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In Norway, a Torch Extinguished: Sylvi Listhaug Steps Down

Well, it was too good to be true. This morning, Sylvi Listhaug stepped down as Norway's Minister of Justice and Immigration. To those Norwegians with their eyes open to the crisis facing Western Europe, Listhaug has been a hero. She's condemned the hijab, criticized fake refugees and fake Muslim moderates, and warned against the jihadist enemy within. While other members of Norway's purportedly center-right coalition government pander and appease, she speaks the truth. Last August I called her “a diamond in a dungheap.” Well, now, she's been forced out of the government, and all that's left is ordure. For those of us who have hoped that her rise to power might mark the beginning of a new political order with the cojones to turn Norway around before it's too late, her resignation marks a black day in modern Norwegian history.

To show just how black a day it is, some context is in order.

A couple of decades ago, the Norwegian political and media establishment kept a tight lock on open discussion of the country's immigration and integration policies -- and of Islam. Widespread public awareness that Norway was headed down the wrong road led to the growing success of the small, classical liberal Progress Party, which under longtime head Carl I. Hagen became a voice for citizens who had had no say in the formulation of these policies. The party's gradual move from the margins to the center was fought at every turn by the establishment, which cynically smeared it as fascistic and racist.

Then, on July 22, 2011, as most of the world knows, a nutcase named Anders Behring Breivik bombed the principal government building in downtown Oslo, where the prime minister and other leading officials have their offices, and then carried out a shooting spree on the nearby island of Utøya, where, at the time, members of the Workers' Youth League, the junior division of the then-governing Labor Party, were holding their annual indoctrination and fun camp. Breivik killed a total of eight people in Oslo and 69 at Utøya.

Before going out to commit murder, Breivik posted online a “manifesto” that ran to several hundred pages. It consisted largely of material by other people, including critics of Islam. He presented himself as a counter-jihadist warrior.

Now, by the time Breivik came along, Islam had become a hot topic in the Norwegian public square. His actions changed all that -- for a while, anyway. In the weeks after July 22, Norwegians, who are usually quite emotionally restrained, wept and held hands in public with total strangers, including jihad-friendly Muslims. Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg gave speeches in which he called for national unity across party lines. He talked about love. He swept Islamic terrorism under the rug and portrayed Muslims as victims.