A former Supreme Court justice claims in a new book that Norway’s justice ministry and politicians allow themselves to be used by the country’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste), to raise fear of Muslims to artificially high levels.
Ketil Lund, who retired from the high court in 2009, also once headed a commission appointed by parliament to investigate Norway’s hemmelige tjenester (literally, secret intelligence-gathering services like today’s PST) and surveillance methods. The so-called Lund Commission was critical at the time and Lund himself remains so today.
Newspaper Dagsavisen reported Wednesday that Lund writes in his new book that “If I were a Muslim, I would feel uneasy, yes, even under suspicion, simply for being a Muslim.” The book, entitled Politiledelse (Police management), was released earlier this week.
At a time when Muslims have been attacked on Oslo streets and are a target of hatred also in Norway, Lund continues to fight surveillance and suggests that the justice ministry and police are steered by PST’s own fear, leading them to impose new measures that violate individual privacy. Muslims, he believes, are especially affected.
He writes that surveillance today isn’t only directed at “a few” Islamic extremists but also at their “recruiting grounds” within the Muslim community. That, he fears, can hurt integration of immigrants in Norway.
Fear of failure to avert terrorism
Nearly 20 years after the Lund Commission revealed illegal surveillance of Norwegian citizens, Lund himself worries about “a chronic uneasiness in all of us.” That uneasiness is driven by PST, politicians, the media and the general public, based on “so-called terror experts who constantly claim that the threat from radical Islamists is rising.” He notes that the current, and controversial, arming of police is a result of last summer’s terror alarm from PST, and that PST is itself driven by its own fear of criticism if it fails to avert another terrorist attack. The devastating one on July 22, 2011 was carried out by a young, white ultra-right-wing extremist, not Muslims.
PST itself objected to Lund’s description of the anti-terror police. Martin Bernsen, a spokesman for PST, contended that PST “has never been more open than it is today,” and added it was “sad” that Lund claims PST is stigmatizing Muslims.
“What does Ketil Lund know about how PST has fended off terrorist attacks in Norway?” Bernsen asked. “PST has changed greatly regarding its function, organization and competence.” He said PST can’t be blamed if some Muslims feel they’re under suspicion.
“An Islamic terrorist attack will first and foremost hurt Norwegian Muslims because of increased Islam-phobia and hate crimes,” he added. “That’s not least why it’s so important to avert terror before it happens, not clarify it after lives have been lost.”