It seems that most people in Europe -- in the wake of the Paris massacres at the magazine Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket -- have either forgotten, or never been taught, that Muslims have invaded Europe several times before. In the Eighth Century, the Moors (Muslims from North Africa) succeeded in conquering Spain and the early medieval French King, Charles Martel, fought and put a stop to the Moors' invasion of France. It took 800 years to expel Islam from Spain; the final expulsion of the Moors from Andalusia occurred 1492. Later, the Ottomans made it to the gates of Vienna in 1683. How has Islam's nature and history in Europe been forgotten?
Norway, like many other countries in Europe after World War II, has built up an expansive welfare state. It is based on the principle of shared values, shared goals and shared faith in the state. Historically, Norway has prided itself in being a largely classless society with a large middle class, and only a small upper class or nobility.
In Norway's educational system, history is not a valued subject. It is included either under the umbrella of "social studies" or "Norwegian." This downgrading, combined with the erosion and virtual removal of Christianity from the education system, means that many are unaware of how their society and democracy were formed, or of the enormous prices paid to attain them. Recent generations seem to take them for granted.
The development of the West, which began with Socrates in Athens; then proceeded to rule of law based on verifiable evidence and equal justice from Rome; then the theological debate that preceded the Reformation and the Renaissance; the Enlightenment and the growth of science -- all of these, over hundreds of years, have shaped constitutions and created today's democratic societies. Today's constitutions, legal systems, codes of ethics, and even desired values for children, are based on the values and qualities expressed in both the Old and New Testament, but most young people are not aware of this.
Islam is an ideology. All nations have their own, although this may not be obvious to those who are born and brought up in them. What, then, is Norway's post-war ideology (or idealism), and how does it permeate Norway's society today?
Before large amounts of oil began to be extracted in the 1970s, Norway was largely a monocultural society. However, the last 40 years have been a high-speed transition to a multicultural society, whose previous solidarity and joint values are now being broken down and questioned by parallel and, in the case of Islam, some widely opposing values and goals.
With immigration comes a larger gap between the poorest and richest than before, but Norway retains its strong social values of equality and its dream of solidarity -- perhaps a key reason why socialism still has such a strong hold on the country.
Norway's education system is permeated in an idealistic vision of equality and a belief in cultural relativism: that everyone, every culture and every religion are of the same value. Schools and even preschools are obliged to work toward wiping out class differences. As the state opposes the idea of private schools, there is virtually no alternative to the state school. The majority of teachers are idealists who believe in the idealism they are obliged to preach.
Cultural and religious relativism prevail. Islam is presented in schoolbooks as "just another religion." Key practices, such as washing before praying, and praying five times a day, are presented; but Mohammed's biography, Islam's ideology and agenda, the concept of the kafir [infidel] and all its aggressive contents are brushed under the carpet. Islam is presented as an attractive
There is no tradition of debate clubs in Norway; the result is pressure for consensus of views and thoughts. To debate, in England, is considered an art. Many schools have debate clubs, and there is no harm seen in disagreeing strongly, then still going after to the pub. In Norway, in the workplace, to disagree is not always a safe option. To express an opinion that runs against the stream can be associated with "being difficult," "argumentative," and that what you think is "wrong," with unpleasant overtones of "you are wrongly programmed."
Norway's politicians are both younger and less experienced than their European counterparts, who mostly enter politics later in life after a career in business. Few of Norway's politicians have an international perspective from higher education or a career apart from politics. Many have gone straight into politics from student days. They are raised in a society with a small population entrenched in a socialist consensus, and that presses for conformity. How then does one express dissent in a country whose politicians and media are rooted in socialist thinking; where discussing religion is a no-go; where politics has replaced religion, and where there is a small population ensuring conformity of thought, with the risk of being sanctioned for expressing other thoughts?
Most of the media has the same socialist outlook as Norway's politicians. There is either complete ignorance or a blind refusal to go to the root of Islamic terrorism, or how Islam's doctrine effects the socialisation, mindset and actions of Muslims. Despite the existence of informative, independent websites such as document.no and rights.no, the media refuses even to look at Islam's doctrines.
Rather than investigate Islam for themselves, politicians in Norway have put their blind faith in what the imams in Norway say is Islam. Likewise Islamsk Råd, The Islamic Council of Norway, has been given media space to determine what Islam is or is not.
The last three years have seen an explosion in the knowledge of Islam by the man-in-the street, largely thanks to the internet, and inspired by key figures such as Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, Brother Rachid and Norway's own Hege Storhaug. While no voice critical of Islam gets coverage in the media, recent coverage in the media of Germany's populist PEGIDA movement (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West) has already started changing this lapse.
PEGIDA was started in Dresden last October by Lutz Bachman, who stepped down on January 21, 2015, after a photo of him posing as Hitler surfaced. Its wildfire popularity throughout Europe in just three months or existence seems due to the politicians' and media's neglect of their populace -- especially the media's refusal or inability to undertake independent investigative journalism.
Left, the World Islamic Mission mosque in Oslo. Right: Sitting in front of the black flag of jihad is Ubaydullah Hussain, a well known Islamist in Norway who was convicted of hate speech against Jews and threatening journalists.
People are now discussing what exactly is preventing the European media from going to the root of Islam -- discussing which elements of Islam's key scriptures (the Koran, the sira and the hadith) are at conflict with the non-Muslim world.
If the media and politicians admit there is a problem, they will be forced to retract their belief in multiculturalism and apologize for voluntarily allowing a change in Norway's demographics, with potentially many violent outcomes. They might have to admit that the media and politicians know of the dangers of Islam's doctrines but do not dare to publish them; that maybe they have been collectively threatened and are afraid of the consequences. Other countries' media might be afraid to talk about Islam's doctrines because of their dependence on oil from the Middle East, but this is not the case for Norway.
PEGIDA's followers can trigger a sorely needed debate on the unopened Pandora box of Islam's doctrines. They can also ask questions that need to be asked, but that neither politicians nor the media have so far had the guts to ask. Caricatures and cartoons are only the symptom; we need to get to the root.
Bjorn Jansen is a journalist based in Norway.