Jonas Gahr Store, Norway's foreign minister, has written a NYT op-ed explaining why his country refused to treat the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik any differently from other criminals -- because Breivik's cause is served by treating him as a sort of criminal superman whose crimes are so special that normal justice can't apply to them.
Confronting and undermining the narratives and ideas of extremism must therefore be one of our key tasks. To do this, we must retain the courage of our convictions in the face of extremism.
Virtually all modern forms of extremism accuse liberal Western democratic systems of being hypocritical and, ultimately, weak. Al Qaeda portrays the West as anti-Islamic imperialists masquerading as promoters of democracy. Right wing extremism suggests the West is committing cultural suicide through its lax judicial system and naïve multiculturalism.
Both have committed horrific acts designed to bait us into betraying our values and making them martyrs. In fact, it is remarkable to see the many similarities between these two sorts of extremism in their disdain for diversity and their indiscriminate violence against civilians.
In this context, it is a mistake to treat crimes committed by extremists as exceptions, subject to special processes. They must be held accountable in accordance with and to the full extent of the law. Hiding suspects from public view merely dehumanizes the perpetrators and undermines any moral or judicial lessons.