The National Endowment for the Humanities turns 50 next year. William “Bro” Adams, the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, wants to make sure that the study of history, philosophy, and literature remains accessible to everyone. A conversation about his new "Common Good" initiative.
The man accused of carrying out mass killings in Norway last week claims he had collaborators. The thirty two year old Norwegian is the alleged perpetrator of a bomb attack in downtown Oslo and a shooting rampage at a summer camp nearby. Eighty six people, many of them children, were killed. Before the attack, the man was known as a right wing extremist. He had ties to other far right groups in Norway and in Europe and espoused a virulent anti-Muslim anti-immigrant ideology. We’ll talk some of the many questions being asked about the man in custody and the possible links to far right radicalism.
- Omer Taspinar nonresident senior fellow, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution
- Joshua Foust fellow, American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net.
- Vanessa Fuhrmans reporter, Wall Street Journal
- Scott Shane reporter, The New York Times
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is on vacation. Norwegians paused for a moment of silence yesterday in memory of the 76 people killed on Friday. The man thought to be responsible -- now in police custody -- is known to have had held fiercely anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant beliefs.
MS. SUSAN PAGEJoining me in the studio to talk about the attacks and the questions being raised, Scott Shane of The New York Times and Joshua Foust of the American Security Project, and joining us from a studio at KERA in Dallas, Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institution. Welcome to you all to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. JOSHUA FOUSTGlad to be here.
MR. OMER TASPINARThanks.
MR. SCOTT SHANEThank you.
PAGEWe're going to talk just first for a few minutes by -- with Vanessa Fuhrmans. She's joining us by phone from Oslo. She's a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, who is covering the story. Vanessa, thanks for being with us.
MS. VANESSA FUHRMANSThank you.
PAGEVanessa, the man accused of these terrible killings hinted yesterday at a custody hearing that he didn't act alone. Is that credible? What do we know about that?
FUHRMANSWell, it's actually a little unclear what he means by that. He didn't actually say that he was working in collaboration with others. He -- what he specifically says is that he belongs to a broader organization that he called the knights of templar and -- in which there are other terrorists or active cells across Europe, including a couple in Norway. And the police are investigating that.
FUHRMANSOf course, they can't rule it out, but it seemed to cast a bit of doubt on that given he first said that he acted alone.
PAGEAnd do we have a clearer picture of who this man is and what motivated him?
FUHRMANSYeah, well, he has given himself a very clear portrait, at least the portrait he wanted to present the world, of himself. Just a few hours before the attacks on Friday, it seems he or at least somebody published this online manifesto, 1,500 pages long. His lawyer and the police have both since said that he was the author, and it's a very detailed description of his philosophy, his beliefs, his biography.
FUHRMANSIn one section, he does a very detailed -- or simulates very detailed Q and A with himself over how his beliefs formed. From what he says, he grew up in a very -- actually, quite a liberal, secular family, a very normal childhood. His parents divorced when he was young. And somewhere along the line, it seems, in his teen years, his conservative beliefs began to harden.
FUHRMANSHe was a member of the Progress Party Youth organization, which is -- the Progress Party here is a conservative party in Norway. It's not really considered in the same far-right -- right-wing elements as you might see in other groups, but it does have a bit of an -- it has an anti-immigration stance. And from there, he dropped out of that party because he believed he needed to do something more than just be against anti-immigration.
PAGENow, we had this custody hearing yesterday, which was closed. What's going to be -- what comes next in terms of the criminal proceedings?
FUHRMANSWell, he has been ordered first in solitary confinement for four weeks, at least, and eight weeks altogether in custody until his next hearing while the investigation continues. Basically, he's in jail without bail. And meanwhile, the investigation continues. The -- he was put in solitary confinement. And the decision to close the hearing were based in large part -- well, first, so that they could continue the investigation and out of fear that somehow he might be able to send signals to others if indeed there are other cells as he claims.
FUHRMANSBut the other reason was officials were pretty clear in that they wanted to deny him a political platform for his views through a hearing. He was very prepared to take advantage of that platform. He'd requested to come to the hearing in a military uniform. And he'd spoken in his -- or written in his manifesto of how he had hoped that could be a spotlight for him to explain the revolution that he sought to launch.
PAGEAnd, Vanessa, one last question. So what's the mood today in Oslo?
FUHRMANSWell, it's solemn. But I feel like when one's talking about a country dealing with a tragedy like this, one sort of does the cliché. But I have to say it's been -- part of the most impressive part of what I've been reporting so far, it's been interviews with people and survivors and people who knew victims. And there is this -- I would have to say I'm really struck by how many people are talking about how important it is that Norway doesn't change from the -- I would say a quite open society that it's been.
FUHRMANSAnd it's a small or sparsely populated country, where people's cell phones are published online, people's -- it's a very informal country in a way and -- that has not had to deal with these kind of security threats before. And many people are adamant that that doesn't change, despite this.
PAGEVanessa, thank you so much for joining us.
FUHRMANSThank you so much.
PAGEVanessa Fuhrmans, she's a reporter with The Wall Street Journal. She joined us from Oslo, where she's been covering this story. Well, Scott Shane, what was known about this man before the attacks? Was he on some kind of watch list?
SHANEHe had just barely registered, I think, with the Norwegian authorities after making some purchases of chemicals that have put him on some lists. But he -- generally speaking, by comparison with, say, the Unabomber who's tract he actually copied from in his own manifesto that Vanessa mentioned, he was a very social individual. He had a circle of friends. He lived with his mother.
SHANEYou know, I think, you know, to outward appearance, since he had kept this manifesto and accompanying YouTube video secret until last Friday, you know, I think he seemed more normal than most people who end up going off in this kind of killing spree.
PAGEWell, if he had published it previously, weeks ago, would he have been identified? Would there have been an effort to track him? Or would it have just gone up in the world of the digital?
SHANEI think if it had been noticed by the authorities, it would have drawn attention. It's a very extreme document. It's sort of a fascinating document, perhaps unprecedented in its detail, both in the kind of day by day, hour by hour, even account of the two or three months before he mounted the attacks on how he built the bombs and, you know, what he was thinking at various times, plus just sort of acres of his ideological thinking in his biography.
SHANEBut it is an extreme, a very extreme document, much more extreme than his postings on public websites, which had generally been, you know, very much right-wing and hostile to multiculturalism, but nothing that promised violence.
PAGESo, Omer Taspinar, put this in the context of the political climate in Norway. What's happening there that allowed this guy to develop?
TASPINARWell, I think that's a very important question. It's important to see a phenomenon in Europe. And it's also important not to jump into conclusions that it is this political climate in Norway or in Europe that is fueling such heinous acts. But there is a backlash in Europe and in Norway against multiculturalism. There is a sense that Muslim immigration is on the rise.
TASPINARIn fact, even in mainstream academia in Europe and in the United States, there is this alarmist demographic projections that somehow Europe in a matter of a generation will become so-called Eurabia, that there will be basically a Muslim colonization, something that the perpetrator refers to in his tracts.
TASPINARSo he is obviously someone who is very well-connected to the extreme right-wing cells, extreme right-wing political formations in Norway, in Britain. And he's part of, basically, a phenomenon that we see in Europe that, I think, is important to call as Islamophobic. So that's very interesting in the context of Norway, which is a tiny country of 4.5 million people, which does not have a large Muslim population.
TASPINARBut such conspiracy theories about Muslim domination are part of the age we live in, this age of clash of civilizations that Huntington predicted long time ago.
PAGENow, Joshua Foust, you wrote in The Atlantic the other day that it'd be wrong to kind of tar right-wing ideology with the acts of one deranged individual.
FOUSTRight. And part of my reasoning behind this is that, I mean, there's no doubt, absolutely, what Mr. Taspinar is talking about, that there is this growing, fairly racist backlash against Muslims in Europe. What confuses me about, therefore, assigning blame to that movement for all of this horrific violence is that people reacting against an immigration wave does not automatically lead one into committing violence.
FOUSTSo when we look at what this guy Breivik was doing, he -- his writings, at least beforehand, were very much in the mainstream of this kind of hard-right movement within Europe. But most of that hard-right movement is not murderers. There's not a wave of anti-Muslim killings across -- I mean, they happen on occasion. But it's not this serious issue of a hyper-violent backlash against Muslims. So in that sense, he's an outlier.
FOUSTHe's very much an extreme -- he might be a signal marker or a harbinger of something else that's coming down the line. But what Breivik's actions are, are an extreme outlier in this otherwise fairly non-violent -- I mean, it's not totally non-violent -- backlash against Muslims in Europe.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to talk more with our panel. We're also going to take some of your calls, 1-800-433-8850. You can always send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Please stay tuned.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm, and with me in the studio, Joshua Foust with the American Security Project and Scott Shane. He's a reporter with The New York Times. And joining us from Dallas, Omer Taspinar, who's with the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution.
PAGEScott, you wrote yesterday in The Times a piece that talked about the American influences on this man in Norway who perpetrated, allegedly, this terrible crime. Who are they?
SHANEWell, there's a group of bloggers and writers -- who are very active mostly on the Internet, sometimes in books and articles -- who have promoted the idea of a Muslim threat to American culture, to Western culture, and have been highly critical not only of extreme Islam, but, in many cases, of Islam as a religion of the Quran and what's written there.
SHANEAnd Mr. Breivik, in his 1,500-page manifesto that he posted on the Web before allegedly beginning these attacks, cites some of these writers and bloggers extensively, mostly about their views of Islam, their interpretation of Islam. It certainly would be wrong to say that any of these bloggers, to my knowledge, encouraged violence.
SHANEBut they do have a fairly extreme view of Islam and the threat that it poses, even in the United States, where the Muslim population is estimated at 1 or 2 percent, significantly smaller than in a number of European countries. But they see the cultural influence of Islam as a -- in some cases, an existential threat to this country. And they worry a lot about Sharia Islamic law and how it might somehow be imposed in this country.
PAGEI saw -- one of them, who you talk about in your piece, is Robert Spencer. I saw him last night in an interview on NBC, saying it was outrageous to ascribe any responsibility to him. Do they feel a need to kind of push back from association with this guy?
SHANEOh, absolutely. And they don't have any association. You know, it was all a one-way street. You know, certainly, Robert Spencer and some of the other folks that Breivik quoted, you know, had no idea about this guy, who he was, what he was going to do. But -- and so it would certainly be completely wrong to blame them for what he allegedly did.
SHANEBut the -- you know, but it's equally unmistakable that when you read his manifesto, he's citing certain authors. He cites Mr. Spencer, I think, about 50 times, almost 40, 50 times, and so when you look at what shaped Breivik's thinking, it's -- you know, I think it's fair to look at those citations and ask what they mean.
PAGEOmer, you talked about the situation in Norway. Compare it to what the situation we find with some of this anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim feeling in larger, more familiar places, perhaps, in Europe, like France and Great Britain.
TASPINARYes. Well, France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. But even there, we're talking about 5, 6 percent population, around 4 to 6 million Muslims. But there is this alarmist sense that Muslim population is on the rise, that Muslim birth rates are much higher than Christian birth rates.
TASPINARAnd there is this conspiracy theory about an Islamic invasion, which, in a way, finds acceptance by mainstream politicians as well because you have extreme right wing political parties who are actually making significant gains in the ballot box right now in France. One of the most popular politicians is Marine Le Pen, who's the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who's the leader of the Front National, which is the extreme right wing party.
TASPINARIn Britain, you have also the prime minister who declared that multiculturalism does not work. In Germany, you have Angela Merkel, Christian Democrat, who argues that multiculturalism is dead. So there is this belief that Europe has been too tolerant of Muslim culture and that it is time to assert Europe's identity, a kind of more civilized, more secular identity, and that Muslims have to choose, that they have to assimilate to this European civilization, the values of the Enlightenment.
TASPINARSo there is, overall, in my opinion, a climate of fear, a climate where center-right political parties are trying to co-opt the agenda of extreme right wing political parties so that they can gain votes from that sections. And, overall, I think there is a fear that Europe is losing its Christian identity.
TASPINARAnd this is a very interesting phenomenon because, although Europe is not a continent which has very high church attendance, for instance -- it's known as a very secular continent -- it is, culturally, still very Christian. And it is not a, historically, place of immigration. Europeans are -- have uneasy feelings with immigrants. The Germans, for instance, have traditionally called the Turks gastarbeiters, guest workers.
TASPINARI mean, they thought that they were guests who were supposed to leave, like good guests do, when the party was over. And the party was over in the 1970s. The Muslims came to Europe in the 1950s and '60s at a time when Europe needed, desperately, labor. But by the '70s, when economic problems started with unemployment and a lack of development, there was this growing xenophobic, anti-immigration feeling.
TASPINARAnd, today, the European economic crisis that we see across Europe, the crisis of the euro, lack of development, but, most importantly, structural unemployment -- youth unemployment is on the rise across the board in Europe -- there is this fear that Muslims are taking the jobs. So it's time for them to go back, to go home. So there is this fear of Islam that, I think, is important to understand.
PAGEYou know, it's interesting, Joshua. It's not that the United States doesn't have its own issues about immigration because, of course, we do. But we see ourselves as a nation of immigrants. That's not the case for some of these European nations, which see themselves as distinctly French, for instance.
FOUSTRight. And I think that's part of the contradiction, if you will -- or not contradiction, but the struggle that Mr. Taspinar is talking about. So when -- especially in Scandinavia, I mean, this has been a growing concern about what actually makes them Scandinavian, in a sense. So when a Norwegian sits back and thinks, well, what makes me Norwegian?
FOUSTAnd then they see all of these immigrants here behaving in a way that they don't think is Norwegian. I mean, it prompts concern. And I'm not even sure that's illegitimate, per se, because countries have a right to identify and protect their own cultural heritage. I think the real question here isn't necessarily whether there is a backlash because we know that there's a backlash, but it's how that backlash is being expressed.
FOUSTIt's one thing for people to organize in political groups and to hold protest marches and to vote. It's another thing to pick up a gun and start murdering children. And, I mean, to me, the real question about Breivik is what actually flipped the switch in his head between reacting against outsiders and then actually choosing to murder people in response to that. And it's that switch getting flipped that we have a very poor understanding of.
FOUSTEven now, even when we dig through his writings, there's not a sense, at least from the excerpts I've read of his manifesto -- I really don't want to read the whole thing. There's not a sense of what actually made him progress from just reacting against immigration or reacting against Muslims into wanting to commit murder in order to defend himself from them.
PAGEScott, do you have a sense of what made him take that leap?
SHANEWell, I think anyone who carries out a heinous crime like mass murder has, on the one hand, political motivations and a kind of world view, and, on the other hand, personal psychological issues. If you think back to Timothy McVeigh in 1995, he came out of a -- the man who was executed for -- after being convicted for carrying out the Oklahoma City bombings, you know, he came out of a world view that was very hostile to the federal government.
SHANEAnd, you know, his views, as he had stated them before the bombing, were shared by many people. But many people did not go out and blow up the federal building and kill 168 people. So, no, I would agree with Joshua, that it's hard to see exactly what motivates this guy, although it's clear that he had this plan for a long time and worked very carefully with an almost kind of creepy meticulousness to carry it out.
FOUSTYeah, I mean, I would actually describe him as being very much a professional in how he chose to carry this out. In a way, the mass killings were one of the more successful acts of propaganda that we've seen, definitely in the 21st century -- I mean, maybe in a long time -- because he had prepared glamour shots of himself that he posted on the Internet. He had that vanity video he put up on YouTube.
FOUSTHe made sure that people knew where to find his manifesto after he carried out these attacks. I mean, in a way, he went around committing mass murder to advertise his writing. And in response, we're now poring over every single little thing that he says and publicizing his views, much more than he would have been able to accomplish on his own.
PAGEYou know, Scott mentioned the Oklahoma City bombing. So many parallels, really, with that in that when we first heard news of it, I think a lot of people assumed both incidents were Islamic terrorists. In both cases, it turned out to be homegrown terrorists with a very different agenda. Omer, do you find that -- what do you make of that comparison?
PAGEAnd does it indicate that perhaps we are not targeting the -- we're not taking the smartest steps in trying to avoid terrorist incidents like this at home?
TASPINARWell, after 9/11, and in Europe after the Madrid terrorist attack and the London bombings, there emerged a sense that any future terrorist act would be perpetrated by radical Islamists. So -- when the attacks happened, I was in Turkey, and the Turkish press immediately called it Norway's 9/11. And the implication was that this was, again, the work of Islamic terrorists. But then there was a sense of relief.
TASPINARAnd today, when I look at the press in the Middle East, I see that there is almost a sense of relief that Europe and the West is discovering that all terrorists are not Muslim. And there is this feeling that it is time for Europeans also to look a little bit more at home in the debate taking place at home about Islamophobia. You had incidents in Europe where, for instance, in Switzerland, a referendum banned minarets.
TASPINARYou have a burqa ban in France. This backlash against multiculturalism really borders on Islamophobia. And I don't want to establish causality between what happened and this climate of Islamophobia in Europe. But I think we can talk about a certain correlation, where there is this climate of -- political climate of fear of Islam, exaggerated alarmists' demographic projections and, overall, a move from the center right towards the extreme right for political reasons, populist reasons that, I think, is important to understand.
TASPINARAnd there are striking parallels with the United States, too, where you have, also after 9/11, understandably a fear of future attacks. And we have to understand that radicalism is radicalism. Sometimes, we overemphasize the importance of religion, but we -- at the expense of roots of radicalism and at the expense of the mainstream debates, both in the Middle East, in the Muslim world and in Europe, that can create a climate of acceptance for extreme world views, extreme views.
PAGEWell, in fact, Scott, you mentioned fear that Sharia law was going to be imposed in Europe. It's one of the things that was in the manifesto. And it's even something we hear here in the presidential base. Herman Cain, one of the Republican presidential contenders who's done pretty well in the polls, says he is concerned about the imposition of Sharia law. But I wonder, is that realistic?
PAGEIs there any possibility that Sharia law would be imposed in either Western Europe or in the United States?
SHANEWell, Oklahoma actually passed a state law to ban the use of -- or the citation of Sharia in, you know, Oklahoma courts. And...
PAGEHad Oklahoma courts moved toward Sharia law 'cause I was unaware?
SHANEI think not. I mean, I think, you know, I just -- I suppose, from a common sense standpoint, you -- I've always wondered. I've talked to some of the folks who fear this, and it seems odd to imagine that 1 or 2 percent of the population is going to somehow reshape the legal system in this country.
PAGEI'm Susan Page. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to go to the phones and take some of your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Let's go to Mike first. He's calling us from Hunt Valley, Md. Mike, thank you for joining us.
MIKEGood morning. Good morning. It's a great discussion that you're having. I just wanted to touch base. It sounds, to me, that, like, the discussion is extremely academic and kind of overarching, talking about Islamophobia in Europe. But I can tell you, having lived there for many years and in different countries in Europe, that one of the primary concerns about the backlash against Muslim immigrants to Europe really has to do with statistics related to crime, related to failure in education, and they're related to lack of integration into a greater society.
MIKEIf you look at the statistics and to say these statistics -- in Germany, for example, what I'm about to say will get you arrested. And that happened to a parliamentarian called Mr. (word?) in Germany. And what he simply did was to point out that the crime rates and of vandalism, of theft, of burglary, of robbery are much higher by many, many folds in Germany.
MIKEAnd this is true, I think, throughout most of Europe the -- in the Muslim immigration -- immigrant populations. Also, there is not, from home, a pressure for performance in education. I have seen, for example, my children going to school in various countries there that children would, for example -- and this is just anecdotal. It's my own experience.
MIKEBut I think it's an experience that many Europeans are having with these immigrant populations. And what's happening is they are seeing that more and more of these people are reliant on social welfare, that there's increasing crime rates, and, you know, we can talk about all the political philosophy that we want to. We can talk all about the -- these -- over kind of these academic debates.
MIKEBut I think on the streets, when you look at -- for example, I use to take the streetcar to work in Frankfurt. And whenever there was a -- once week, at least there was an incident of young Turkish men coming in and really threatening people and intimidating people at will. And the authorities seem to be low to do anything about it lest they be called, you know, be cited for some sort of racial profiling.
MIKEAnd it's really quite a problem on the street and amongst the people, amongst the political elite. They don't want to have to deal with this issue. But it really is creating a great deal of backlash within the society.
PAGEUh huh. Mike, thank you so much for your call. Omer, what would you say to Mike on the points that he made?
TASPINARI think what drives, what fuels what he calls our academic debate of Islamophobia is exactly what he's describing. Islamophobia is fueled by the fear of Muslims. And the fear of Muslims has many dimensions. One of these dimensions has to do with what he described as crime rate. But the larger issue in Europe is the absence of integration.
TASPINARMuslims are -- often do not feel really at home, and there is a sense of perceived discrimination of Muslims. So they have a discourse of, basically, victimhood. They feel that they're discriminated against by the majority population, by the whole society. And the majority population, the whole societies believe that Muslims don't want to integrate.
TASPINARAnd they believe that they stick to their values, that they don't really embrace European civilization, European enlightenment. There is a major gender issue with women with marriages, arranged marriages, so it's a very multidimensional issue. And we have to emphasize also the socio-economic problems.
PAGEAll right. Yes. We'll want to talk more about that after we take a short break. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page with USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. In this hour, we're joined by Omer Taspinar, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. He's joining us from Dallas. And with me in the studio, Joshua Foust from the American Security Project, he's the author of "Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net," and Scott Shane, a reporter with The New York Times.
PAGEWell, Scott, we had a caller, Mike, just before the break, who complained during his time in -- living in Germany, that he had seen incidents of crime go up and declining school achievement with the growing Muslim population there. What do you think of his point?
SHANEWell, I mean, he certainly sounded heartfelt, and he was basing his remarks on his -- what he's seen with his own eyes. You know, it's -- in any country that is diverse and that permits immigration, there's often an underclass. The underclass is, you know, often mired in poverty, often somewhat isolated, and, you know, poverty is associated with crime and school failure.
SHANEAnd so the -- we know what he was complaining about in Europe is, obviously, not unknown in this country in various immigrant or racial groups that are identified in that way. And then people begin to, you know, sometimes build political theories or political parties based on their resentment of those groups.
PAGEWe also heard Mike talk -- say that he would have the -- he could be arrested for saying -- if he was still in Germany, I think, for saying what he was saying on the air. What's that about, Joshua?
FOUSTWell, in Europe, there are actually much more extensive laws that prohibits hate speech than there are in the United States. I would say, among Western civilization, our country is actually unusually tolerant, or at least beyond the norm tolerant, of extreme speech.
FOUSTSo, in that sense, if what people consider to be a normal discussion of a sociological phenomenon -- so if you say, hey, these immigrants commit crimes and don't get educated. If that gets classified as hate speech, then I think it makes sense that you would then find some kind of radicalization in process.
FOUSTAs people feel like they're being denied to their right to comment on their own society, denied a right to have a say in their own society because it's defined as hateful, and so then people get pushed into more extreme versions of expressing that. I mean, that's a very similar process to what we see in Muslim countries that are ruled by very oppressive governments, is that they seek ways to express opposition to those governments.
FOUSTAnd that can sometimes get expressed as Islamic extremism. It can sometimes get expressed as other things. But the point is that that repression of speech can, in some cases, have a very radicalizing effect.
PAGELet's go back to the phones, talk to Thomas. Thomas is calling us from Greece, N.Y. He's been holding on for a long time. Thomas, thank you for being patient.
THOMASOh, hello. Yeah, well, I know the main conversation here is about relationships with Muslims and Muslim integration and so forth. But what are gun -- does Norway have gun control laws? I mean, after all, this did happen in Norway, not Arizona. How was a person like him who was, I think, already viewed as a political extremist allowed to get his hands on a gun?
THOMASAnd we always hear of how gun control laws are so much stricter in countries other than the United States, but, you know, I just wondered about that.
PAGEAll right. Thomas, thanks so much for your call. I wonder who on the panel would be able to maybe respond to that question.
FOUSTI mean, I could at least say that, you know, part of what we're dealing with, with Breivik's killings, is that he is a lone -- I mean, he was what's called a lone wolf in terrorism studies. He's an outlier. I mean, a very smart, determined person can always find a way around laws. I've no idea what Norway's gun laws are, but -- I mean, in a general sense, countries in Europe that do have much stricter gun controls have still faced mass shootings.
SHANEWe -- yeah, I should say that we have a story in The New York Times today about how one of the first people killed on the island near Oslo was a police officer who was not armed because police officers in Norway generally are not armed. And so there is a much -- you know, great resistance to the idea that everybody should carry weapons or even that police should carry weapons. I don't actually know how he acquired his weapons.
PAGEWell, I had read in the paper this morning -- and I don't know more than that -- that both his weapons were legally purchased. And we have an email from Dell, (sp?) who's writing us from Florida, who says, "Just on the point that Scott was just making, my friend from Norway says that even the police do not carry guns in Norway. This is hard to believe so I went online to check and found out that some other -- in only a few European countries have police who are armed."
PAGEHe said, "Then how -- if this is true, then there's that maxim when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." Omer, do you think this is likely to change in the -- in Norway or elsewhere in the wake of this shooting, that there'll be more of a movement there, for instance, to arm the police?
TASPINARI think it's unavoidable. Already in Norway, there is this debate emerging about why it took so long for the police to intervene and about the wisdom of having police who are not armed. Obviously, this will change to a certain degree. They already threatened the culture of tolerance in Norway and in Scandinavia. There was already a sense that this was on the rise, that there could be such threats in the future.
TASPINARBut now, after this tragic event, I'm sure that there will be a huge debate. But Europe is not a monolith. Different countries have different pasts, different gun laws. In a country like Germany, one reason why, I think, everything is different is because of the Nazi past of Germany. There is lack of tolerance in Germany for anything similar to a neo-Nazi narrative. That's why political correctness is very important in Germany.
TASPINARThe caller who talked about his own experience in Germany complained about that. But it's, to a certain degree, understandable that Germans feel uncomfortable when someone like Thilo Sarrazin, the person who wrote the book about Muslims basically dumbing down Germany and because they have -- they're engaged in criminality or they have lower results in tests in school and the dropout rate is too high.
TASPINARHe basically made an argument, which had strong racial undertones. And in a country like Germany, this was not well-taken within the SPD. He was a member of the center-left party. But in different countries, in Britain or in Switzerland or in Holland, you have politicians who are able to make outrageous remarks, saying that we should ban the Quran, that we shouldn't allow women wearing the headscarf in the streets, forget the schools.
TASPINARSo you have, across the board in Europe, different types of discourses, different types of narratives. So we should be careful of not over generalizing the situation.
PAGEYou know, thinking about what the repercussions may be ahead in Norway, we have an email from Paul, who is a professor at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology. And he writes, "As a six-year resident of Norway, my sense is that the brutal massacre will create a real backlash against anti-immigrant politics in Norway and perhaps throughout the Nordic region.
PAGE"What this terrible attack shows is that the threat comes not from immigrants, but from those who hate immigrants. This, not an increase in security measures, will be the main change to Norwegian society. I expect we will see support for the ruling Labour Party and other leftist parties, the very parties the attacker was targeting, to increase in the short to medium term." What do you think about that, Omer?
PAGEDo you think that is likely one result, very much not what the shooter hoped?
TASPINARWell, I think that's also very likely right now. All extreme right-wing parties are trying to distance themselves from what happened. And I hope that there will be a new debate in mainstream media in Europe about the wisdom of portraying Islam as a dangerous religion. I think in countries like Denmark, Holland, France, there was a tendency to talk about this danger.
TASPINARAnd now, in the post-Breivik's situation to scenario, there will be, I think, is -- a climate where people will start thinking about racism in Europe, Islamophobia in Europe, under a new light. And I hope that, down the line, Europeans will also start to think about something important close to my mind because I'm originally from Turkey -- Turkey's membership to Europe. Turkey is a Muslim country, a large Muslim country.
TASPINARAnd the fact that it has been trying to become a member of the European Union for so long is well-known. But I think most Turks believe that they're basically getting the cold shoulders from Europeans because it's a Muslim country.
TASPINARAnd on such issues, too, I hope there will be a new debate in Europe about the multicultural situation, the multicultural debate, the wisdom of this backlashing against multiculturalism and the need to embrace, I think, a more tolerant future for Europe.
PAGEAnd thinking about the possible repercussions here in the United States, Scott, the -- our own Department of Homeland Security got a lot of criticism in 2009 for report that warned about the threat from right-wing, homegrown extremists here in the United States. Is that still an issue? I mean, is the Department of Homeland Security now leery focusing on this kind of threat?
SHANEThere's a dispute about that. The 2009 report came under attack. It basically said that they should be on the lookout for a rise in right-wing extremism in response to the recession and the election of the first black president. And people, conservatives, Republicans in Congress jumped on it and jumped on the department.
SHANEAnd Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano quickly backed away from it, said it was poorly done, withdrew the report. The author of the report told me over the weekend that DHS has actually reduced the attention given to right-wing extremism. The department disputes his numbers and says that it tries to ignore the ideology and look at the actual threat of violence.
SHANEBut, you know, I think it's certainly the case that what happened in Norway will cause, you know, all the government departments who look at counterterrorism, who work on counterterrorism to look at where the threat is coming from and whether they're, perhaps, too narrowly focused on Islamic extremism.
PAGELet's start to Gary. He's calling us from Rocky Mount, N.C. Gary, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
GARYGood morning. A little earlier on the program you were talking about Oklahoma in the context of Sharia law. And some of the background on that is there was a Muslim defendant in a court case who wanted Sharia law to be taken into consideration in his defense, especially for where it deviated from U.S. law.
GARYMy only comment was that it sets a really dangerous precedent, I believe, if we allow certain groups, religious or otherwise, to be exempt from U.S. law. And I'll take your response off the air.
PAGEGary, before you go, before you hang up, what was the judgment in that case? What did the court decide?
GARYYou know, I don't know the specifics of it, so I'd be hesitant to speculate.
PAGEAll right, Gary. Thanks very much for your call. Joshua, any thoughts? Yeah.
FOUSTOh, yeah, I don't know what the judgment on that case was either. Although, I mean, again, I would -- I think it might be important to kind of take a step back from this whole thing and look at -- in a way, I mean, first of all, there's the irony of a group that's primarily known for assigning collective responsibility to Muslims now struggling with being assigned collective responsibility for an attack.
FOUSTAnd even in the past, I mean, other acts of right-wing violence, even in the United States, hasn't resulted in this broader push to kind of discredit the right-wing. I mean, the murder of George Tiller didn't discredit the pro-life movement, as one example.
FOUSTSo when we're looking at how to approach this kind of an issue, I think maintaining a certain kind of perspective -- I mean, we can write that off as academic if we want. But maintaining a certain kind of perspective about both what happens, how people tend to react to these things and, actually, what our level of knowledge is.
FOUSTI mean, to this day, we're still not entirely sure what specifically motivated Breivik to pick up a gun. So until we really know all of these things, I think there's a tendency to kind of let our outrage over what happened get the better of us.
PAGEI'm Susan Page. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going back to the phones, 1-800-433-8850. Sarah is calling us from Oklahoma, Osage, Okla. Sarah, welcome to the show.
SARAHThank you so much. I want to point out that we are, in a sense, a country that exports terrorism. David Duke went into Europe and into Russia and organized skinheads certainly in those countries. I've gone undercover into white supremacist organizations in the United States, and I've also traveled in Scandinavian countries.
SARAHAnd at the time that I was there, there was a real recognition that people from the United States, such as David Duke, were causing tremendous problems in other countries. I also want to point out that Grover Norquist used to be monitored as a right-wing anti-government extremist. Now, he's turned to -- is a pundit and is probably one of the most influential people into the deadlock we have in the debt crisis.
PAGEYeah, he's definitely a figure there. I'm not sure about your point about him being monitored in the past. But let me ask Scott about your first point, which was, is the United States, in fact, exporting extremism?
SHANEWell, I, you know, I think there's plenty of this brand of Islamophobic extremism in Europe that's generated in Europe. There is some of it in the United States. And there are -- you know, one other about the -- one thing about the Internet is that, in a sense, there's one giant community that goes on.
SHANEWhen he -- when Breivik in this manifesto lists his influences, he lists American bloggers, Norwegian bloggers, other European bloggers, British folks. And they all seem to be -- you know, they all know about each other. They respond to each other. So, in a way, it's sort of a transnational movement here. One -- you know, one fascinating aspect of his manifesto is the way it which it mirrors the rhetoric of al-Qaida.
SHANEHe, too, was obsessed with the Crusades. He fashioned himself, considered himself to be a rebirth of the Knights Templar, a military order that was active -- and a Christian order that was active in the Crusades. He has the same kind of historical grievance that you get from al-Qaida. And he, too, kind of calls for this apocalyptic warfare, where they will triumph in the end, and his group will triumph over the other group.
SHANESo it's really, literally, almost exactly what Osama bin Laden was saying in reverse with sort of Christians substituted for Muslims, but very much rooted in the Crusades. You know, most of us don't go around everyday thinking about the Crusades, but he did.
PAGEThat's such an interesting point. We've also gotten an email from someone who identifies himself as a judge in Oklahoma. It's great "The Diane Rehm Show," has such reach across the country. And this person says, "The judge in that case..." -- it was mentioned earlier in the show -- "...did not allow the defendant to invoke Sharia law." Well, that's been such an interesting conversation. I want to thank our panel for joining us at this hour.
PAGEWe've been joined by Scott Shane from The New York Times, Joshua Foust from the American Security Project and, joining us from Dallas, Omer Taspinar, who is with the Brookings Institution. Thank you all for being with us on "The Diane Rehm Show."
FOUSTThank so much.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Dian Rehm. She's on vacation. Thanks for listening.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth, Sarah Ashworth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com. And we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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