Terrorism

Thomas Hylland Eriksen, a professor in the department of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, discusses the terror attacks at Norway at opendemocracy.net :

By coincidence, I was in Oslo on Friday 22 July 2011. During this time of the year, the main holiday season in Norway, the cities tend to be empty and quiet. My teenage son was due to participate in a soccer tournament in Denmark, and I was there to accompany him to the boat before returning to our summer house on the south coast.

In the afternoon, as I was working in the garden and my son was practicing with his football, we heard a loud crash, as if lightning had struck. Dark clouds began to loom nearby. We didn’t think any more about it. Only half an hour later, however, I was rung up by a friend who asked me to turn on my computer. From then onwards, events took an increasingly dramatic turn as the afternoon gave way to evening, evening to night, and gradually the full extent of the atrocities became known.

When the domestic media began to report on the blast in central Oslo, virtually everybody must have thought of extreme Islamic groups. At least one, unknown group which called itself “friends of global jihad”, appeared to have taken responsibility for the attack on the web. Some experts said that the attack carried the “fingerprints” of al-Qaida. But when the first reports came of the shootings at Utøya – my son and I were in the car by then, on our way to the boat – the connection with international terrorism, Islamic or not, started to seem less likely.

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