Well, as it turned out, I didn’t end up testifying at the trial of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik after all. As I reported here back in April, Breivik’s lawyers put together a long list of Islam critics, myself included, whom they were calling as “expert witnesses.” The summonses we were sent in the mail made it clear that under Norwegian law we were obliged to testify. If we refused to comply, we would be subject to fine and imprisonment.
The alleged reason for calling us as witnesses was to demonstrate that Breivik is not alone in taking a skeptical view of multiculturalism, of Islam, and of mass Muslim immigration – and that he is therefore sane, and should be sent to a prison (as he wishes) and not to a psychiatric hospital. This purported strategy made absolutely no logical sense. Does it really need to be proven to anyone that such views are widespread? And what, in any case, does any of this have to do with the mental state of this wacko who remorselessly gunned down dozens of teenagers? Plainly, the real reason for dragging some of Norway’s most prominent critics of Islam into court was to establish guilt by association – to link all of us, in the minds of Norwegians, with the most reviled creep in modern Norwegian history – and to send out the message that if you publicly criticize Islam in Norway, you can end up being dragged into court.
In May, as I also reported here, religious scholar Hanne Nabintu Herland, one of us “expert witnesses,” announced her refusal to obey the defense team’s summons, declaring that she’d rather go to jail than be a part of the “circus” at the Oslo courthouse.
Shortly thereafter – and I haven’t previously reported this here – the court issued an extraordinary decision in which it divided the list of defense witnesses in two. Norwegian television, the judges ordered, would not be allowed to air the testimony of those of us who are critical of Islam; it would, however, be permitted to broadcast the testimony of our critics, the people who describe us as Islamophobes and racists. In their written statement, the judges justified this outrageous decision by saying that I and other Islam critics have “indirect connections” to Breivik though “the extreme right-wing milieu” – the point presumably being that the views of people like me are so noxious, so offensive, so dangerous, that it would be inappropriate to expose Norwegian TV viewers to them. (At the same time, however, it was perfectly acceptable to broadcast comments by the Islam-friendly authors and professors who routinely smear people like me and misrepresent our views.) I found it staggering that the judges felt free to describe me, without evidence and without anything remotely resembling proper legal procedure, as a member of some “extreme right-wing milieu” to which this mass murderer also belongs.
The next big development was nothing less than a bombshell. After all these weeks, somebody looked at Norwegian criminal law and found out that you can’t force “expert witnesses” to testify. That this little fact had apparently escaped the notice of all the judges, lawyers, and journalists involved in the case, not to mention every last member of the country’s legal establishment, all of whom were following the case assiduously, was, to say the very least, pretty embarrassing. When this news hit the papers, I shot off an e-mail to the defense lawyers saying that, given this new information, I was hereby withdrawing my name from the witness list.
But Breivik’s people weren’t going to let a mere law get in their way. They went straight to the judges and asked to have their “expert witnesses” magically turned into “regular witnesses” – a stratagem which would allow them to retain the power to force us to testify. Astonishingly, the judges went along with this slimy scheme, even though classifying us as “regular witnesses” made no sense whatsoever. As Islam critic Hans Rustad commented at his website, document.no: “This is unheard-of, and, if you will, unethical.” Just to take my own example: I had never had the slightest contact with Breivik; I was in the United States on the day of the massacre; and the main thing the lawyers wanted to talk to me about on the stand, my e-book The New Quislings, was about the aftermath of July 22. How, then, could I be considered a “regular witness”? Scandalous.
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