Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, August 2011
Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg Urges Politicians, Journalists to Avoid Incitement By Thinking Before Speaking
Norway PM to politicians: Think before you speak
By KARL RITTER Associated Press
Aug 1, 2011, 10:45 AM EDT
Norway's prime minister on Monday called on political leaders to show restraint in their public speech as the country emerges from mourning the 77 victims of a bombing and youth camp massacre by an anti-Muslim extremist.
Jens Stoltenberg didn't single out anyone but seemed to be referring to sometimes harsh discussions on immigration when he told Parliament that the July 22 attacks gave reason to reflect on "what we have thought, said and written."
"We all have something to learn from the tragedy," he told lawmakers at a ceremony honoring the victims. "We can all have a need to say 'I was wrong,' and be respected for it."
That goes for politicians and newsroom editors, in everyday conversations and on the Internet, the prime minister said.
"Our promise is that we take with us the spirit of July 22 when political work resumes. We will behave with the same wisdom and respect as the Norwegian people," Stoltenberg said.
Norway's political parties have agreed to postpone campaigning for local elections in September until mid-August, as the nation mourns the eighth people killed in the Oslo bombing and the 69 victims of the shooting spree at an annual summer retreat held by the youth wing of the prime minister's Labor Party.
Confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik says his attacks were an attempt at cultural revolution, aimed at purging Europe of Muslims and punishing politicians that have embraced multiculturalism.
Though investigators believe the 32-year-old Norwegian acted alone, they are searching his computer and cell phone records for any signs of contact with other right-wing extremists who may have helped or influenced him, police attorney Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby said.
Law enforcement in other countries are assisting Norway, including in the United States, where authorities have interviewed Breivik's sister in Los Angeles, Kraby told The Associated Press.
Norwegian investigators have also spoken to Breivik's mother, who is in shock and has not requested to see him, Kraby said.
If tried and convicted of terrorism, Breivik will face up to 21 years in prison or an alternative custody arrangement that could keep him behind bars indefinitely.
Most Norwegians believe criminals get off too easy, according to a poll published Monday in Norwegian newspaper VG. More than 65 percent said sentences for the most serious crimes are too soft, while 24 percent said they are sufficient and only 2 percent said they were too harsh.
The rest were undecided in the July 28 telephone survey of 1,283 people by InFact. The margin of error was 2.8 percentage points.
The scope of the tragedy continues to haunt Norway, more than a week later, as victims from the youth camp massacre are being buried across the country.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attended a funeral Monday for Gizem Dogan, a 17-year-old girl of Turkish origin, who was among the shooting victims on Utoya island. Hundreds of people gathered for the ceremony in Trondheim, on Norway's west coast, which was held on a soccer field because the local mosque was too small.
The attacks were unprecedented in peaceful Norway. But Breivik's anti-Muslim rants on political blogs didn't attract much attention before the attacks, showing how common such views have become.
Norway's Progress Party, the country's biggest mainstream voice against immigration, has confirmed that Breivik used to be a member of the party. It strongly condemned his actions and voiced its sympathies for the Labor Party in the aftermath of the attacks.
In his manifesto, Breivik said he left the Progress Party because they were too moderate and he no longer believed in stopping immigration of Muslims by democratic means.
At the ceremony Monday, Parliament speaker Dag Terje Andersen read the names of the victims as lawmakers, Cabinet ministers, King Harald and Crown Prince Haakon stood in silence.
Stoltenberg said Aug. 21 would be a national memorial day to commemorate the victims.
Associated Press writer Ian MacDougall contributed to this report.
Norway soul-searches on crime after rampage
By Walter Gibbs and Terje Solsvik
OSLO | Mon Aug 1, 2011 12:31pm EDT
OSLO (Reuters) -
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg urged parliament Monday to preserve the democratic values of Norway as public pressure grew for stiffer sentences for serious crimes after an anti-immigration zealot's bloody rampage.
In a poll of nearly 1,300 people taken six days after the attacks that left Norwegians devastated, 65.5 percent said penalties were "too low" and 23.8 percent were happy with them, the Verdens Gang paper reported. More than half said their view had hardened since the mayhem that claimed 77 lives.
Anders Behring Breivik, 32, who confessed to the July 22 bombing in Oslo and shooting spree on a nearby island, was charged by police with terrorism which carries a sentence of up to 21 years. This can be extended.
The case has caused public debate about the state of society in affluent Norway with politicians and voters scrutinizing crime and punishment as well as immigration and tolerance.
"We must listen and have a debate, while not drawing hasty conclusions ... It's important that policy isn't shaped in a state of panic," said Justice Minister Knut Storberget, who also told VG he was "not surprised" by calls for stricter laws.
At a special session of parliament Stoltenberg Monday commended Norwegians for their self-control in the 10 days since the worst attack on the normally peaceful Nordic nation since World War Two, saying they had renewed their commitment to an open society.
The broader aim of Breivik's attacks was to save Europe from "cultural Marxism" and "Muslim invasion," according to a manifesto published hours before the killings. The majority of the victims were teenagers at a Labor Party youth summer camp.
Many Norwegians have expressed relief that Breivik seems to have been a lone, home-grown fanatic rather than an envoy of a broader militant group. Many compare him to Timothy McVeigh who killed 168 people with a truck bomb in Oklahoma City in 1995.
"SHOCK, FEAR AND DESPAIR"
"Everyone had to choose their own path in a landscape filled by shock, fear and despair," Stoltenberg said. "But the Norwegian people found their way home again."
Stoltenberg said many Norwegians may now wish they had positioned themselves differently on issues like immigration and tolerance but he urged parliamentarians to steer clear of measures that would curtail the country's democratic freedoms.
"I would like to ask from this podium that we avoid starting a witch-hunt on expression," he said.
The government also said it would hold a national ceremony of remembrance in Oslo on August 21, inviting relatives, survivors and rescue workers to the event.
Police said more than 200 witnesses have so far been interviewed and that Breivik himself faced more questioning this week that will be "more confrontational" than previous sessions.
"It's way to soon to say anything about whether he is insane or sane," said police prosecutor Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kragy, adding: "That is for the psychologists to decide and we will await their investigation."
If deemed a continuing danger to society Breivik could face an additional series of five-year protective custody sentences, and some have called for charges related to crimes against humanity that could give an initial sentence of up to 30 years.
Researchers doubt Breivik's claims that he is part of a wider far-right network of anti-Islam "crusaders," seeing them as empty bragging by a psychopathic fantasist who has written that exaggeration is a way to sow confusion among investigators.
SENTENCING AND SURVEILLANCE
Hanne Marthe Narud, a political scientist at the University of Oslo, said Norway's parliament was likely to stand against immediate public calls for harsher sentencing and more surveillance.
"A lot of these attitudes we see now are reflections of the terror event," she told Reuters, referring to the VG poll.
"I don't think the politicians will change legislation on this point as a spontaneous reaction. It may be considered, but there will be a broad debate first."
She said Norway was unlikely to see tougher security laws along the lines of the U.S. Patriot Act, which the U.S. Congress passed after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"In 2001 it was as though someone had declared war against the United States, which al Qaeda and other groups had actually done," she said.
"This by contrast appears to be the act of one person who is sick or has his mind in a bubble. You can't really do legislation based on events like we have had in Norway."
She said public opinion has long favored stricter punishment for violent crimes while parliament has resisted cracking down.
Per Sandberg, chairman of the parliament's Justice Committee, said stiffer sentencing would be on the agenda when party leaders resumed debate later this month.
"I am sure when we come to August 15 the political discussion will be about sentences, searches by the police and everything else around this case," Sandberg told Reuters.
"My party has always wanted that. I believe there will be new measures."
Sandberg's right-wing Progress Party is an anti-immigration, anti-tax party that favors stricter prison terms for violent crimes.
(Additional reporting by Victoria Klesty, Joachim Dagenborg and Elinor Schang, Editing by Peter Millership and Jon Boyle)
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