Survivor tries to make sense of aftermath of Norway attacks as trial continues
Public Radio International (PRI)
The trial of Anders Breivik has faded from the headlines, but the trial continues.
On Friday, the court heard details of the deaths of the 69 people he massacred on Utoya Island. Breivik appeared unmoved by the testimony.
But the survivors of the shootings have spent a lot of time thinking about the horrific event and what it means for him and for Norway.
Gathered in a hall in downtown Stavanger a small group of Norwegians are still grappling with what happened.
A moderator had brought together four panelists to talk about the how the media have reported on the massacre and the trial and to examine just what it means for Norway’s future. Eventually, it was Arshad Mubarak Ali’s turn to speak.
Ali stands out not only because of the color of his skin. He is also a survivor of the day of horror on Utoya Island. Ali knows while he may not have died, he was, in Breivik’s mind, the enemy simply because he is different from so many other Norwegians.
Ali, who was born in Norway to parents from Sri Lanka, never noticed that difference until Sept. 11, 2001. A teenager at the time, he remembers telling classmates how upset he was about what happened that day.
So he said he was shocked when one of them identified him with the 9/11 assassins.
“A person said to me, ‘I didn’t think that you thought this was terrible; I thought that you supported these people.’ So that experience made me think,” Ali said. “When this classmate said this to me, I started to think who am I? Why am I so different because I am a Muslim.”
Ali spent the following years exploring that question, studying the history of his faith, listening to a national debate that seemed to equate Islam with terrorism. Then, at the suggestion of his politically active father, he ran for city council and won a seat at the age of 20.
Ever since, he’s worked hard for the Labor Party. That’s why he was at the party’s youth meeting on Utoya Island that day.
Ali recounted the terror of the day quietly and deliberately. He went with others to shelter inside a building after they heard gunshots outside. He was standing next to a closed door when a bullet came flying in.
“And then I just saw a shot, a gunshot that went through the wall and hit this person and he fell down and he started to shout,” Ali said. “Then I knew that, OK, this is something serious.”
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