COMMENT: We do not need a lex Breivik
Anders Breivik’s application to the University of Oslo for admission to the political science study programme created interest worldwide. Breivik did not qualify for the full programme, but will be able study specific topics. Here the university’s rector explains the decision to grant him access to the course.
Through the atrocities he committed, Anders Breivik put to test our democracy and our legal institutions. The calm and reasoned way in which the Norwegian judiciary, the audience in the court room, and indeed the population in general dealt with Breivik, allowing him to be heard, indicates to me that we passed the test.
Why should we not trust our system when it comes to access to education? Our rules say that an inmate, like any other citizen in this country, has a right to pursue higher education on the basis of merit. The fact that his application is dealt with in accordance with extant rules and regulations does not imply that Norwegians lack passion or that anger and vengefulness are absent. What it demonstrates is that our values are fundamentally different from his.
By sticking to our rules and not clamouring for new ones we send a clear message to those whose misguided mission it is to undermine and change our democratic system. We do acknowledge that there are moral dilemmas in this case, but the last thing we need is a “lex Breivik“. We keep to our rules for our own sake, not for his.
It falls on our universities to take responsibility for upholding democratic values, ideals and practices, including when these are challenged by heinous acts. We are on a slippery slope should we change the rules and adjust them to crimes committed. Having been admitted to study political science, Breivik will have to read about democracy and justice, and about how pluralism and respect for individual human rights, protection of minorities and fundamental freedoms have been instrumental for the historical development of modern Europe. Under no circumstances will Breivik be admitted to campus. But in his cell he will be given ample possibilities to reflect on his atrocities and misconceptions.
This column originally appeared in the Guardian. Reprinted with permission. Thanks to Andre Carrel for obtaining permission.