The reaction in Iceland to the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday has been mixed. President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson tells Icelanders we must be aware of the troubles which accompany extreme Islam. He tells Vísir that problem won’t be solved with naivité and actions of tolerance and social reform.
In a radio interview on Bylgjan this morning, he stated he had discovered at a meeting with representatives of a foreign state recently that a state, which wants to cultivate extreme Islam, wished to influence religion in Iceland. Vísir suggests he was alluding to Saudi Arabia. “Of course we need to worry,” he said, “Hopefully, we can protect the peaceful, open society which has been our pride, where the public, as well as leaders, can walk the streets freely without surveillance or guards.” He said we must realize we’re not isolated from the world and the fact that a foreign state wants to influence religion here is a reminder that a new discussion must take place.
In a radio interview with Bylgjan, PM Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson spoke about the situation following the attacks. He says this will cause a major change in the Nordic countries where officials fear similar attacks and believe such a risk exists. He said he had discovered by speaking to other prime ministers, even before the attacks, that they fear talking honestly in public about the issue, lest their words be misinterpreted.
He spoke of the stream of refugees to Europe: “Even tens of thousands a day, then it goes without saying that dangerous people can hide among them. As we’ve seen now. But people haven’t been willing to say this because of how it might be interpreted.”
He said that even if it were pointed out that extremist organizations will take advantage of the open borders in Europe, that’s not the same as saying refugees are criminals. “Still, people shy away from discussing it, but now it’s clear that these organizations have taken advantage of others’ misery and smuggled a number of people into Europe.”
MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Pirate Party, criticized the PM for his words on the radio, and asked, “Shouldn’t the prime minister be careful how he expresses himself before we even know whether any terrorists sneaked in through European borders?”
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ólöf Nordal reminds us that reaction to the attacks must not breed fear in our society. She said the reaction now required a coordinated effort, Vísir reports. “While we discuss the importance of maintaining our freedom, certain things must be iin order for that to happen. There is no doubt that law enforcement in every country matters. We musn’t underestimate the role of the police in every country.”
Snorri Magnússon, head of the Police Federation of Iceland, shocked many last weekend when he posted on his Facebook page that he was very critical of the Schengen Area, because of how it had reduced law enforcement, Vísir reports. He maintained he had once managed to take a loaded Glock handgun undetected into the Schengen Area.
The discussion on social media has been lively following the attacks, with many of the country’s prominent bloggers asking their countrymen not to let the horrible events breed hatred and fear in society. They point out that the refugees entering Europe are people fleeing the same extremism as Parisians were faced with. The best weapon against extremism, they say, is a careful response and discussion.