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NORWAY TERROR ATTACKS

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How the far-right found a voice in tolerant Nordic countries

A far-right that vaunts anti-immigration, Islamophobia and the welfare state has taken hold in Nordic countries, playing on the fears of societies that are less and less blond and blue eyed, AFP's Marc Preel writes.

How the far-right found a voice in tolerant Nordic countries

While his acts are beyond conventional politics, self-confessed Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, a man proud of his Viking roots, has been influenced by the far-right ideology that has risen over the last 15 years.

Behring Breivik told Monday’s closed-door court hearing that he wanted his attacks that killed 76 to send a strong signal to the left-wing Norwegian government to stop “the deconstruction of Nordic culture and the mass importing of Muslims.”

“Breivik is of course alone in his extremism, in his crimes,” the head of Oslo’s anti-racism centre Kari Helene Partapuoli told AFP.

“But it’s also interesting to see that he evolved in a certain socio-political context, that this shooting spree is not a coincidence. He hasn’t come from a vacuum.”

The populist right-wing Norwegian Progress Party “has been very talented at steering the public debate” including by stigmatising Muslims and foreigners, she says.

There were almost no non-Europeans communities in Nordic countries until the 1970s and 80s, but since then they have become home to hundreds of thousands who fled conflict zones such as the former Yugoslavia, Somalia or Kurdistan.

Sweden has for instance welcomed more refugees from Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion than all the big European nations combined, according to the Swedish Migration Authority.

In Oslo, the most common first name given to babies in 2010 was Mohammed.

The proportion of people born abroad is now over 10 percent in Sweden and Norway and around eight percent in Denmark. In Oslo that rises to 27 percent

and over 80 percent in certain Swedish suburbs, according to official estimates.

Having started in Denmark at the end of the 1990s, the rise of the populist and anti-immigration right seemed to be unstoppable.

“But the feeling of xenophobia didn’t increase, on the contrary it sometimes went down, it’s more like a crafty political use has been made of it,” said Ulf Bjereld, political scientist at Sweden’s Gothenburg University.

The Norwegian Progress Party, of which Behring Breivik was a member for several years until he left because he found it too moderate, has become the second biggest party with 23 percent of the vote in the last elections.

The party’s leader Siv Jensen has made “rampant Islamisation” one of her favourite bugbears.

In Denmark, a minority liberal-conservative government has since 2001 needed the support in parliament of the Danish People’s Party, giving the right-wing group an ideal launchpad for its ideas.

The Swedish Democrats party (slogan: “Keep Sweden Swedish”) got into parliament in September, causing a political earthquake that was repeated seven months later in Finland when the “True Finns” got 19 percent of the vote.

The Nordic far-right is now so entrenched in the political establishment that experts say the “extreme” label is no longer suitable.

“They’re established, they’re now part of the mainstream,” Anders Hellström, a Swedish specialist in nationalist and populist movements, told AFP recently.

However, the radical fringe of the extreme right is “scattered, without real structure,” said French Scandinavia expert Cyril Coulet.

“In Norway, there are people linked to social networks, small groups of skinheads who carry out attacks on foreigners, like elsewhere in Scandinavia,” he said.A far-right that vaunts anti-immigration, Islamophobia and the welfare state has taken hold in Nordic countries, playing on the fears of societies that are less and less blond and blue eyed, AFP’s Marc Preel writes.

While his acts are beyond conventional politics, self-confessed Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, a man proud of his Viking roots, has been influenced by the far-right ideology that has risen over the last 15 years.

Behring Breivik told Monday’s closed-door court hearing that he wanted his attacks that killed 76 to send a strong signal to the left-wing Norwegian government to stop “the deconstruction of Nordic culture and the mass importing of Muslims.”

“Breivik is of course alone in his extremism, in his crimes,” the head of Oslo’s anti-racism centre Kari Helene Partapuoli told AFP.

“But it’s also interesting to see that he evolved in a certain socio-political context, that this shooting spree is not a coincidence. He hasn’t come from a vacuum.”

The populist right-wing Norwegian Progress Party “has been very talented at steering the public debate” including by stigmatising Muslims and foreigners, she says.

There were almost no non-Europeans communities in Nordic countries until the 1970s and 80s, but since then they have become home to hundreds of thousands who fled conflict zones such as the former Yugoslavia, Somalia or Kurdistan.

Sweden has for instance welcomed more refugees from Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion than all the big European nations combined, according to the Swedish Migration Authority.

In Oslo, the most common first name given to babies in 2010 was Mohammed.

The proportion of people born abroad is now over 10 percent in Sweden and Norway and around eight percent in Denmark. In Oslo that rises to 27 percent

and over 80 percent in certain Swedish suburbs, according to official estimates.

Having started in Denmark at the end of the 1990s, the rise of the populist and anti-immigration right seemed to be unstoppable.

“But the feeling of xenophobia didn’t increase, on the contrary it sometimes went down, it’s more like a crafty political use has been made of it,” said Ulf Bjereld, political scientist at Sweden’s Gothenburg University.

The Norwegian Progress Party, of which Behring Breivik was a member for several years until he left because he found it too moderate, has become the second biggest party with 23 percent of the vote in the last elections.

The party’s leader Siv Jensen has made “rampant Islamisation” one of her favourite bugbears.

In Denmark, a minority liberal-conservative government has since 2001 needed the support in parliament of the Danish People’s Party, giving the right-wing group an ideal launchpad for its ideas.

The Swedish Democrats party (slogan: “Keep Sweden Swedish”) got into parliament in September, causing a political earthquake that was repeated seven months later in Finland when the “True Finns” got 19 percent of the vote.

The Nordic far-right is now so entrenched in the political establishment that experts say the “extreme” label is no longer suitable.

“They’re established, they’re now part of the mainstream,” Anders Hellström, a Swedish specialist in nationalist and populist movements, told AFP recently.

However, the radical fringe of the extreme right is “scattered, without real structure,” said French Scandinavia expert Cyril Coulet.

“In Norway, there are people linked to social networks, small groups of skinheads who carry out attacks on foreigners, like elsewhere in Scandinavia,” he said.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Sweden Democrat politician charged for posting Hitler tribute

A politician for the populist Sweden Democrat party has been charged with hate crimes after his social media account posted a picture of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and compared black people to monkeys.

Sweden Democrat politician charged for posting Hitler tribute

Mikael Lundin, the deputy chair of the Sweden Democrats in the city of Östersund in northwest Sweden, was charged with hate crimes after the organisation Näthatsgranskaren reported him to the police for a series of posts made by his profile on the Russian social media group VK. 

The posts included a series of pictures praising Hitler, including one with the words “our oath: all for Germany”, and one comparing black people with apes, according to the prosecutor in the case. 

He also in 2017 posted a picture which called for Sweden’s then Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven to be assassinated. 

Lundin denies making the posts, claiming that someone in his household may have been using his account. 

“I cannot give away that much now, but a lot of things are going to come out during the court case,” he told the anti-extremist website Expo. “It may be that someone has logged into my account and posted stuff up there.” 

In his interview with the police, Lundin said that he suspected that either someone in his household had shared the posts, or that he had been hacked. 

An analysis of Lundin’s VK account shows that he is closely linked to members of the extreme neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR), with the extremist group’s leader Simon Lindberg and its parliamentary leader Pär Öberg both among his friends. 

The Sweden Democrats called the posts that Lundin is accused of making as “unusually distasteful and serious”, and said it had opened an investigation into whether Lundin should have his membership annulled. 

“There are reasons to doubt the credibility of the explanations which have been given and the party has, as a result, decided to open an investigation into him in its membership committee,” Ludvig Grufman, a press secretary for the party, said. “The individual in question has also been encouraged to resign from his party posts.” 

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