It was early 1999 when, like Balboa first glimpsing the Pacific, I happened upon one of the heavily Muslim neighborhoods of Amsterdam and saw the future immediately. Taking in the sight of bearded men in long skirts and women in hijab with three or four small children apiece — and noting the hostile looks I got from the men, and the obvious and deliberate separation of the women from the society around them — I recognized at once the demographic significance of it all. Somehow, moreover, I grasped instantly that this couldn’t just be happening in Amsterdam — why would it? It only seemed logical that there must be such neighborhoods in other Western European cities, too. I had never read or heard a word about this phenomenon. But now here I was in the midst of it, and between one moment to the next my view of the city, and the continent, that I, a native New Yorker, had relocated to because I viewed it as civilized, pleasant, and safe, was utterly transformed.
In the weeks and years that followed, I read a great deal about Islam, discovered Muslim communities in other European cities, and wrote about what I saw happening — and about the direction in which I feared things were going. Almost two decades later, my dire predictions have been proven right. The cities of Western Europe have become steadily more Islamized. And the byproducts of Islamization that I observed all those years ago have been magnified. No-go zones have proliferated. Crime rates have gone up. In one major city after another, the police are either under orders to avert their eyes from Muslim transgressions or have nowhere near the resources necessary to address them efficiently. Yet even as the problem grows increasingly dire, and thus increasingly obvious, authorities whitewash Islam more vigorously than ever and harass and prosecute those who dare to speak honestly about the topic.
As I have said before, there’s one big development about which I was gravely mistaken. If you had told me in 1999 that in 2018, in the small town in the mountains of Telemark in which I now live, I would get on a crowded bus and be surrounded exclusively by women in hijab and their small children, I would have expressed surprise. I expected the Muslim quarters in European cities to grow, but I didn’t foresee the expansion of Islam into the continent’s remote corners. Boy, was I wrong.
I live only two hours west of Oslo. In Norway’s far north, a twenty-four-hour drive from Oslo, is the municipality of Vadsø. It is in the county of Finnmark, on the coast of the Barents Sea, and has a population of about six thousand. It is the sort of place that, even in a continent supersaturated with Islam, you might expect to be an oasis of natives — most of whom, in this case, are not ethnic Norwegians but Sami folk, formerly known as Lapps or Laplanders, whose lives are centered largely on reindeer, which they herd, ride, eat, and have as pets. The kind of place, in short, where you might expect to die of boredom or frostbite (or severe depression during the long, dark winter), but not of cold-blooded murder in the middle of the sunshiny summer.
But no. On July 14, an 18-year-old local, Håvard Pedersen, was knifed to death at his workplace, a Coop grocery store in Vadsø, by a 17-year-old Afghan who came to Norway as an asylum seeker in 2015 and who now holds a temporary residence permit.
A coworker of Pedersen’s told the media that he had warned authorities in Vadsø two weeks earlier about the Afghan, with whom he had had a number of “skremmende” (scary, intimidating) encounters, but that they had brushed off his concerns.
“He knocks on doors and disturbs people, and comes in the store and looks like a sick person,” said the coworker. A spokesperson for the police department told NRK that it had had contact with the perpetrator in the previous month in connection with two examples of “troublesome conduct.” In the first instance, the Afghan teenager had “followed a girl all the way home and knocked on the veranda door.” In the second, he had engaged in behavior (no details) that had made another girl feel “very uncomfortable.” In response, the police had taken the young man aside for what they called a “preventative conversation” in which they explained to him that it was not appropriate to follow young women around.
The acting mayor of Vadsø, Otto Strand, at first refused to talk to NRK about the case (obviously a busy man) but later expressed concern that the murder would “lead to a change in attitude” on the part of the town’s residents. The defendant’s lawyer, Vidar Zahl Arntsen, criticized the authorities for not “doing enough” for his client. The leader of the Green Party in Vadsø, whose name, Farid Shariati, is neither Norwegian nor Sami, insists that the killing was an “isolated incident” and that it is wrong to place emphasis on the perpetrator’s origins. (On July 18, document.no noted that Shariati was fined two years ago on a narcotics violation.) The police, who said that there appeared to have been no relationship between the accused and the victim, also told reporters that so far there was no known motive for the crime. They hoped that interrogation would uncover one.
They seem not to grasp that, when one is dealing with a Muslim suspect, it may be futile to seek a motive in the conventional Western sense of the term. Not to jump to conclusions, but it might help them, if not in this case but in future cases (and there will certainly be future cases), to study the Koran, especially its directives about the proper conduct of faithful Muslims toward non-believers.
But Pedersen’s parents would likely not be pleased with this advice. Three days after their son’s murder, a spokesman for the family said that they don’t want it to lead to “racist speculation about the case in the social media.” In the words of NRK, the killing had occasioned many “xenophobic comments” on Facebook and elsewhere; Håvard Pedersen’s parents apparently wish to distance themselves from that “xenophobia.”
For my part, I have read a good many online comments about the murder by various Norwegians and I would not characterize any of them as xenophobic. I would say, rather, that they reflect a sober and realistic understanding of the vast differences between the culture of a country like Norway, which is built on freedom, mutual trust, and a strong sense of community, and the culture of a country like Afghanistan, where oppression, aggression, and corruption rule the day. The comments I’ve read also reflect a keen awareness of the nature of Islam — for instance, its teaching that the life of an infidel has no value and can be taken by a believer at will. Unfortunately, too many people, not only in little, out-of-the-way places like Vadsø but also in metropolitan centers around the world, still don’t get it, so that every now and then we encounter that most bizarre of spectacles: the grieving parents who, in effect, all but choke out apologies for the very ideology that is responsible for the murder of their child.