According to the terrorist’s perception of the world, the ruling party in Norway at the time was the principal enemy, and the government building complex and Utøya were his chosen targets, but this matter was toned down, including by the political party affected. The unifying rhetoric used was intended to ensure stability in what could become an unsettled period for Norway. Some claim that there has been a widespread fear of touching on the topic. No one wanted to ‘make political capital out of the terrorist attacks’ and no one wanted to be ‘lumped together with the terrorist’.
Over the years, however, 22 July has increasingly claimed its place in the political debate. The fact that prominent politicians have used the term ‘stealth Islamisation’ in immigration debate, both before and after 22 July, and the claim that there is a ‘22 July card’ that members of the Norwegian Labour Party can use to receive sympathy and avoid criticism, are persistent examples of such sensitive matters.
An absolute turning point was when former Minister of Justice Sylvi Listhaug posted her now iconic Facebook post in 2018. The debate in the Storting before she left her position was not only characterised by heated exchanges and strong emotions, however; it also revealed fundamental differences in understanding among the country’s politicians and society at large about the causes of the terrorism and its consequences.
On 9 March 2018, the Minister of Justice posted a propaganda poster on Facebook showing a picture of armed, masked men from the Al-Shabaab militia in Somalia, adorned with the text: ‘The Norwegian Labour Party (Ap) cares more about the rights of terrorists than national security. LIKE AND SHARE’. Listhaug’s follow-up text read: ‘We want to be able to quickly and efficiently deprive foreign fighters and terrorists of their passports and citizenship. The Labour Party chose to vote against this. In the fight against terrorism, we cannot sit around twiddling our thumbs!’
The background to the post was a proposal brought by the Norwegian Conservative Party (H) and the Norwegian Progress Party (FrP) to deprive certain individuals of their Norwegian citizenship without having to go through the courts. The proposal was rejected by the majority of the Storting on 8 March 2018, the day before Listhaug posted the picture on Facebook.
The post met immense criticism from a unified opposition in the Storting. Even some members of the Government coalition criticised the stunt. The critics felt that blaming the party that was the target of the terrorist attacks in 2011 for placing national security on the line and paving the way for terrorists was, at best, insensitive. Survivors and surviving family members, the Labour Party and its youth organisation AUF, and other political parties, in addition to comments in the media, criticised the stunt for resembling the same type of conspiracies aimed at the Labour Party as those fuelling Breivik’s attacks in 2011.
As a result of the post, the Norwegian Red Party (R) tabled a motion of no-confidence against the Minister of Justice. A majority of the parties in the Storting stated that they would support the motion, which would in turn threaten the entire Government coalition. Listhaug felt that her words had been interpreted in the worst way possible and apologised to the Storting on several occasions. She chose to resign from her position as Minister of Justice on 20 March 2018.
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