Supporters of the English Defence League have blamed the Norwegian government’s immigration policies for the attacks that killed at least 93 people, provoking outcry from anti-fascist campaigners who are calling for the EDL to be classified as an extremist group.
The comments come amid increased scrutiny of links between the man arrested for the attacks, Anders Behring Breivik, and the EDL. Breivik, a right-wing Christian-fundamentalist, had previously written that he had been “impressed” by the EDL and advocated the creation of a Norwegian version of the group, which campaigns against what it perceives as the spread of Islam and Sharia Law in Britain.
In a manifesto titled “2083”, put online before the attacks, Breivik writes: "I used to have more than 600 EDL members as Facebook friends and have spoken with tens of EDL members and leaders. In fact; I was one of the individuals who supplied them with processed ideological material (including rhetorical strategies) in the very beginning."
Since the attacks, campaigners have called for the EDL to be formally classified by the government as a far-right organisation, rather than a legitimate political entity. Nick Lowles, director of anti-extremist campaign group Hope Not Hate, said yesterday that the decision not to classify the EDL as an extremist right-wing group “severely limits the capacity of the police to gather intelligence on the EDL, its members and its activities”. “Given the mounting evidence of connections between the EDL and alleged violent extremists like Anders Behring Breivik, we don't see how this situation is sustainable,” he said.
The Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has said Norwegian officials are working with foreign intelligence agencies to see if there was any international involvement in the attacks.
A statement from the EDL denied that it had any official contact with Breivik and condemned the attacks. But comments made by EDL supporters on the organisation’s forum and Facebook page are likely to increase pressure on the group.
Amid many condemnations of the massacre by EDL supporters on the forum, a number of people argued that the Norwegian government’s immigration policies were to blame for the attack. One user of the forum said: “They may blame this on the right wing but it’s most certainly caused by the left wing politicians and the injustices they serve up on a daily basis.” They added: “Maybe this guy is very well focused on his cause and created this situation in an attempt to alert the world about the islamification problems.”
One person posting on the group’s Facebook page wrote of Breivik yesterday: “I would have supported him 100% if he had just stuck to bombs instead of killing them poor brainwashed children.”
In response to the Norway attacks, the government has announced that the National Security Council, chaired by David Cameron, will meet today to discuss what lessons Britain can learn from the killings.
When questioned yesterday on whether Britain had focused too much on Islamist terrorism and not enough on right-wing terrorism, the Foreign Secretary William Hague said al-Qa’ida inspired terrorism remained “the single biggest terrorist threat to the United Kingdom and our allies.”
Europe's extreme right
A country with a reputation for being open-minded, Sweden has become increasingly dissatisfied with immigration policies and is susceptible to the far right. Last year, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party won its first seats in parliament. Its leader, Jimmie Akesson, has described Islam as un-Swedish but denies accusations of racism.
The views of far-right politician Geert Wilders, who described Islam as fascist, are now more mainstream in a country once known for being tolerant. His anti-immigration, Euro-sceptic Freedom party won 24 seats in last year's election, making it the country's third-largest party.
The right-wing True Finns party has risen from obscurity to win 19.1 per cent of the vote in the recent election, making it the third-largest force in parliament with 39 seats. The success of a party that had just 4 per cent of the vote four years earlier was described as "shocking" by the Finnish media.
France's National Front (FN) has long been one of the most prominent far-right parties in Europe, largely because of vitriolic outbursts by its former leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was convicted several times for racist and anti-Semitic statements. Since taking over from her father earlier this year, Marine Le Pen has attempted to take the party – the third-largest political force in France – more mainstream, but continues to warn against radical Islam and globalisation.
Rudolf Hess's remains were dug up for cremation recently to stop pilgrimages by Neo-Nazis to Hitler's deputy's last resting place in a country that has long had problems with far-right youth protest movements and hate crimes. Germany's Federal Intelligence Service estimated this year that there are 25,000 right-wing extremists in Germany, including 5,600 Neo-Nazis.
The xenophobic Danish People's Party has propped up the country's centre-right coalition for the past decade and ensured that its immigration policies are among Europe's tightest.