Norwegian Diplomat on Twin Attacks

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: Former diplomat Jan Egeland had been invited to speak on the island where the shooting spree took place on Friday. His daughter was supposed to go along, as well. A change of plans spared them. But Egeland says he and his daughter feel the shock in a very personal way.

Jan Egeland: We have friends that are killed. They're friends of my daughters. Children of my friends are missing. I have friends who have had their children swimming from this little island to safety where this madman was shooting for one and half hours - children! And in the same family the mother, Junia Minister, had her office smashed to pieces by the bomb two hours earlier, so this affects us all.

Mullins: Let me ask you this before we get to the wider picture here: you have a lot of contact with young people, including those who were on the island, as you said, and your daughter, as well. How do you explain this to your daughter? How do you explain what you believe the roots are of something like this?

Egeland: It's very hard because we live in a society which hasn't really experienced political terror since the second world war. I have, as a United Nations official and as a Red Cross official, of course feel terror in many places from Baghdad to Kabul to [Darfur], the Congo and in New York, but no, I cannot really explain it to my children nor to myself because this was a Norwegian living in our midst who planned this for years and he followed his own plan, and he posted it on the internet. It just seems that kind of extremist political views by individuals who do not come from abroad modern, civilized, liberal democracy cannot really defend themselves against this.

Mullins: The contrast that has been made here in the United States and elsewhere in terms of what's happened in Norway has to do with the way we characterize the country: it's association with the Oslo Peace Accords, the Nobel Peace Prize, of course, and I wonder if you believe that we are analyzing this in the wrong way or over-analyzing it. Does this event, in your view, Mr. Egeland, say something profound about Norway or is this, do you believe, the case of a lone, deranged man who had a lot of firepower?

Egeland: I very much think it is the latter. Norway is still the society that you know and that I grew up in where we have been privileged with very little, social inequality, we have a very lively democracy, and this is the time to defend and promote human rights, not to limit them.

Mullins: This is what [Stoltenberg], the Prime Minister, that you meet more terror with more democracy in the democratic society, but I wonder, as well, if this means that there's a potential of ignoring some domestic threats from within, and this is something that we here in the United States have been dealing with, as well. In Norway does this kind of activity call for at least some acknowledgment if not change in domestic policy other than making government buildings more bomb resistant?

Egeland: I don't think it means change in policy, certainly not in terms of immigration and our beliefs in a multicultural society and freedom and tolerance for all. What we cannot criminalize are beliefs. Those who think that our open immigration as it was, was insane, can express those views. Where we draw the line is with violence. No violence in a democracy, but openness to discuss everything with everybody.

Mullins: So there has to be an opening of the pressure valve that wouldn't lead to violence, and you're saying that opening is not there or has not been there recently?

Egeland: Not necessarily. I think there are some beliefs that Norway is taken over by Islamic organizations. Of course there are more Muslims in Norway now than there were. When I grew up, there were hardly any; now a large portion of parts of Oslo are of another faith. Some believe that that is changing Norway. We have to explain that it's not changing Norway. It's making Norway different, and if anything, better.

Mullins: That's Jan Egeland who's the Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.