Norway still facing Islamist threat: head of populist right

OSLO, Aug 2, 2011 (AFP) - The deadly twin attacks carried out by a right-wing extremist should not overshadow the fact that Norway still faces a serious Islamist threat, the head of the populist right Progress Party told AFP Tuesday.

"All the debates that we had prior to July 22 will come back. All the challenges that Norway was facing and the challenges that the world was facing are still there. Al-Qaeda is still there," insisted Siv Jensen in an interview at her office in parliament.

"The new thing is that we have been in a horrible way reminded of the fact that terrorism can come in many different forms, with different rhetoric behind it, with different crazy ideas behind it," she said.

AFP - Workers remove flowers and candles, placed in front of Oslo Cathedral in memory of the victims of the July 22 attacks, early on August 3, 2011

In the five years since she took over as head of the anti-immigration party, Jensen has repeatedly cautioned against the "rampant Islamisation" of Norway, and Tuesday she stressed it was important to remain "aware of the threats that we had before July 22, because they are still there."

Jensen, 42, has however been careful to distance herself from the July 22 self-confessed killer, Anders Behring Breivik, who described his murderous rampage as part of a "crusade" against Islam and multiculturalism.

Behring Breivik targeted the ruling Labour Party, which the 32-year-old blamed for its multicultural policies, first bombing government offices before going on an 80-minute shooting spree on the nearby island of Utoeya, where the party was holding a youth summer camp.

The attacks were the deadliest carried out on Norwegian soil since World War II, killing a total of 77 people, many of them teenagers.

"I resent everything that he stands for. I resent his actions and will not be associated with this guy. Really, I will not," Jensen declared, refusing however to say whether she would tone down her negative rhetoric about Islam.

In Nordic neighbour Denmark, Pia Kjaersgaard who heads the far-right Danish People Party (DPP) also on Tuesday said she would not temper her public comments following the killing spree in Norway.

"Under no circumstances do I intend as a politician to be afraid of what I say. I have feelings, I have views and I express them." she told the Politiken newspaper.

She equally rejected suggestions that Behring Breivik's actions can be linked to the anti-immigration policies advanced by some European political parties like the DPP.

"It must be made very clear that the only person responsible for this terrible massacre (in Norway) is the mass murderer, instead of all sorts of people beginning to feel guilt, start soul searching and I don’t know what," she said.

Jensen's Norwegian anti-immigration party has grown over the past decade to become Norway's second largest party and counted Behring Breivik as a member between 1999 and 2006.

"I was really, really sad, sadder than I already was, when I realised that he had for a certain period of time been a member of my party," she said, adding though that she had not managed to find anyone who could remember him.

"He didn't take part in any debate, he didn't make much of himself, he was very quiet and nobody remembers him," she said.

In a message posted on the debate forum in 2009, Behring Breivik aired his own grievances with Jensen's Progress Party, which he said "thirsted to satisfy (society's) multicultural expectations and the suicidal ideals of humanism."

"We are facing a guy with a very strange mindset and the ability to do horrible things to society," Jensen said Tuesday.

She also distanced herself from Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former head of France's right-wing National Front party, who wrote last week that the Norwegian government's "naivety" was to blame for the mass killing.

She said she has "always resented everything that Monsieur Le Pen and his party have advocated."

Jensen, who usually never misses an opportunity to butt heads with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, even had rare words of praise for the government chief.

"Prime minister Stoltenberg is someone that I fight verbally every day, but during this period of time, he's also been my prime minister," she said.

But while Stoltenberg has been widely hailed for his handling of the crisis and has seen his Labour Party soar in the polls, Jensen's Progress Party has seen support dwindle for some time.

Opinion "polls go up, they go down and they change," Jensen argued. "The important thing is not polls, the important thing is the election."

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