War of words
Anders Behring Breivik is being kept in solitary confinement at Ila Prison, near Oslo.
July 28th, 2011
12:55 PM ET

War of words

Editor's Note: Marietje Schaake (@MarietjeD66) is a Dutch Member of the European Parliament.

The horrific killings last week in Norway have prompted widespread public debate across Europe and the United States about the responsibility for words.  What responsibility do political and public sphere leaders have for their heated rhetoric, which an individual like Anders Breivik can base violence on?

This debate about the relationship between words and deeds touches a particularly raw nerve in Dutch society. Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, is a politician who frequently and firmly speaks out against Islam and against politicians to the left of the political spectrum. Wilders is referenced 30 times in Breivik's writings.

Now Wilders is at pains to avoid guilt by association. He is calling the Norwegian suspect "psychopathic and insane." Yet when similar acts of violence are carried out in the name of Islam, he doesn’t call the perpetrators 'insane psychopaths'. Instead, he calls them terrorists part of the larger plan of Islamic world domination.

Wilders expects Muslims to collectively take responsibility for the extremists in their midst. But he denounces the link between himself and Breivik.  In that case, he argues that violence can only be attributed to the individual.

I believe the latter is true, but it would help if Wilders and likeminded commentators would consistently and not selectively apply this analysis.

Wilders is right to denounce the acts of violence, but instead of reflecting on their own words, those mentioned by Breivik, like Wilders, use Breivik’s rampage as a warning of what will happen if their own concerns are not heeded. Europe's identity crisis has taken a new twist, with a new round of knee-jerk responses, stereotyping and groupthink. Right-wing conservatives are finding out what it means to experience guilt by association, and are generating extraordinarily creative arguments to get themselves off the hook.

Incredibly, both Wilders and columnist Afshin Ellian have sought to hold Islamic extremism responsible for what Breivik did. Wilders has emphasized that Breivik wants to cooperate with al Qaeda, and Ellian said that Breivik was "self-Islamized".

Instead of creating such convoluted justifications, now should be the time when all sides of the political spectrum rethink the impact of dangerous rhetoric and take responsibility. Even right-wing conservative commentator and former friend of Wilders, Bart-Jan Spruyt, called on Wilders to distance himself from the "apocalyptic atmosphere" he has brought upon the country by talking of war and claiming that politics no longer matters or can provide solutions.

Even if the conservative, anti-left, anti-Islamic views espoused by Wilders and company are not directly responsible for the Norway killings, it's clear that radical, demonizing rhetoric has an impact on society at large and on the target communities or individuals in particular. History shows us all too many examples where the gradual process of exclusion or extermination of a people has begun with demonizing them. War rhetoric can be used as a justification of ‘resistance’ by all means.

Extremists on all sides use such radical rhetoric less in defense of ideals and policies than in defense of idealized versions of their societies. The 'other' stands in the way of reaching this idealized society, goes the rhetoric, and they therefore need to change or to leave. These words represent a drifting away from reality and accountability. Political leaders from all sides of the spectrum should act responsibly in their attempts to influence society with their words.

A reasoned, informed public debate is a key pillar of resilient and open societies. The more open the debate, the fewer places misleading and radical ideology has to hide, and the more difficult it is for opinions to turn into extreme acts or to go underground.

As painful as the debates will be over the coming weeks and months both in theNetherlandsand across Europe and theU.S., dialogue on these key issues is an essential part of confronting extremism of all kinds - and of which Anders Breivik represents the very worst kind.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Marietje Schaake

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Topics: Europe • Terrorism

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Sally Morris

    note to Ms. Schaake: The reason Mr. Wilders and others have not been holding the rest of the normal world responsible for the acts of Breivik is that the rest of the normal world is not dancing in the streets in celebration. Nor are we standing aside silent. We, the normal world, are repudiating it. We are horrified by it. When there is an attack by muslim "extremists" we DO see the dancing in the streets. We do NOT hear anyone in that community condemn acts of violence committed in the name of Islam or Jihad. This is why Wilders and I and many, many others, do hold the Muslim world responsible and not the Normal world. I have not heard one Muslim condemn and reject the vicious attack by Hasan on the unarmed soldiers in the mess hall at Ft. Hood. I have yet to see a Normal person dance in delight over the tragic attack in Norway. On the other hand, Al Qaeda jumped in prematurely to take "credit". They had no problem with the destruction of 80 innocent lives. When they retracted it I don't recall them saying they were sorry it happened. So this is why the Muslim world IS responsible and the Western world is NOT responsible. Hope this helps clear it up for you, Ms Schaake.

    July 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Reply
    • Dirk

      @Sally Morris: Actually PVV-fans were, and still are partying: http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=nl&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=nl&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forum-voor-de-vrijheid.nl%2Fshowthread.php%3Fp%3D146579%23post146579

      Hiope this helps clear it up for you, miss Morris.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:59 am | Reply
      • Tim Bus

        There are so many different comments there, and the translations are so poor as to be unintelligible.
        Was that your intention Dirk?

        August 6, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  2. Sally Morris

    Ms Schaake: Have you or any of your liberal colleagues done anything lately for author SalmanRushdie or cartoonist Molly Norris? Last I heard your Muslim friends have pursuthem under an official Fatwah. Norris has completely disappeared now. Do you consider yourself responsible? What about Theo Van Gogh? Who do you hold responsible for this? The plain truth is that the Koran, the Muslim "faith" and the Imams are preaching violence against the innocent every day, all day long. Unless and until we hear some non-Muslim organization take the "credit" for the behavior of Breveik, let's all quit blaming anyone but him and/or his accomplices. I still have not heard any public condolences from the Islamic contingent. You are way off-base, Ms. Schaake. Step back and get a better perspective.

    July 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Reply
    • Norma Snell

      Ms Morris, have you actually read the Qur'an? If not, then please refrain from these narrow minded accusations. I completely agree with Mrs Schaake that even thougn politicians will always have the right to speak their mind, they, like the rest of us for that matter, should take responsibility for the opinions they voice. They have a public position and as such should take heed of what impact their random rantings may have on society. And by the way, who are you referring to as 'the normal world'? Yourself?

      July 29, 2011 at 7:13 am | Reply
      • Phoenix Woman

        Don't mind Ms. Morris. She just wants an excuse to kill brown people who aren't her kind of "Christian".

        July 29, 2011 at 10:02 am |
      • de^mol

        Oh, I read the koran and the hadiths. And I don't understand why she should refrain from so called accusations.Or is it ok that Allah doomed the Jews (Al-Bakarah 2:88), or is it ok that Mo chopped hundreds of Jews head off (read the hadith)?

        July 29, 2011 at 10:33 am |
      • Tim Bus

        It is so pathetically obvious that Marietje Schaake (of the leftard D66) is anti Wilders, that anything he says, she will say something to damn him, or worse. She is joined by others who either hate traditional Dutch values, mores and customs, or Jews and Israelis, or both. They support Hamas, Hezbollah, Taliban, al-Qaeda and thousands of other lesser known terrorist groups and their 'charity' fund raisers. Here they are represented by Norma Snell, Derk, Phoenix Woman, Mac, Soltan, and Salam Mahaba, among others.

        Norma Snell:
        There are millions of kuffar who have studied the 'noble' koran, prompted by the islamic thugs who operate and regenerate with impunity, blessed by evil imams preaching hatred and overthrow of the state they immigrated to.
        Those kuffar have read the words of hate, and now understand the reason for thousands of terrorist attacks by mohammedans, not only against them, but even against their co-cultists. Yes, "The 'Religion' of Peace" (TM) has murdered more mohammedans than kuffar, but that shouldn't allow them a free pass by by the Useful Idiots who have identified themselves here.

        That is an answer to your question; now where is your answer to Sally Morris, regarding the terrorism against Theo Van Goch, Pym Fortuyn, Daniel Pearl and a thousand others? That terrorism was not only aimed at the direct victims, who were murdered in cold blood, and sometimes tortured first, but deliberately targeted at the mass of the public.
        Their message: "YOU COULD BE NEXT."

        August 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • j. von hettlingen

      Any religion could be a wolf in sheep's clothing. It all depends on the wording!
      "I still have not heard any public condolences from the Islamic contingent". Were you in Norway? Many foreigners of Islamic faith in Norway paid tribute to the scenes of horror and share the grief with their fellow Norwegians.

      July 29, 2011 at 9:36 am | Reply
  3. fernace

    Actually 100's of Muslim religious leaders, professors, politicians & other leaders have, in the last 10 years, denounced violence in the name of their religion & have tried to clarify the tenets of Islam. The "normal" world is in a "war" with terrorists who twist religious & politicical beliefs to their agendas! Mr.Wilder can't deny what he said, or that it wasn't meant as a call to violence, since he's been discussing these issues as a catalyst to war! That's why Ms. Schaake is urging leaders to watch their words! Unstable people take them as a call to arms, as the gunman in Arizona did! It is especially disingenious of Mr. Wilder to blame Islam, even in the glare of his own words as repeated in Breiviks manifesto! Peaceful Muslims across the globe, are no more to blame for 1 violent factions acts, than peaceful Christians are for what Breivik did in the name of "Christendom" & the Knights Templars ! But he can be considered a Christian terrorist, just as the Muslim terrorists are!!

    July 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  4. Anna Black

    Free speech, including that of Geert Wilders, should not be limited simply because there are unstable people out there who will take speech as a call to arms. That would be like saying Winston Churchill shouldn't have warned the world about the danger of Hitler's movement, since a nut-job might take his words and do something violent. I would rather risk that insane people do something bad, than risk not speaking about extremely important issues. And I'm in full agreement with Sally Morris' statements!!

    July 29, 2011 at 7:11 am | Reply
  5. Mac

    If Islam had been as violent as Ms Morris says, there would not have been more than 1.5 billion followers in the world.

    The Second World War was fought between CHRISTIAN countries with the loss of around 100 million lives. There has never been a war in ISLAMIC HISTORY that comes anywhere close to that monstrosity of VIOLENCE.

    July 29, 2011 at 10:22 am | Reply
    • de^mol

      Really? Never heard of the muslim masacre in India in the medieval? (estimated 80 million hindus who were killed by muslims?)

      And why should there not be so many? When you kill all your enemies, as they did in the middle east, or took them over, and you get so many children as they do and marry at 15, well then it will grow like rabbits.

      July 29, 2011 at 10:42 am | Reply
      • Mac

        You Hindus have never recovered from the 900 years of Muslim rule. You need to grow up, Ghalib said Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are all together during Muslim rule.

        July 30, 2011 at 6:02 am |
    • Dan Canto

      How naive can one get? The reason there are over a billion Muslims is not because the religions is so peaceful but because for centuries since the time of Muhammad, Islamic potentates, mullahs, and zealous believers have enforced the Islamic law of executing anyone who tries to leave the religion. Apostates today are still legally executed in Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen, and they not comfortable anywhere else in the Islamic world.

      Even to morons it should be clear that any religious ideology that calls for the murder of anyone leaving that religion, or insulting its "prophet", is an extremely oppressive & evil ideology! What is the matter with people! who can't see the obvious here? Brave scholars like Robert Spencer, Ibn Warraq and many others keep trying to explain the evils and clear & present dangers while incredible fools keep worrying about how their words are provocative and not nice. Read the obviously concocted & terrorizing Quran and do the biographical research on the obvious fraud Muhammad and help stop the nonsense!

      August 2, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  6. Katie

    I completely agree that extremist rhetoric is dangerous on both sides of the spectrum and they only further incite each other which leaves the rest of the world in the crossfire and to pick up the pieces afterwards. But I think we need to look at the larger picture. I have no idea how anyone but a psychopath could fall for the jihadist agenda but they've apparently found an effective way to brainwash people with that rhetoric as there simply cannot be that many psychopaths out there. And this is where the problems lies, somehow people have managed to tie Islam and violence together in such a convincing manner that large numbers of people are falling for the perversion. And this is an epidemic for Islam that needs to be addressed by the Islamic world as no one else stands a chance in this battle. Other religions have struggled with similar extremist issues (the inquisition, witch trials, etc.).

    July 29, 2011 at 11:13 am | Reply
  7. michael

    Please stop plastering this guys glamor shot all over the web. he needs to get less attention

    July 29, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  8. andreas

    When I look around the world at countries that opresses the freedom of their people, especially women in a repeated and systematic and religiously defended way, I can ony find one organized religion, and that is Islam.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  9. Soltan

    Double standards in Western media
    by Soltan Ismaylov*

    July 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  10. Hans

    Marietje Schaake is a member of one of the leading 'Gutmensch'-parties, D66, in the Netherlands. Yet at the same time members of that same party have absolutely no problem steeling millions of euro's of public money for their own benefit. D66 is in Turkey referred to as the best Dutch party for Turkish-Dutch citizens to vote for, because D66 categorically denies the killing of millions of Armenians. As a result a Turkish-Dutch D66-woman got tons of preferential votes and therefore was elected in parliament. And the leader of this party, mr. Pechtold, was a fraudulent alderman in the city of Leiden before becoming the leader. With other words: he/she who is without sin cast the first stone...

    July 29, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  11. salam mahaba

    The Christian Insanity Defense
    The Western media called the Norwegian terrorist a madman!
    "It seems it's not Islamic-terror related," the official said. "This seems like a madman's work."
    So it is either “Islamic“, or a "Madman", Not a Christian Terrorist!
    When a Muslim do something bad a whole religion and 1 Billion people are blamed! However when it is WWII, or Iraq they call Hitler madman, and Bush retarded!
    One picture speaks better than a thousand words
    I would like to see the chart for the number of Muslims killed by violent Christians, like the Million innocent Iraqis killed by the Crusader Adolf Ben Bush, the hundreds of thousands of Algerians killed by French Colonizers of Algeria (those who now complain about Algerian immigrants), Bosnia massacres, Chechnya, …etc

    July 30, 2011 at 12:07 am | Reply
  12. Ewie

    Lot of people in this thread miss the essential point: be open for debate and reflection if you take a tough stance. Geert Wilders is very outspoken, but is not seriously interested in a constructive debate. In that sense he is not taking his democratic responsibility.

    July 30, 2011 at 5:17 am | Reply
    • Tim Bus

      Ewie July 30, 2011 at 5:17 am

      "Geert Wilders is very outspoken, but is not seriously interested in a constructive debate. In that sense he is not taking his democratic responsibility."

      Geert Wilders suffered through TWO trials of his opinions set up by mohammedan 'complainants', funded by unknown agents (Iran, Saudi Arabia?), and pushed by leftard lawyers and judges, AGAINST THE EXPRESS RULINGS OF THE PROSECUTION. That kangaroo court was biased, refused 17 out of his 20 defense witnesses – including Mohammed Bouyeri, Van Goch's islamist murderer, who would have proven Wilders' case single handed – and the senior judge attempted to suborn the leading witness for the defense. So Wilders case was analyzed and scrutinized 100 times more than any other politician or their platform. And the process was the punishment. His tormenters and the corrupt judges got off scot free.

      Marietje Schaake should face a similar trial for libeling/slandering Wilders, as should others who deliberately and maliciously attempt to blame him for Breivik's attack.

      August 6, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Reply
  13. Mac

    Most European countries COLONIZED the Islamic World for more than 300 years. A few immigrants from those colonized countries should not be blamed for this racist murderer who is nothing more than a cold blooded killer.

    July 30, 2011 at 7:04 am | Reply
  14. Houte Klomp

    The leaders, politicians and press of the West betrayed its own principle and vital lifeblood: freedom of speech, when a bunch of hysteric muslims 20 countries away pulled a tantrum and the West bend over backwards and in unison with these individuals with medieval mindsets, condemned the Danish cartoonists and censored the cartoons and with the help of so called `human rights tribunals`started suing anybody who dared to reprint them.

    Now not only did these hysterical muslims, much to their satisfaction, learn that the West is lead by pushovers who don`t even want to back up their claim to freedom of speech, the people in the West learned that their hard fought for freedoms were standing a chance to get sacrificed on the altar of peace. If you are willing to give up your freedoms to `keep the peace` you will end up with losing both.

    This writer and all politicians and parliamentarians in Europe and the free West should get properly educated on the principles the free West is build on to avoid further damage.

    August 12, 2011 at 3:51 am | Reply

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