We are all in mourning after the horrific killings in Kongsberg. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go to those affected, their families and the local community in Kongsberg.
Unfortunately, the tragedy has created a flood of rumours whereby the attack is wrongly linked to Islam. For several days, a false picture has been created that the violence may be about religiously motivated terror. Despite the fact that one received information quite early on that the perpetrator had been receiving treatment for mental illness for some time, the angles, formulations and headlines among opinion makers have created the impression that there is a causal link between the killer’s alleged conversion to Islam and the Police Security Service’s statement that it “appears to be a terrorist act”. Media alluded to a possible Islamist motive, and asked the mosque in Kongsberg whether it had a radicalised Muslim milieu.
As an umbrella organization for Norwegian Muslims, we want to shed light on some important facts – to put an end to what we perceive as creating unnecessary suspicion and mistrust of Muslims.
First of all, there is no unequivocal information that the killer is a Muslim. A video circulating in the media reveals that the person in question claims to be a “messenger of God” and a Muslim. He appears obviously disturbed, with grandiose delusions. His way of life and ignorance of basic Islamic theology substantiate that he has never been a Muslim.
There are certain criteria for converting to Islam. Among other things, the creed must be uttered in a sane state, and common practice is that this is done in front of witnesses. In addition, one must accept the dogma that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is God’s last messenger, and that there will be no new revelations after the Qur’an. The Kongsberg murderer claimed that he himself received revelations and was a messenger. Thus, he placed himself unequivocally and undoubtedly outside the circle of Islam. Apart from the fact that on a couple of occasions he visited the mosque in Kongsberg to tell that he received revelations, he had no contact with the Muslim community in Kongsberg.
In light of this, it is extremely problematic that the police and media have uncritically determined that the killer is a convert to Islam. The fact that one claims to be a Muslim does not automatically make one a Muslim, in the same way that one does not become a “Messenger of God” just by giving oneself this label.
Furthermore, it is important to point out that if Espen Andersen Bråthen’s conversion to Islam had in fact been real, it would still have been wrong to portray the violence as so-called Islamist terror. An Islamist is a religious activist with political visions. The Kongsberg murderer was not even able to have a meaningful conversation about religion, let alone have a religiously inspired political vision.
The killer is described by people who had contact with him as mentally ill, dangerous, paranoid and in dire need of help. He fell out of society in his youth, and became increasingly ill and more isolated. He uttered racist and repugnant remarks about his neighbour, and several warnings were sent about him.
Now that the killer has been transferred to the health service and it has been made clear that his actions were not planned (as terrorist acts are), it is incumbent upon the police and media to immediately correct the misconception that the grotesque murders were a result of Islamically motivated terror. Moreover, we as a society should now talk about how we can improve our health system so that mentally ill who pose a danger to themselves and others, receive the treatment they need. Xenophobic forces that spin a narrative that terror is due to an alleged Muslim invasion of Europe, are reminded that all terror that has taken life in Norway is committed by angry white men.
Finally, we request that Kongsberg mosque, which has received uncalled for bad press and harrassment in recent days, resulting in lots of stress, is given space and support. Norwegian Muslims should be given the opportunity to mourn the killings on an equal footing with their non-Muslim counterparts, and should not be held accountable for acts of murders by a mentally ill patient for which they are not responsible in any way or form.