Right-wing extremists play minor role in Norway | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 31.05.2012
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Right-wing extremists play minor role in Norway

While the trial of Anders Behring Breivik for the murder of 77 people has put a spotlight on radical right-wing currents in Norway, experts agree far-right extremists do not play a major role Norwegian society.

In a bright room equipped with desks at the Norwegian Center Against Racism in Oslo, a half dozen adult immigrants are working on their job applications. They are being trained by 24-year-old Somia Salaouatchi.

Salaouatchi, whose face is surrounded by a lilac-colored scarf, gives the immigrants tips on how to improve the look of their resumes. Born in Algeria, she said she doesn't feel that immigrants are discriminated against in Norway in general, but added that she does see structural discrimination.

"A report has just come out that says that a person's chances when applying for a job are slimmer with a foreign-sounding name," she said. "But presumably the larger problem is that immigrants do not have access to the same networks as ethnic Norwegians."

Fewer right-wing extremist attacks in Norway

Immediately after the killing of 77 people by Anders Behring Breivikin Oslo and Utoya on July 22, 2011, immigrants came under suspicion. Media reports quickly focused on speculation that radical Islamists had orchestrated the attacks while there was less interested in the possibility a Norwegian far-right perpetrator.

A man places a Norwegian flag between flowers to pay respect to victims of the Utoya Island massacre

Paying respect to the Utoya Island massacre victims

That's no accident as right-wing extremism does not play a significant role in Norwegian society, said Shoaib Sultan, who researches Norway's right-extremist scene at the Center Against Racism.

"In Norway, we often talk about three different groups of right-wing extremists," Sultan said. "There are the neo-Nazis, who are few in number and not well-organized. There is the somewhat larger group of racists, who believe that people with a different skin color don't belong here. The third group uses Islamophobia to vent its racism."

The 2012 annual report by Norway's intelligence agency also said right-wing extremism does not play a particularly strong role in society. There have been attacks on centers for asylum-seekers in past decades, and the fights over the Mohammed caricatures did fuel skepticism toward Islam. But even the Progress Party (FrP), which acts as a right-wing populist party in the Norwegian Parliament, has not led to radical right-wing trends gaining ground, said Ketil Raknes, who has just written a book about right-wing populist parties.

"Norway handled the right-wing populists well," Raknes said. "The FrP was not shut out, yet it was also openly criticized. That has left its mark. At the party's last political convention, there were members who warned against criticizing Islam because it could scare of voters with immigrant backgrounds."

The Breivik killings, however, did set off a new debate on immigration has emerged following last summer's attacks, said Salaouatchi.

"It surprised everyone that Behring Breivik was not an immigrant; that has rekindled the debate," Salaouatchi said.

Author: Agnes Bührig / als
Editor: Sean Sinico

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