Anders Behring Breivik’s brutal attacks in Norway last month followed widespread scapegoating of Muslims.
As Randi, a public sector worker from Norway’s capital Oslo, explained, “The people at the top made the attacks possible.
“It has become mainstream to say that Muslims cause the problems in society.
“This has given rise to fascist and Islamophobic ideas—the right wing Progress Party got 23 percent in parliamentary elections in 2009.”
The mainstream acceptability of Islamophobia has angered many in Norway.
Tim said, “The first response after the killings was shock—but after that came anger.
“The attacks were the work of one man. But the ideas that informed and inspired him were not the ideas of one man.
“Hatred, division and racism towards Muslims and immigrants are a very dangerous element in mainstream politics throughout Western Europe.”
Norway has a very different racial make up to Britain. It has had limited immigration, although this has begun to change over the past 20 years.
Many people are thankful for that.
Randi tries to describe Norwegian society. “It is nothing compared to east London, but there are whole parts of life that are genuinely multicultural,” she said.
“My union, the biggest public sector union, has members from all over the world.
“The victims of the massacre are culturally diverse. It is this diversity that is under attack.”
Tim agreed. “Norway has changed a lot in 20 years. We can now talk about a genuine multicultural society. But that is something we have to fight for and defend.”
He said that Breivik’s attacks have raised wider issues.
“We have to answer questions like, do we see multiculturalism as a good thing or a bad thing? We have to answer unequivocally that it’s a good thing.
“Multiculturalism, and immigration, are not the problem. The problem is racism and Islamophobia.”
Not everyone sees things so clearly.
“Some on the left have been ideologically weak and haven’t been able to face the attacks head on,” Randi said.
But things are starting to change.
The left recently mobilised enough people on the streets to keep the fascists from marching through Oslo.
And trade unionists are articulating ordinary people’s anger and frustrations.
Tim said, “We are active in the trade union movement—that is where we are trying to organise and politicise the events that we have witnessed.
“Racist ideas have to be opposed. The Oslo TUC is now agitating against Islamophobia.
“We need a huge mobilisation in Norway, not simply against right wing extremists and terror—but a labour movement response about what we are for.
“We have a vision for a big demo for solidarity and increased, genuine multiculturalism.
“The attack is an attack on democracy and on the working class.”