British politics and media have some responsibility, not for the killings themselves, but for the culture which has demonised Muslims and created an atmosphere of hatred in some parts of society.

William Hague, the foreign secretary, declared on Friday that Britain stood ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Norway in the face of terrorist attack. That was when he, Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy all thought that the bombing and shootings in Norway were the work of al-Qaeda or other Muslim terrorists.

The initial response to the killings was that it must be the fault of ‘Islamic terrorism’. This was the tenor of messages from world leaders. Reports from Oslo suggest verbal attacks on Muslims in the immediate aftermath. The Sun’s headline on Saturday was ‘Norway’s 9/11’. Experts queued up to list grievances that might include Norway’s involvement in Afghanistan and in the bombing of Libya.

How could they help the Norwegians, the world leaders asked? Perhaps as the facts become clearer we can consider what form that help would take.

For the facts are that this atrocity was carried out by a far right Christian who clearly planned a strategy of tension. He wanted to further create divisions in society which would lead to greater restrictions on immigration, attacks on Muslims and a rise in racism. He has a long record of involvement in far right organisations, including the far right populist party whose members include the mayor of Oslo. Once it was clear that this was not a Muslim, the attitude changed. This was now a maniac, a lone wolf, a psycho. There were no wider political consequences.

While anyone who commits such acts must be classified as mentally ill, these actions also need to be put within a political context. That context is a rising tide of Islamophobia in Europe which has seen the growth of right wing parties in many countries. Here in Britain the English Defence League has targeted Muslims. In France and Belgium there have been bans on women wearing the burka.

In two speeches in the last few months David Cameron has gone out of his way to target Muslims. The media has depicted Muslims as a group as terrorists and extremists.

But politics and media do have some responsibility, not for the killings themselves, but for the culture which has demonised Muslims and created an atmosphere of hatred in some parts of society. So when asked what Britain can ‘do to help’ lets try:

Ending the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya; stop scapegoating immigrants; stop blaming Muslims for their religion, their dress, their food or their politics; and campaigning against racism instead of pandering to it.

Apparently police are worried that there may be attacks on mosques in Britain as a consequence of the Norwegian events. Perhaps it’s time to stand up for Muslims and defend their mosques against the racists and fascists. But that would mean challenging the conventional wisdom of mainstream politics, including war and racism.

Many people in Norway clearly want to strengthen anti-racism and multiculturalism and to use these attacks to build a more fair and decent society. But in every country in Europe those who campaign against war and fascism will have to rely on grassroots organisation to do so.

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.