This year I was not going to write about 7/22, often known as Norway’s 9/11. It is the date in 2011 on which Anders Behring Breivik bombed government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people, and then gunned down sixty-nine more, mostly kids, on the nearby island of Utøya. Famously, Breivik wrote – or rather cobbled together – a massive “manifesto” consisting mainly of material from various sources that he had cut and pasted. Most of it was critical of Islam, and it was apparently meant as a justification for his actions. But none of the people whose work he borrowed had ever called for violence, let alone violence against children.
Nevertheless, after 7/22, the Norwegian left was quick to insist on a linkage between Breivik and serious critics of Islam, and to argue, moreover, that those critics needed to be silenced in order to avoid any more such atrocities. For a while there things got pretty dicey, with prominent academics, authors, and politicians demanding strict limits on freedom of speech and stiff prison penalties for anyone violating those limits. In one op-ed after another, I saw my name, and that of other writers, dragged through the mud. I ended up writing a e-book about it, The New Quislings.
Eventually it all died down. But every now and then the whole ugly business flares up again, especially when an anniversary of 7/22 rolls around. Ambitious young ideologues who are eager to kick off a career in politics, writing, media, or the public sector have discovered that a splendid way to do so is to join the pile-on. It’s easy enough to pull off: the point is not to soberly challenge the arguments made by critics of Islam, or to say anyhing remotely original, but to name-call – to smear them as Islamophobes, racists, and “Eurabia conspiracy theorists.” (I’ll explain that last one in a minute.)
Meet Axel Fjeld. On July 25, the newspaper Bergensavisen published a long essay by the thirty-year-old, who is studying for his master’s degree in philosophy. The essay was entitled “Is it possible to stop racism?” Its targets were the usual ones. For example, Hans Rustad, editor of document.no, which runs Islam-related news and commentary. Describing document.no as “Breivik’s old hunting grounds” (because he, like thousands of others, used to read it), Fjeld deplores the fact that Rustad has been invited to take part in debates in mainstream media. Similarly, he complains that Fritt Ord, a free-speech foundation, awarded a stipend to the Islam critic Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen, a.k.a. Fjordman, whom Fjeld smears as a “genocide ideologist.” In the same way, recycling a years-old leftist gripe, Fjeld rebukes a certain former Aftenposten editor for having actually had a kind word to say about my 2006 book While Europe Slept.
Fjeld would have his readers believe that Rustad, Jensen, and I are all racists. He doesn’t make any effort to prove that we are. In fact we are not. I am not a racist, and I have never read a remotely racist word either at document.no or in Jensen’s voluminous writings. Fjeld, then, is barefaced liar. But this is how all of these people operate. We have the facts on our side. They have no good arguments for their position. So all they can do is hurl slurs. Moreover, even as they avoid representing our opinions fairly and honestly, they pretend that we have nothing reasonable to offer, and that they, in fact, are the reasonable ones. And why should reasonable people have to “debate” unreasonable people? As Fjeld puts it: “When we are tempted to debate rationally against opinions that are not based on reason, we cannot achieve anything other than to legitimize the irrational as something that is worth discussing.”
Fjeld pronounces it “unbelievable” that the likes of Rustad, Jensen, and me should be given air time or op-ed space in the mainstream Norwegian media. After all, those same media would never “waste time ‘debating’ people who think that the world is flat.” So why, he asks, should they welcome the voices of people who claim “that ‘Muslims are invading Europe,’ ‘it’s only Muslims who rape,’ or ‘dark-skinned people are on average less intelligent than light-skinned people’”? Frankly, I’ve never seen anybody in Norway make the ridiculous assertion that only Muslims commit rape; nor have I witnessed a Norwegian discussion of race and I.Q. (although I’m not discounting the possibility that this thoroughly legitimate question has come up at some point).
As for Muslims “invading Europe” – well, for heaven’s sake, Muslims are pouring into the continent, and the consequences are grim. Deny the obvious reality all you want, but no-go zones, forced marriages, honor killings, female genital mutilation, and “grooming gangs” exist. Muslim gangs commit rapes and burn cars. Muslim women experience the same oppression in Europe that they did in the Old Country. Muslim immigrants are bankrupting welfare states, resulting in severe cuts to education, elder services, and health care. Islamic terrorism is not a fantasy. European presidents and prime ministers may continue to mouthe trite nonsense about the joys of diversity, but their intelligence services are busy monitoring countless terrorist cells and working overtime to keep down the number of jihadist atrocities. Try as hard as you want to connect Breivik to Islam critics, but the fact remains that none of those critics have ever endorsed violence, while Islamic terrorists are doing exactly what the Koran tells them to.
For the likes of Fjeld, to discuss any of this honestly is to be a racist, and should be against the law. He explicitly rejects the notion of “the liberal marketplace of ideas” – the belief that it’s healthy to allow the expression of all views, because in the end the strongest argument will win. His own position is that exposing people to what he labels “hate” will only make them less resistant to it. Translation: to allow cogent dissent from the dominant red-green orthodoxy is to risk toppling that orthodoxy. It’s Soviet thinking, pure and simple.
Oh, about that “Eurabia conspiracy theorist” business. I don’t know how many people have written books criticizing the rise of Islam in the West, but there are quite a few of us from a range of backgrounds. I assume that most, like me, started writing about the topic because they were observing changes that they found unsettling. If so many writers with such diverse histories are disturbed by the same phenomena, surely that must mean that there is, indeed, something going on out there that merits concern? Years ago, Norwegian leftists came up with a handy way to dodge this question, maintaining that we Islam critics, far from being individuals articulating our own ideas, are, instead, lockstep adherents of a conspiracy theory cooked up by Bat Ye’or, author of the 2005 book Eurabia. Never mind that many of us (myself included) started writing about Islam before we’d even heard of Bat Ye’or; if you read about us in the Norwegian papers – and this includes Fjeld’s article – you will see us identified as “Eurabia writers,” lockstep adherents of the “Eurabia conspiracy theory,” the essence of which is that there is, indeed, such a thing as jihad.
Fjeld’s article, in short, is a load of bunk – and an unoriginal load of bunk, at that. In The New Quislings I examined a series of articles by different writers all of whom seemed to be working from exactly the same list of talking points. That doesn’t mean that Fjeld has wasted his time. On the contrary, he’s put his name on the map. He’s made it clear to the powers that be that he’s a good soldier. He’s got the party line down cold, and is willing to spit it out, every bit of it, shamelessly dishonest though it is. As long as he keeps this up, Fjeld, with a little bit of luck, will go straight from grad school into a nice, cushy job at NRK (the state-run TV network), or as a columnist for one of the taxpayer-subsidized mainstream newspapers, or as a writer-researcher at some government ministry, or as an administrator at some tony cultural institution. That’s how the careers of his equally cynical predecessors have gone, anyway, once they’ve taken the obligatory high-profile swipe at critics of Islam: they all end up being well-paid apparatchiks. It will be interesting to see exactly which path Fjeld takes.