If there’s any shred of comfort that come come from the horrors of ten days ago, the bomb attacks in Oslo and massacre of dozens of teenagers in Utøya, it is scant consolation for bereft families or a nation in mourning. The biggest atrocity on Norwegian soil since World War II, and one of the biggest terrorist incidents in Europe in decades, is no occasion for political point scoring. But some good may yet come out of it: the full glare of public scrutiny (and one hopes police attention) has now been turned on the largely ignored growth of extreme right-wing Islamophobia in Europe.
Nearly exactly a year ago, I wrote how Obama had bravely faced up to the Islamophobes in the US during his Ramadan speech and worried that Europe lacked such leadership.
The rise of Islamophobia in Europe over the last few years – expression of which I have encountered many times in the past, even on LabourList, – has filled me with a kind a foreboding I haven’t felt since the early 90s and the rabid nationalism in former-Yugoslavia, which itself had an anti-Muslim component.
The signs are everywhere to be seen. The US have Palin’s ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ and the threat of Koran burning. We have the French assembly voting to ban niqab, Switzerland banning minarets, and the rise of the English Defence League here in the UK, deliberately targeting Muslim communities with provocation and violence…
We have demagogues like Geert Wilders in Holland getting 33% of the vote by inciting fear and hatred. Meanwhile, opportunist politicians in the UK try to ride the bandwagon, putting forward legislation to ban burkas. This is hardly helped by so-called intellectuals (who should know better) talking about ‘Islamofascism’ or “Londonistan” and trying to yolk together a religion of universalist appeal with racist ultranationalism.
Don’t worry. This is not some gratuitous exercise in ‘I told you so’. My hands are no cleaner than others, and in the rise of Islamophobia I have to share some blame (more below). We do not know yet if Anders Behring Breivik acted entirely alone. He may yet win an insanity defence. Yet there’s little doubt that both his targets and his motivation were avowedly political. Both the video he uploaded and the European Manifesto of Independence he passed on to sympathisers should place that beyond doubt Though somewhat rambling and derivative, Breivik’s arguments are rational and coherent. He articulates a vision of the ‘Islamisation of Europe’, deliberately smuggled in by Marxists spouting ‘multiculturalism’ as their credo. That vision, and his belief that an incendiary act of violence was needed to trigger the inevitable religious and social conflict make it indisputable: the killings on Friday 21st of July a classic act of political terrorism.
Like many young men who search for some final battle between good and evil, Breivik was a dreamer of the absolute, who found his purpose in sacrificing himself for a cause greater than himself. In this, he resembles the extremist Jihadists he purports to despise, and like many of them, he seems to have been indoctrinated and then motivated into a medieval mindset through a quite modern source: what he read online.
(This is a draft of an Essay to Appear on Labour List tomorrow)