The despicable but successful attacks in Norway by Anders Breivik stand in contrast to Al-Qaeda’s difficulties in carrying out similar dramatic acts of terror. This may cause the threat from anti-Muslim extremism to rise above radical Islam in the minds of the Western public. There is a risk that growing Islamist trends in Scandinavia will be overshadowed because of the shock caused by Breivik’s attacks.
Denmark has been a top terrorist target since the publication of the cartoons denigrating Mohammed. On January 1, 2010, a Somali member of al-Shabaab tried to murder the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, with an axe at his home. Two terrorists connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba were arrested in Chicago in November 2009, one of which had conducted surveillance in Denmark in preparation for an attack. In September 2010, a Chechen accidentally set off his letter bomb in a hotel bathroom in Copenhagen. He was found with the address of the newspaper that published the cartoons.
Norway is understandably fixated on right-wing extremism following Breivik’s attacks, but it is also dealing with a serious Islamist problem. In September, three members of Al-Qaeda were arrested while planning attacks in Norway. The cell was tied to a plot to bomb New York City subways in 2009, and to attack a British shopping mall in April 2009. In February 2008, six suspected terrorists were arrested in Oslo and Stockholm, Sweden for financing terrorism and planning attacks. At least five Somali-Norwegians have been recruited by al-Shabaab, with one killed in Somalia in March.
In late 2008 and early 2009, Muslim riots occurred in response to Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Participants made anti-Semitic remarks and called for the destruction of Israel. In February 2010, there were protests against the publication of cartoons mocking Mohammed in a Norwegian newspaper. One of the speakers, Mohyeldeen Mohammad, warned that Norway could experience its own 9/11 for the act. He is now being educated in Saudi Arabia. Luckily, a small group of Muslims protested his remarks.
There is also concern about extremism in Norwegian Islamic schools. In June 2009, an imam in Drammen was arrested for striking students between 6 and 12 years old with a cane. He had been abusing the children since 2002, and was also violent towards children at several mosques. Law enforcement suspects that other imams are abusing the children. This is a problem that is not isolated to Norway. Undercover journalists in Britain discovered abuse and extremist indoctrination at a school in Birmingham and a mosque in West Yorkshire. Similar abuse was discovered at other Islamic schools in 2008.
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