As usual, our Foreign Minister will be among the last few to react on certain international issues. I guess the minister is too busy or doesn't keep abreast with happenings around us. However, let me express sympathy and condolences to victims of the two attacks in Oslo, Norway which left about 80 people dead and many injured.
I have some friends working is Oslo, the city which I last visited in 2000. It was a peaceful place with many immigrants (just like Kuala Lumpur).
Media reports are fast pointing at Islamic extremists over the bomb blast at the Prime Minister's office and a 'massacre' at the ruling party youth camp.
The huge car bomb exploded in Friday mid-afternoon and later, a man wearing a police uniform opened fire at a youth camp on an island outside the capital (read here). The youth wing of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Labor Party was holding an annual meeting at the camp at Utoeya, and the prime minister had been scheduled to attend on Saturday.
A terror group, Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami (Helpers of the Global Jihad) issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, in response to Norwegian forces’ presence in Afghanistan and to insults against the Prophet Muhammad. The claim could not be verified as it is not uncommon after such incidents for various groups having nothing to do with them to claim responsibility.
There have been previous threats against Norway, but political violence has been almost unknown in a country renowned for sponsoring the Nobel Peace Prize and mediating in conflicts ranging from the Middle East to Sri Lanka.
Oslo, a city of 1.4 million population, is a relatively easy target for terrorists. Being the 'backdoor' to Europe (just like New York in the US), it is the fastest-growing city in Europe, due mostly to an influx of immigrants. About 25 per cent of the population is composed of immigrants.
Speculation about those behind the bombing initially centered on several groups, all with Middle East affiliations. Al-Qaeda is of no exception. One prime source of grievance for such groups is the fact that Norway has about 500 troops taking part in military operations in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has threatened retaliation unless the troops are withdrawn.
Less likely to be the cause of the bombing is Norwegian participation in the NATO bombing campaign in Libya. The government announced in June that it was reducing the number of fighter jets involved from six to four and would withdraw completely by Aug. 1.
A third possibility is that the bombing is retaliation for the 2010 publication in the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet of a cartoon showing the Prophet Muhammad as a pig writing the Qur’an. The publication brought out large-scale protests by Muslims, with 1,000 Muslim taxi drivers using their cars to block streets in central Oslo in February last year.
These are not the same cartoons that a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published in 2005 and that brought demonstrations against Danish embassies in several Middle East capitals as well as death threats and attempts against the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard.
Yet another possibility is that the bombing was linked to a controversy over Mullah Krekar, founder of the Kurdish armed Islamist group Ansar al-Islam. Norwegian prosecutors filed a terrorism charge against him on Tuesday after he threatened a former minister, Erna Solberg, with death if he is deported.
Once again, the name and face of Islam are smeared by those involved. Whether it was intended to or not, terrorism always has a big tag on the religion.
While my heart goes out to the people of Norway, I am glad with the fundamentals and moderates of Islam in Malaysia. After being to some war torn countries during my heydays as a journo, I must admit that this is the best part of the world for me and family to stay.
But still, where is our Foreign Minister?