Utøya survivor Bjorn Ihler at #NoHateNoFear event: ‘We must be better than the extremists’

A survivor of the terror attack on Utøya island has told PACE parliamentarians at a #NoHateNoFear event in Iceland of his experience – and how it inspired him to work to counter extremism.

"We have to show extremists and terrorists how wrong they are - by being better than them,” said Bjorn Ihler, who related how Anders Breivik had shot directly at him as he swam from the island.

“How do we end terrorism? We do it by showing that we as humans are all created equal, worthy of equal rights. We do it by standing together, by standing up against the fear and hate, the narratives and stories that seek to divide us,” he told members of PACE’s Political Affairs Committee in Reykjavik.

“We have to lead by example, by showing extremists and terrorists how wrong they are, by being better than them, by believing in a better, less dystopian future than them, by being brave and leading the way against fear.”

“We pave the path to the end of extremism by how we treat each other and how we speak of each other, with respect, with humanity and with kindness. With human rights, with freedom of expression and opposition, with liberty and with trust. This is the responsibility of every government, of every institution and of every individual.”

Mr Ihler, a consultant, researcher and activist, now works with former extremists to understand the ways in and the ways out of this mind-set. “This may sound utopian, but by taking step by step, by one human learning to know another, we change the world one mind at a time.”

The #NoHateNoFear initiative, launched by PACE President Pedro Agramunt in June, encourages everybody to assert these twin messages in various ways as a response to recent terror and extremist attacks in Europe.

A separate #NoHateNoFear event is due to take place in Strasbourg in October with the participation of families of victims of the Paris attacks.