The immigration topic is popular all around the world, not just in the United States. Particularly in Europe, where jihadist terrorism has left permanent scars, the humanitarian entrance of Middle East immigrants has triggered quite a debate on every country’s security measures and sleeping terrorist cells. This time, the debate reached Norway, a country known for its people’s happiness and, more recently, for an almost collapsing government. How did this happen? Let’s just say it has something to do with a Facebook comment by Sylvi Listhaug and a political party.
Anders Breivik: It Started July 2011
Before explaining the recent Norwegian government issues, we have to talk about what happened on July 22, 2011.
The name Anders Behring Breivik probably rings a bell or two. In 2011, Anders Breivik, who is also known by the pseudonym Andrew Berwick, detonated a van bomb and killed 8 people in Oslo. After that, he shot dead 69 participants of AUF, the largest Norwegian political youth organization (affiliated with the Norwegian Labour Party).
After a long trial, Anders Breivik got a 21-year sentence; even though he got diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, many psychiatrists affirmed that he wasn’t psychotic during the attacks, so he was fully responsible for the death of those 77 people.
These attacks hit Norway’s heart deep, so much that even today, they still hit a nerve.
What’s Happening Now?
The Norwegian Labour Party was founded in 1887, it has social-democratic ideals and quite a catchy slogan: “everyone shall take part”. They believe Norway should open their doors to asylum seekers, especially minors, but they also insist that this welcoming process should stick to the law and that temporary residency should not be granted to everyone.
Here is where Sylvi Listhaug comes in, the former Minister of Justice, Public Security and Immigration and member of the Progress Party. She tried to pass a bill that, basically, gave the authorities the right, with or without judicial review, to strip individuals under suspicion of terrorism or the ones who were part of terrorist organizations (willingly or not) of their Norwegian citizenship.
Of course, the Labour Party voted against it and, in response, Sylvi Listhaug posted a picture of masked people clad in military clothes, wearing scarves and heavily armed on Facebook with the words:
“Labour thinks terrorists’ rights are more important than the nation’s security. Like and Share”.
Norway: A Government Nearing Collapse
The Christian Democrat Party of Norway heavily criticized Listhaug’s words and even said they had no confidence in the Justice Minister, calling for a vote that almost took down the center-right government.
In attempts to calm the storm, Sylvi Listhaug formally apologized for her words, but the association of the Anders Breivik’s killing and the insinuation on her post had already damaged her image and her party’s, especially because it brought back the talks on Anders Breivik being part of the Progress Party before committing the murders.
It was all settled with a vote for a no-confidence motion against Sylvi Listhaug, kicking her out of Parliament, meant the Conservative Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, would run out of representation, allowing Jonas Gahr Støre, member of the Labour Party, to form a coalition that would take down Solberg’s government.
Sylvi Listhaug: An Attack on Free Speech
To avoid The Progress Party to lose power, Sylvi Listhaug announced her resignation last week. Apparently, it was a decision she took by herself. But she didn’t leave without replying to this situation:
“The last weeks have been completely surreal. A Facebook post, which had nothing to do with July 22 and which I apologized for posting, has turned Norwegian politics into a kindergarten. So I believe it’s my responsibility to act as an adult. I have experienced this as a pure witch hunt.”
She also accused the Labour and the Christian Democrat parties of not being tolerant enough and plotting against free speech.
On the one hand, she is now quite despised by many people for her words, but on the other hand, she is also seen as one of the few politicians willing to tell “the truth” about the dangers associated with welcoming asylum seekers.
The important thing about this story is that freedom of speech does not work as a curtain for harsh comments. Sylvi Listhaug may be right when trying to clean Norway’s image of associating terrorists with their nationality, but accusing another party of welcoming terrorists is a different thing.