3rd Oct 2022


Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

  • The first 'Lysninga' [the clearing] memorial was unveiled in the summer of 2015, with the names and ages of the majority of the 69 victims - but a row developed over a further memorial, a physical cut in the island (Photo: Wikimedia)
Listen to article

On June 18 this year, prime minister Jonas Gahr Store finally inaugurated a memorial to commemorate the victims of Europe's most infamous anti-Muslim racist murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who killed more than 77 people — primarily from Norway's Social Democratic youth organisation — as he thought they were "enablers of Islamisation".

Some had wished it would happen a year earlier, on July 22 in 2021, which marked the 10th anniversary of the worst violent attack that happened in Norway post-World War 2 and also marks the most violent attack drawing on anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But a legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

The traumatised plaintiffs had argued that the memorial would prolong their trauma.

Before killing 88 people and injuring more than 200 others in a combined car bomb attack on the government quarter of Oslo and later on the island of Utøya, the perpetrator Breivik had published a 1,518-page manifesto, which laid out his motivations that were primarily shaped by the great replacement and white genocide conspiracy theory, a belief that immigration by people of colour and especially Muslims combined with falling white birth rates and the promotion of multiculturalism are all part of a deliberate plot to destroy the "white race."

This manifesto has since influenced other violent white supremacists that mimicked Breivik, be it the killer of El Paso, the mass murderer of the Christchurch attack in New Zealand, or more recently the shooting in Buffalo/New York.

The deadly violence of Norwegian Breivik, who has since spent his time in prison, showed that Islamophobia does not only harm Muslims but every single part of society that stands for defending the human rights of the disenfranchised, first and foremost refugees and the immigrant working poor.

Breivik, unlike the murderer of New Zealand, who stormed a mosque to kill 51 praying people, targeted a government building and killed another 69 mostly teenage participants who were camping at the Labour Party's Workers' Youth League (AUF)'s annual summer camp, as he believed that they were the future enablers of Islamisation.

Four years after the attack had happened, the Workers' Youth League hosted its first summer camp on Utoya since the attack.

Originally, the government had intended to quickly establish two public memorials soon after the attack had happened.

One was supposed to be in Oslo, where eight people were killed, and one near Utoya, where 69 people were killed. While the government had expected that the construction would take just a few years, 10 years later neither of the official national memorials had been built.

While meanwhile even others such as the social-democratic mayor of the Austrian city of Wiener Neustadt, Bernhard Müller, had opened the Utøya Park in remembrance of the attacks in May 2012, less than a year after the violent attacks had taken place, inviting the ambassador of Norway to the opening ceremony, the legal battle between the local community that feels traumatised and the Workers' Youth League's lawyer continues.

For the latter, a national memorial would be "unfortunately more important than ever" given the rise of the far-right in Europe and the United States.

And he adds: "A national memorial is the strongest symbol a state can use to tell future generations that society will not forget what happened."

Finally, in February of 2021, a Norwegian court ruled that the benefits of the memorial outweighed the traumas it might revive with the local community that had helped on that day.

Nearly 11 years after the attack, the memorial is now finalised, reminding visitors of the victims of one of the most violent single-handed attacks that have become a global pioneer in violent Islamophobia.

This is an indeed necessary and important step in the spirit of the new UN resolution defining 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, urging member states "to organise and support various high-visibility events aimed at effectively increasing awareness, at all levels, about curbing Islamophobia."

Author bio

Farid Hafez is visiting professor of international studies at Williams College and co-editor of the European Islamophobia Report.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Radicalised Islamists pose-long term EU threat

Low-cost terror attacks that are difficult to prevent remain a threat for years to come given the number of radicalised Islamic militants in Europe, expert says.

How US tech giants play EU states off against each other

Some have tried to justify Big Tech's meagre tax payments in EU states with heavier tax burdens by emphasising the fact that these companies create jobs and invest in next-generation technologies. However, their market dominance comes at a steep cost.


EU should admonish less, and listen more, to the Global South

Whether on Russia, or gas, or climate change, or food security, the EU's constant finger-wagging and moralising is becoming unbearably repetitive and self-defeating. Most countries in the Global South view it as eurocentric and neo-colonial.

News in Brief

  1. EU ministers adopt measures to tackle soaring energy bills
  2. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  3. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  4. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  5. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  6. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  7. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  8. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks
  2. Putin declares holy war on Western 'satanism'
  3. Two elections and 'Macron's club' in focus Next WEEK
  4. EU agrees windfall energy firm tax — but split on gas-price cap
  5. Ukrainian chess prodigy: 'We are not going to resign ... anywhere'
  6. Going Down Under — EU needs to finish trade deal with Australia
  7. MEPs worry Russian disinfo weakens support for Ukraine
  8. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us