On Friday the 22nd of July, right after the bomb went off and the killing of young Norweigian Social Democrats began, one could have asked one question. Not just in Oslo, but to people all over the world. One could ask them what they thought had happened. The majority would probably have answered: those responsible are in some way linked to al-Qaeda.
I willingly admit that that was my first thought as well when I received a call from Oslo just minutes after the explosion shook the government building, but before the reports about the ongoing mass murder at the political summer camp. This is terror. As we know it since 9/11 in New York City. In Madrid, in London, in Bombay, in Bali. The list goes on. So now it is Norway's turn. The country with its wealth and its oil in peaceful Scandinavia has been hit by those who have kidnapped Islam and who think that they have the right to kill anyone to spread their bewildered and hateful religious belief.
But that was wrong. Today we know better, even though we can be far from certain what really lies beneath these dreadful events, where one man alone kills at least 75 people by blowing them up or shooting them down on a summer day. What we do know is that a 32-year-old Norwegian by the name of Breivik has been arrested. For his court appearance, he requested two things: he wanted to wear a uniform and for the hearing to be open. He sees himself as a soldier at war, as holy as any Islamic fundamentalist.
The only difference is that he regards himself as a Christian. So here we have a man who kidnaps Christianity in the same way as Islam has been kidnapped over the years. A man who launches a holy war against the massive immigration of Muslims to Norway and Europe. Moreover, his lonely war is also a confused synthesis of hatred towards globalisation, towards "Cultural Marxism," towards the Social Democratic Party in Norway who has betrayed their country. His ambition, which he wrote about in the rambling Manifesto he posted on the Internet, is to "save Europe".
In a chilling and uncanny manner, he thinks that a good way to start this rescue operation is to murder the next generation of Social Democratic politicians in Norway. That is why he walks around and kills these young people in cold blood. He uses forbidden bullets to cause as much bodily harm as possible. More than 60 young people die. Some drown when they desperately try to swim away from the island.
This is what we know today. Soon we will know more. But one conclusion that we never again can take for granted is that terrorism and Islam always are connected. Terrorism can be linked to both left-wing extremism and right-wing extremism. Furthermore, it can be linked to all religions, possibly with the exception of Buddhism, which does not go to war to spread its cause.
Within Breivik's contempt for all that is human lies the barbaric aspects of his actions. We will never be able to protect ourselves from that, but we can try. One way to do that is to continue to defend an open society. The day we let fear spread and lock our doors is the day that we actually lose the first battle with Breivik over which society we should have. We must not let that happen. It would not be possible to lead a free and decent life in a society like that.
Henning Mankell Henning Mankell is a Swedish novelist and author of the Kurt Wallander series.