A friend of mine is a regular reader of Zsolt Bayer’s opinion pieces that are published in the extreme right-wing, pro-Fidesz Magyar Hírlap. I often joke with him about having masochistic tendencies because it takes a strong stomach to read this man’s writings. Like the latest, the fourth part of a series of articles titled “At arm’s length,” which is a reference to the unfortunate advice of the mayor of Cologne to European women to keep a safe distance from men coming from the Middle East. By part 2 of his series, Bayer got confused about the meaning of the idiom and predicted that “civil war in Europe is at arm’s length,” i.e., near. Oh well….
The first part is about Frau Angela, who has “an inexplicable and undying love of hyenas” and, when the beasts kill all her relatives, she doesn’t blame the hyenas but the people who didn’t take good care of them. “This is reality in Europe today.” The second part is mostly about the lack of media freedom in Europe and “the whores of Femen,” who now, after the sexual attacks, are quiet. The third part is a critique of those who think that white Christian Europe cannot be preserved and that immigration is the only way to have a viable economy in the future.
And now we come to the fourth and final part published today, half of which is actually a translation from an English-language internet site, describing the situation in Grønland, a district of Oslo. Bayer gives the source as poquari.ml, which turned out to be a misspelling. It is actually poqari.ml (PoqariNews), but the same article can also be found in several far-right publications. The title claims that the Oslo police think they have lost the city. Grønland “looks like Karachi, Basra, and Mogadishu all rolled into one. People sell drugs openly… It is not Norway or Europe anymore, except when there is welfare money to be collected. The police have largely given up.” According to the article, 4,000 people have been robbed in the town center and the area of the Grønland police station, which is an immigrant ghetto. Just this year the victims numbered 351. So, if we can believe the article, Grønland is a living hell in the middle of Oslo.
If Bayer had done a better job, he could have found at least two more far-right sites that pay a lot of attention to Grønland. One is the “Gates of Vienna,” which reminds its readers that “at the siege of Vienna in 1683 Islam seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe. We are in a new phase of a very old war.” The blogger of this publication calls himself Baron Bodissey, a character referred to in many of the novels of science-fiction writer Jack Vance. His article from July 2013, titled “Enforcing Sharia in Grønland,” reports on an article from Aftenposten claiming that in this ethnically mixed district some zealous people harass non-Muslims or less devout Muslims to follow their strict rules. However, most instances seem to be minor. An old lady giving a lecture to a mother of two that her little girls are not properly dressed. She sounds like a busybody to me. But “Gates of Vienna” keeps a watchful eye on Grønland. Over the years Baron Bodissey has written at least a dozen articles on the situation in Oslo.
Then there is the blogger who calls himself Vlad Tepes. If this name doesn’t ring a bell, try Vlad, the Impaler or Dracula. According to Vlad Tepes, in 2012 a group called Ansar-al-Sunna, which has a logo like the one used by al-Qaeda in Iraq, demanded full autonomy in Grønland. Moreover, this group threatened the Norwegians with another July 22, the date of Anders Breivik’s attack, if their demands were not met. People who are familiar with the situation in Norway, like Shoaib Sultan, an advisor to the Anti-Racist Center in Norway, believe that Ansar-al-Sunna is a handful of people of no consequence. And indeed, three years went by and no one has heard of Ansar-al-Sunna since.
It is true that on December 9, 2015 two people were stabbed to death in Oslo. A woman was found dead on Beitevein Road in the southeastern suburb of Meglerud. A man who died later in the hospital was found on Breigata Street in the central Oslo neighborhood of Grønland. Since then a man in his fifties was arrested and charged with both murders. But I found nothing that would indicate that either the victims or the perpetrator were immigrants or asylum seekers.
In contrast to these descriptions of Grønland as a center of crime and horrible conditions there are many who paint a very different picture of the place. A site addressing tourists talks about Grønland as Oslo’s “most diverse district [which] showcases the juxtaposition between the old and traditional, and the new and international, influences of the city. Immerse yourself in culture, history and good food, or just take a walk through Grønland.” The tour guide talks about concert halls, an intercultural museum, a church with fantastic acoustics. Another site gives high marks to the restaurants in the district. According to one admirer, the restaurant called Det Grøne Kjøkken is the best restaurant in all of Norway. Others sing the praises of the Grønland Torg, a shopping complex, and the Grønland Bazar, a shopping mall with a distinctly eastern design.
Which Grønland is the real Grønland? Most likely neither. Just like in any large city, there are plenty of drug dealers around, and I’m sure that there are occasional muggings or even worse. But the place currently is undergoing gentrification, which usually doesn’t happen if a district is beyond redemption. The problem with extremists is that they grossly exaggerate the negative, and Zsolt Bayer picks the most extreme islamophobic sites to draw on. His readership loves every word he utters and naturally agrees with everything he writes. Here are a few comments:
“Thank you, Mr. Bayer. One must call attention to the extreme peril. We Hungarians did experience the Turkish occupation. The West didn’t.” Or, “The district described here should be levelled after the proper population is evacuated.” I assume you know whom the lady had in mind when she talked about “the proper” population. Bayer is a hatemonger with influence and thus harmful and dangerous.