UPDATED: Another politician from Norway’s immigration-skeptical Progress Party stirred controversy Friday afternoon, after he posted a message on social media saying that he “could almost understand that Swedish fool who ran amok at (a Swedish) school with a sword.” By Monday, he had left the party.
Claus Forberg, a substitute member of the city council in the southern coastal town of Kragerø, added that he only called the Swedish attacker a tulling (fool) because he wore a mask. Swedish police have characterized the attacks as “hate crimes,” with the victims targeted on the basis of their skin colour.
Shocked community and country
The 21-year-old Swede behind the attacks stabbed both a teacher and a teenage student to death on Thursday and wounded several others before he was shot by Swedish police and died from his wounds. The drama at the school in the Swedish city of Trollhättan shocked the community and the country, which is in the midst of dealing with a huge influx of refugees, mostly from the civil war in Syria.
In recent days, anti-immigration and right-wing groups in Sweden are believed to be behind a series of fires at schools and other abandoned public buildings that were being converted into asylum centers. Norwegian politician Forberg made his own remarks on a Facebook page called “Stop the extreme mass immigration” that’s closed to the general public.
Forberg expressed has no regrets over his remarks, which were immediately condemned by officials of his own party. Forberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that had could understand the feeling of powerlessness that some people may feel in the midst of the immigration influx, and which may have led to the school attacks.
Forberg claimed “it’s the politics that are conducted in Norway in Sweden,” where he claimed “people give in to muslims,” that can explain such attacks “The muslims are in the process of changing Norwegian society,” he claimed. He claimed that he can “write what I want on Facebook, and no one can my thoughts away from me.”
Asked whether he could understand that other Norwegians may react against such remarks made by a person holding elected office, Forberg replied: “No. It’s my actions that speak, not what I think.” He said he could also understand the ultra-right-wing Norwegian attacker who massacred Labour Party activists in 2011, but added that he thinks he was “crazy.”
Officials of the Progress Party’s local chapter in Kragerø immediately distanced themselves from Forberg’s remarks, calling them “completely unacceptable.” It’s not the first time Progress Party members have made remarks deemed offensive and even racist.
“We’ll have to take this up at our next board meeting in a week or two,” Torleif Fluer Vikre, leader of the party’s Kragerø chapter, told NRK on Friday. “I personally think it’s unacceptable to tie criminal acts to Norwegian politics.” Asked whether the party could support Forberg’s remarks, Vikre replied “In no way.”
It was initially unclear, however, what consequences the remarks would have for Forberg, who also sits on the board of the party’s local chapter. “It’s clear that this type of remarks are not a good card for continuing on the board, but that must be decided at the annual meeting,” Vikre said. “He (Forberg) better have a very good explanation to emerge from this without serious demerits.”
Officials at the national organization of the party, which shares state government power with the Conservatives, referred questions to the local chapter and otherwise declined comment as they gathered in Oslo for a national board meeting. On Monday, Vikre told ABC Nyheter that the “problem” with Forberg had now been solved.