Anti-immigration views on rise in Norway

Aug. 23, 2012 at 11:45 PM
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OSLO, Norway, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Experts disagree on whether Norway is divided on immigration and cultural integration 13 months after a self-proclaimed anti-Muslim extremist killed 77 people.

The country's accepting nature has been eroding since the July 2011 slayings, Britain's The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Some experts say they see evidence of a decline in anti-immigration sentiments since Anders Breivik confessed to bombing a government building in downtown Oslo, killing eight, and then going on a shooting spree on Utoya Island, killing 69 people at a youth camp. They cite a jump in Workers' Youth League (known in Norway as AUF) membership from 9,600 in 2011 to 14,000 this year.

AUF -- Norway's largest political youth organization, affiliated with the Norwegian Labor Party -- was on the island when Breivik attacked.

Eskil Pedersen, AUF leader and a survivor of the Utoya attack, said it was "beautiful" to seeing how Norwegian youth still believe in democracy over extremism.

Pedersen, who escaped the island on a ferry during the shootings, said, "We have been traveling around the country and the implication is that politics is cooler, but also more important."

Not all agree, The Guardian said.

Thorbjorn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister, said he doesn't think much has changed since the slaughter.

"I don't think we have changed much in the past year. People at the political level have been more cautious regarding the debate around integration and Muslims, but if you look at what is going on at the grassroots level it has not changed," Jagland said. "Xenophobic tendencies are still there; there is still a lot of hatred against immigrants; fears of multiculturalism remain. Look at debates online, they are still very much what we had before."

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