Anders Breivik is a terrorist, so we should treat him like one

From The Guardian UK:

We comb over every word from Oslo, but disregard al-Qaida’s rants. The lack of consistency speaks volumes, Friday 20 April 2012

Does Abu Qatada play World of Warcraft? Did he once, like Anders Behring Breivik, dedicate a sabbatical year to “hardcore” playing of the game? We don’t know. Perhaps we will find out when Abu Qatada, often described as the spiritual leader of al-Qaida in Europe, finally faces trial. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

For when alleged jihadists like Abu Qatada have been brought to trial, they don’t quite get the treatment accorded to Breivik this week. If they are allowed to testify for five solid days, given an extended opportunity to expound their worldview, then the world’s press do not hang on their every word, reporting in tweet-sized nuggets the nuances of their philosophy. Nor are their personal life histories, their psychology and video game habits, probed and debated.

Of course comparisons are tricky, not least because those who have staged the most lethal acts of jihadist violence – in New York, Madrid or London – have rarely lived to stand trial. But take this contrast. In Oslo, the court has been listening to a man who planted a bomb that killed eight and who went on to murder another 69 people, mostly teenagers, on the island of Utøya – a death spree Breivik described yesterday in terms that stop the heart. There has been copious discussion of Breivik’s psyche and especially his views, starting with his courtroom lament that Norway had become “a dumping ground for the surplus births of the third world“.

Contrast that with the airline bomb plot of 2006, in which an al-Qaida cell in Britain planned to blow seven transatlantic jets out of the sky. News reports of that trial offered a scant few lines about the conspirators’ individual motives, with most of the coverage focused on operational details, the mechanics and scale, of the planned attack. My Guardian colleague Vikram Dodd, who covered that London trial, was struck when he heard a Radio 5 Live phone-in this week that was regularly interrupted by snippets from Breivik’s statement. “The grammar of the coverage was as if this was the chancellor giving his budget,” says Dodd.

More than one caller to that programme, while quick to insist they disagreed with Breivik’s methods, did rather think the Norwegian had a point about multiculturalism run riot. “I can understand where this guy’s coming from,” said Tom from Dover. Several readers of a Guardian article sought to post comments in the same vein, calling for “a complete stop of immigration from Muslim countries” and suchlike. To listen to it, you’d think Breivik had simply wanted to start a debate, that he’d perhaps written a provocative pamphlet for Demos, rather than committed an act of murderous cruelty.

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