that would have been much more the case if it (the attacks) had been linked to international terrorism."

 

But, countering this vision, the New York Times has published a report on a much darker side to Norway -- and Europe in general -- focusing on rising right-wing extremism and Islamophobia. "Last November a Swedish man was arrested in the southern city of Malmö in connection with more than a dozen unsolved shootings of immigrants, including one fatality. The shootings, nine of which took place between June and October 2010, appeared to be the work of an isolated individual. More broadly in Sweden, though, the far-right Sweden Democrats experienced new success at the polls. The party entered Parliament for the first time after winning 5.7 percent of the vote in the general election last September."

What has contributed to the rise of right-wing sentiment? According to the Times, there are a few factors. For one, increased migration "helped lay the groundwork for a nationalist, at times starkly chauvinist, revival." Moreover, in recent years, "far-right statements have appeared to lose much of their post-World War II taboo even among some prominent political parties." Finally, there is a focus (in both Europe and the U.S.) on Islamic terrorists, which has led to overlooking domestic radicals.

The jarring thing about far-right sentiment is that it has entered the political mainstream, in places such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, and throughout Europe. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, and Prime Minister David Cameron in Britain "all recently declared an end to multiculturalism. Multiculturalism 'has failed, utterly failed,' Mrs. Merkel told fellow Christian Democrats last October, though stressing that immigrants were welcome in Germany." France has a ban on Muslim girls wearing a headscarf in public schools. And earlier this month, "the daily newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported that neo-Nazis were attacking the offices of the far-left Left Party with increasing frequency."

It is yet to be determined whether or not Breivik in Norway acted alone, as he has claimed, according to the BBC.

"Norway has had problems with neo-Nazi groups in the past but the assumption was that such groups had been largely eliminated and did not pose a significant threat, says the BBC's Richard Galpin." Whether or not Breivik acted alone or is a madman, the rise of far-right beliefs in mainstream politics will have its own dire consequences. "I think he's realized what he's done, and he views himself as sane," Breivik's lawyer said. "He's stated that he went to Utoeya to give the Labour Party a warning that 'doomsday would be imminent' unless the party changed its policies."

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