Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
On Tuesday morning at about nine, Oslo police received a report of a half-naked man running around brandishing a kitchen knife. Police in a patrol car made it to the scene quickly, and, seeing that he was about to stab a woman, they tried, in a move quite uncharacteristic for Oslo police, to mow him down with their vehicle. But the man, though knocked over, got up again at once, opened their car door, and wounded one of them with his knife. Whereupon one of the cops fired six bullets, bringing the episode, and the assailant’s life, to a swift end.
All this happened on a street called Theresesgate, in a very pleasant neighborhood called Bislett. I know it’s pleasant because I used to live just a few steps away from the spot where the man with the knife was gunned down. At nine on a weekday morning, the sidewalk at that location would have been crowded with people on their way to work – in other words, plenty of potential victims.
This was not the first time that the man – who, at this writing, has not yet been identified – had gone on a rampage with a knife. He did it in 2019 – also on an open street, at another location in Oslo. On that occasion, he thrust his knife at several people and managed to stab one of them in the back, though not fatally. After that incident, he was committed to a psychiatric institution. He’d been let out on Monday, the day before the episode on Theresesgate, for a leave of absence.
It’s not unusual for Norwegian mental hospitals to let dangerous psychotics out, both for brief walks and for weekends at home. I’ve discussed this insane practice with a number of doctors who routinely order such temporary releases. They uniformly claim that it would be inhumane not to allow such patients to have some free time.
But that’s one issue. Here’s another – one that most of the Norwegian media have chosen not to mention. The knife-wielder, a native of Chechnya (which is 96% Muslim, and which was the site of one of the most horrific terrorist acts of the post-9/11 era, the Beslan school siege, in which 186 children were murdered), shouted “Allahu akbar!” several times while storming down Theresesgate.
This detail, which according to journalist Christian Skaug was first reported in the newspaper VG and then scrubbed within hours (or less) from its website, might in another time and place have been considered by the authorities as a clue as to the man’s motives. But not in Europe in 2021.
At a press conference, a police spokesman said that there was nothing to indicate that this should be considered an act of terror. As Hans Rustad, one of Norway’s leading truth-tellers, wrote on Tuesday, what we have here is a police department that’s decided “to react to terror with denial.” And a media establishment that’s happy to play along.
The police spokesman called the Bislett incident a “stand-alone action.” Stand-alone, asked Rustad, “in relation to what?”
Well, certainly not in relation to, say, the October 13 killing of five people in Kongsberg, 42 miles west of Oslo, by a man who was shooting arrows from a bow but who turned out to have stabbed all his victims to death. Or the October 15 assassination of Sir David Amess, a Member of the British Parliament in Leigh-on-Sea, 51 miles east of London, by a man who walked into a Methodist church where Amess was meeting with constituents.
The Kongsberg and Leigh-on-Sea perpetrators, Espen Andersen Bråthen, 38, and Ali Harbi Ali, 25, are both Muslims. Bråthen is a convert. Ali is the son of a former advisor to the president of Somalia. In the immediate aftermath of these incidents, both of them were tentatively declared by the police to be acts of Islamic terrorism.
But that didn’t last long.
In Norway, it became the official line – delivered in unison by politicians, police, and media commentators – that Bråthen’s conversion to Islam hadn’t been “serious,” and that he therefore couldn’t be considered an Islamic terrorist. In Britain, references to terrorism were, soon after Amess’s murder, drowned in claims by MPs and pundits that the main lesson of his death was that more needed to be done to protect public figures (especially MPs) from harm and abuse (especially online harassment). The best response to this monstrous event, they insisted, would be to pass a piece of proposed legislation called the Online Safety Bill. Renamed “David’s Law” in Amess’s memory, it would, they promised, curb the “disgusting, often anonymous abuse” on social media.
As it happens, British cops already police online speech very aggressively. In recent years, hundreds of Brits (at least) have been imprisoned for supposedly offensive online comments – much if not most of them Islam. But this isn’t strict enough for the Westminster and Fleet Street elites, who are eager to use Amess’s murder as an excuse to lock up even more citizens for voicing non-PC opinions – or facts.
A few observers dared to point out that the proposed “David’s Law” had absolutely nothing to do with Amess’s murder. Had his killer ever sent him death threats? No. Had anyone who’s abused MPs online ever ended up killing one of them? Apparently not. Reportedly, Ali didn’t even have a Twitter account. But this didn’t keep politicians and journalists from pretending to wring their hands over this ridiculous non-issue.
Why? Because they were desperate to dodge the topic of Islam. So it is that if the Commons succeeds in using Amess’s killing to further quash free expression in the UK, the result will be a truly sick irony: a jihadist murder will, in effect, have empowered the British government to silence critics of the religion of jihad.
Five years ago, another MP, Jo Cox, was assassinated. She was a Labor Party member, and her killer was a loner who collected Nazi memorabilia and had a history of severe psychiatric problems. Her murder led to international discussion of far-right hatred and terrorism, even though it’s a tiny fringe phenomenon compared to jihadist Islam. The Italian Parliament named a committee on hate crimes after Cox. The Guardian reacted to Cox’s death with an article focusing on her killer’s politics and by trying – shamelessly – to link him to the UK Independence Party and the Brexit movement.
By contrast, the Guardian has reacted to Amess’s murder by depicting Muslims – in the usual fashion – as potential victims. An October 17 headline read: “UK Muslim groups brace for rise in hate crime after killing of Sir David Amess.” A week later, the same paper ran a story sensationally headlined “Somalis in UK targeted with death threats and abuse after David Amess killing” – although the article itself provided absolutely no evidence of such threats and abuse.
Meanwhile, in the days after the Kongsberg killings, the Norwegian media were busy reporting on howls of outrage from the Muslim community: how dare anyone mention Bråthen’s conversion to Islam? How could anybody so much as hint at a possible connection between the Islamic faith and an act of mass murder?
Following acts of jihadist terrorism, the sites are often decorated with flowers and candles in memory of the victims. On Tuesday night, the sidewalk on Theresesgate where the knife-wielding man was shot dead by the cops was awash in tributes to the deceased. Rustad’s widely read website, document.no, reported that the mood at the site, according to passersby, was “partly aggressive,” owing to “several bearded men” who were lingering there. This unsettling mood, however, was “not at all reflected in the media coverage” from the location.
Yes, it’s obvious that the Oslo knife man, like Bråthen and Ali, had psychiatric issues. But all three of these violent individuals also belonged to a religion that enjoins its adherents to do certain things – such as mercilessly slaughter infidels – that, when seen through Western eyes, look a hell of a lot like insanity.
Alas, if one thing about the Western European establishment has changed markedly during the 20 years since 9/11, it’s this: when a jihadist attack occurs, politicians, police, and journalists alike have become much more adept at sweeping Islam under the rug and switching almost instantly to some other topic – the need for better mental-health care, say, or the need for more extensive censorship.
In its way, it’s an impressive skill. But getting better at whitewashing jihad isn’t exactly an accomplishment to be proud of. And it will only hasten the death of a free and secular Western Europe.