After the tragic events which unfolded in Brussels last Tuesday, many European authorities have taken the opportunity to tap into growing xenophobic sentiment – in particular, against Muslims and refugees – to push their own policies forward. Iceland is, unfortunately, no exception to this phenomenon.
Before the dust had even settled in Brussels, National Commissioner of the Police Haraldar Johannesen issued a directive stating that security at Keflavík International Airport will be increased, in the form of bomb-sniffing dogs, heavily armed special forces patrolling the airport and, tellingly, an increased focus on foreigners, especially those entering the country.
None of these measures are going to make us at all safer, as they completely ignore the facts of the Brussels attacks and the people behind it. They will, however, help justify the growing and dangerous xenophobia present in this country, which has already shown clear signs of being a greater threat to our society than any foreigner.
First of all, the Brussels attacks were not perpetrated by foreigners, let alone refugees. Two of the suspected bombers, Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui, were born and raised in Belgium. A third, Najim Laachraoui, was born in Morocco but was also raised in Belgium. Furthermore, the cold data on terrorism in Europe shows that even homegrown Islamic extremism accounts for a tiny sliver of the terrorism experienced by Europe since 1970.
By any measure, responding to Brussels by arming up airport police and focusing on incoming foreigners is just bad police work at best. But Haraldur has been pushing for years to get guns in the hands of cops, and these attacks were as good a time as any to cynically exploit the situation to achieve that aim.
Furthermore, we have a bigger problem brewing right here at home: far-right nationalism. Just last month, yet another far-right, Islamophobic movement announced it was going to attempt creating a formal political party. More mainstream politicians have also joined in the sentiment that foreigners cannot be trusted. Closer to the ground, many Icelanders are openly declaring their hostility towards refugees and Muslims in Iceland.
The crowning example of just how dangerous these 100% Icelandic bigots are is this comment from one such Islamophobe1, who literally expressed the wish that an attack like that in Brussels would happen here, so that more people will start regarding Muslims as a threat. The irony of such a statement hardly needs explanation. It could also be seen as an encouragement to set off a false-flag operation that would support the xenophobic cause.
If you still have any doubts that the kind of measures the far-right are proposing will only serve to increase violence, consider this tweet from Amaq, the news agency of Daesh: “The best thing to do now by Belgium is to crackdown on Muslims, it would just make the indoctrination work much easier for us.”
Iceland’s far-right is demonstrably more dangerous to all of us than any refugees. The measures the police are pushing forward ignore the most basic facts of the Brussels attacks, serving only to advance the Commissioner’s pro-gun agenda by playing to populist xenophobia. We ignore the real threat to our society at our peril. If the police choose to pour money and resources into chasing a phantom boogieman, rather than addressing this very real threat right here at home, it will have to be up to the rest of us to fight back against bigotry in any way we can. For the sake of our very survival, we have no other choice.
1The name and workplace of this person has been blurred because we have received reports that this person is being harassed. Apparently people react badly to someone calling for the deaths of innocent people. Go figure.