Saturday, September 30, 2006

From «Victim of Society» to Menace to Society

Three weeks ago, shots were fired with an automatic rifle at the synagogue in Oslo. In the aftermath of the events, there was a huge debate in the Norwegian press, in which some interesting comments appeared.

On 17 September, in the night from Saturday to Sunday, somebody fired about ten rounds at the synagogue in Oslo with an automatic rifle. Four men were later arrested, and according to the reports of the police, which had had the car of the suspected bugged for already quite a while, the attack on the synagogue was only exercise for the real thing: an attack on the Israeli and American embassy in Oslo.

The attack resulted in a huge debate in the Norwegian media, and some interesting statements and views were reported here and there. Like for example the analysis of a number of Al Qaida cells by researcher Petter Ness of the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI, Forsvarets Forskningsinstitut), published in a report called «Jihad in Europe; recruitment for terrorist cells in Europe». In his analysis he describes how a typical terrorist cell looks like: usually there is an entrepreneur, his protégé, some people from the edge of society, and finally some loose elements. The entrepreneur and the protégé often are very religious, and their acts driven by political resentment and frustration. Usually the entrepreneur has had higher education, and he is the key person for the existence of the group. In many cases he is also the one who actively recruits new members for the group. The other members on the other hand can be part of the group out of loyalty to one of the other members, or simply because they belong to the same social network as the others. All this seems to match well with the cell that fired on the synagogue in Oslo.

Professor and researcher Tore Bjørgo of the Police School in Oslo presented another analysis. He notes that the leader of the group, a 29 year old man from Pakistani origin, used to be a member of the Young Guns, a violent Norwegian-Pakistani gang, and has already been convicted several times for cases of violence. It seems that the problems often start when a group of young people want to acquire status and an identity by means of violence, which evolves after some time into crime for economical reasons, and eventually leads to politically motivated violence. This pattern follows the personal development of the members of the group, who, as they become older, get other interests: first they want status, later money, and finally they start to interest themselves in politics. It should be noted though that some terrorist groups undergo an evolution in the other direction: they start with political violence, but then they get used to the money and continue with their economical crimes.

So is there any conclusion in here to suppress the appearance of Al Qaida cells in the West? It can in any case be called ironical that the policy of using soft gloves to handle minor criminals and the treatment of hard criminals with penitentiary leaves and early releases eventually can lead to terrorist cells that turn against the very society in which they have nested themselves so comfortably. And whereas criminologists and sociologists in Belgium in the aftermath of events around Victor Hoxha stumble over each other's feet in their hurry to tell the public that building new prisons is not a solution, and the exclusion of access to an early release would be T O T A L L Y 
 I N H U M A N E
, researchers in other countries seem to be occupied with completely different things – like how the world out there really looks like, for example.