Recent displays of right-wing extremism in Norway are raising concerns within the government, the police and among ordinary citizens from Kristiansand to Mjøndalen. Prime Minister Erna Solberg, meanwhile, was accused on Thursday of using “Trump rhetoric” after she compared right-wing extremists to the far left of Norwegian politics.
“Right-wing extremism and neo-nazis have a lot in common with the far left or religious extremism,” Solberg, who leads Norway’s Conservative Party and is in the midst of the current election campaign, wrote in a commentary in newspaper Dagbladet. “They stir up hatred, disparity and conflict in Norwegian society.”
That did not sit well with either the Reds party (Rødt) or the Socialist Left (SV), which both view themselves as making up Norway’s far left. Snorre Valen, a Member of Parliament for SV, called Solberg’s commenary “completely indefensible.” He claimed Solberg needs to take neo-nazism more seriously, referring to a Swedish neo-nazi group’s recent march in Kristiansand that police allowed to proceed.
“When uniformed nazis march in our streets, Norwegian Jews and homosexuals are under real threat,” Valen wrote on Twitter. “This is not an academic debate.”
Bjørnar Moxnes, leader of the Reds party, accused Solberg of bringing “Trump rhetoric” into the Norwegian election campaign. He was referring to the uproar in the US after US President Donald Trump failed to blame neo-nazis and white supremacists for the death of a young woman in Charlottesville, Virginia after a young white man believed to be a right-wing terrorist intentionally drove his car into a demonstrators marching against white supremacy. Nineteen others were injured, but Trump has claimed both sides were at fault.
That brought a rebuke from Solberg’s foreign minister, Børge Brende, who took the unusual step of criticizing the US president on social media. Neither Moxnes nor Valen appeared impressed. “No, Erna Solberg, it’s not true that we on the outer left have a lot in common with neo-nazis,” Moxnes wrote on Facebook. He also told state broadcaster NRK that “being extreme against racism is not the same as those who want to get rid of minorities.” He thinks it was “upsetting and disappointing that Solberg makes that sort of comparison.”
Henrik Asheim of the Conservatives called Valen’s and Moxnes’ reactions “absurd” and a “low point” in the election campaign. He claimed Solberg has been very clear about the need to fight right-wing extremism.
War memorial vandalized
Norway suffered one of the worst right-wing extremist attacks ever, when a young white Norwegian bombed government headquarters and massacred 69 people attending the Labour Party’s youth sumer camp. Calls have been going out this week that the incident in Charlottesville should be viewed as a new alarm about the dangers of right-wing extremism, which has been materializing again in Norway.
In addition to the march in Kristiansand, meetings of other right-wing extremist groups have been held in and around Oslo in recent months. The mayor of Arendal, which has been hosting a week of political gatherings this week, ordered an anti-Islamic group to dismantle their booth and leave town after its staffers became involved in fights around it.
On Thursday, NRK reported that a war memorial in the town of Mjøndalen, which commemorated 30 local residents seized by occupying Nazi German forces in 1943, was vandalized for the second time since it was erected just last fall. It was found Thursday with a red swastika painted over the text relating how some of those seized by the Nazis were executed. “We are shocked,” Ståle Berdal of the local historical association told NRK.
Movements may spread
Newspaper Dagsavisen reported this week how its editorial department received a politely written email from a man who claimed he was a political science student concentrating on immigration. His 23-page text called for a stop to all immigration to Norway on the grounds of racial IQ and because he contended some races are more violent than others.
Traffic to various right-wing Norwegian websites has also been growing, while so-called Internet trolls anonymously lash out against feminism, homosexuality and immigration in an attempt to intimidate opponents. “There is good reason to be concerned about radicalization in the direction of the extreme right also here at home,” wrote Dagsavisen’s debate editor Bente Gravklev. “This summer we have seen an increase in the spread of radical right-wing propaganda, and the rise of extremists who try to make their message acceptable by referring to questionable science and research.”
Norway’s police intelligence unit PST has been monitoring right-wing extremism on the grounds it can be as dangerous as Islamic extremism. Jakob Ravndal, a researcher at the University of Oslo (UiO), said there is potential for right-wing extremism to spread in Norway. He predicts growth of the new brand of extremists who shun uniforms, appear hip and deny their neo-nazis.
A recent survey by the Anti-Racism Center in Oslo, meanwhile, revealed that around 20 percent of minority youth have experienced “everyday racism” in Norway. One young woman, who was born in Oslo as the daughter of immigrants, recalled how an older white woman refused to be served by her when she worked in an Oslo bakery.
Others related how they were routinely stopped at border and customs controls while their white friends were not. Another young woman related how seventh-graders approached her on the school yard when she was in the second grade and demanded to know whether she was Jewish. While at university someone else asked her, “is it you that’s the Jew?” When she answered, “yes, I’m the Jew, is there something you wondered about,” she was told, “no, no, I just wanted to place you.”