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Yet Another Aspiring Apparatchik Exploits Norway's 9/11

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.