Norway’s foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, thinks the West should extend a hand to islamist movements in the Middle East.
In an op-ed in the New York Times, Gahr Støre, writes that the West for too long has harboured a prejudiced view of all grass root movements in the islamic world, suspecting that they may be or lead to islamism.
These are actually two different lines of argument: Are the West so gripped by paranoia that it clouds its political judgement and sees islamists everywhere? or does he advocate a «critical dialogue» with islamists?
Probably the latter. Gahr Støre is known in Norway as Mr. Dialogue, and what he calls «the Western narrative» is simply a retorical ruse to press his case.
Possessing a long and problematic history, the notion emerged particularly strongly in response to the Iranian revolution in 1979 and solidified into something akin to an orthodox doctrine in the context of 9/11.
So the West have been wrong all along, it has gotten it all wrong, after 1979 and 9/11? What about the legitimacy of the «narrative» – that islamists gained power by subterfuge, because neither the Iranians nor the world understood what was going on? or the full blown jihadism of 9/11? not as a freak act, but an eruption of something that had grown for a long time.
While much of the commentariat and expertise worry about Egypt could be a repeat of 1979, Norway’s foreign minister employs his skill and experience to tell us that we are mistaken: they – the Brotherhood – needs to be engaged.
And – Gahr Støre now tells ut – the Norwegian government has been doing it for quite some time.
Could it be that Gahr Støre’s op-ed in reality is a preemptive strike: to forestall criticism he rushes to present it as a wise move?
Could it be that the problem is Gahr Støre’s narrative?
A few days ago he answered a question in parliament, about Hamas, and why Norway did not list it as a terror organization. He replied:
If the Member of Storting requests a judicially binding categorization of Hamas as a terrorist organization, the answer has to be that we do not put such labels. As the Member of Storting is aware of, Norway has not established a list of movements and organizations that are believed to organize terrorist acts. The UN has no such list as well, except from the Security Council’s sanction list against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which we are obliged to follow. Beyond this, I think we should be careful to put the label “terrorist organization” on organizations, if it will have a judicial purpose.
If we look at history, we find that a big number of organizations in their past – and present – have committed acts that we would call terrorist acts, which we are distancing ourselves from, but where we despite this have not defined the organization as a terror organization. The questions are hence: What are the consequences of the definition? What do we mean by such a status? Many organizations may have different labels – political, religious, social, military, armed – without us using one or the other of the labels as a judicially meaningful categorization.
Gahr Støre introduces a criteria that many will find disturbing:
The question of whether the organization or the movement is considered to be responsible for terror acts, should not be decisive in deciding what kind of contact the government may have with such a group.
Gahr Støre cites Norway’s contact with LTTE in Sri Lanka, but that was in the capacity of negotiator.
He also cites PLOs charter about Israel before Arafat declared it obsolete. This did not prevent til international community from speaking to PLO.
But Gahr Støre blurs the distinction between national liberation with violence and terror, and religious war of extermination, that is what the islamists openly proclaims.
The onus is on Mr. Gahr Støre, not the Western narrative.
Gahr Støre’s attitude to Hamas is telling. He wants us to treat the Brotherhood in the same lackadaisical manner.
The commercial TV-channel TV2 recently revealed that Gahr Støre had personal contacts with Hamas-leader Khaled Mashaal. Mashaal boasted on camera that his relationship with Norway was unlike any other Western government. Asked if he had had personal contact with Mashaal, Gahr Støre denied it on comera.