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After Norway massacre: Will this country ever be the same?

A view from the secretary general of the Council of Europe, a former prime minister of Norway: I am often asked what will happen in Norway now. At first, I answered that it will stay an open society. But we need to become more aware of what terrorism is, where it comes from, and how we speak about it.

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Since the July 22 terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utoya island by confessed perpetrator Anders Behring Breivik, countless foreign media have sought my opinion. They all ask the same questions: What will happen in Norway now? Will we be able to recognize Norway after this? Could something similar happen in other countries?

At first, I answered that Norway will continue to be an open society characterized by tolerance and the fight for human rights and peace. I still believe this.

But as I learned more about the terrorist, I began to add that I also hoped Norway would not be recognizable in quite the same way.

We need to become more aware of what terrorism is, where it comes from, and not least, how we speak about it.

It should be possible, for example, to no longer refer to terrorism committed by Muslims as “Islamic terrorism.” No one would dream of calling Mr. Breivik a “Christian terrorist,” just because he has described himself as Christian. We have never called the terrorism of the IRA in Northern Ireland “Christian.”

When it comes to Muslims, however, their actions are immediately associated with Islam as a religion. The term radical Islam has flourished in Norwegian debate. Does Breivik represent radical Christianity?

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