Ever since Jared Loughner’s murderous attack in Tucson, Americans have been more sensitive to the way extreme political discourse can effect the deranged, paranoid and alienated, and how perverse inflammatory metaphors (gunsights, 2nd amendment solutions, watering the tree of liberty) can actually provide the ideas that feed political violence.
However, in Europe, obsessed as it is with Islamist demons, convinced of its own secular moderate rectitude, we’ve forgotten how easily the thin skin of tolerance is broached. In France, they ban niquab. In Switzerland, they ban minarets. Holland includes an Islamophobe bigot in its ruling parliamentary coalition. The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel talks about how ‘multiculturalism’ has failed. In Britain, the biggest threat to public order in the last few years has been hard line Islamphobic English Defence League which now targets Muslims (though Jews, Blacks and Gays are next in line).
Even the Prime Minister of Britain – itself a multinational, multiethnic, multi-denominational state for hundreds of years – David Cameron has joined this fashionable chorus of which somehow blames ‘multiculturalism’ as the cause of the rise of Islamist extremism.
Now these alarms have reaped their bitter harvest. With 92 people dead, the vast majority 16-19 year olds at a Labour summer camp, there is no doubt of the political aspect of Anders Brehing Breivik’s crime.
It was revealed that the 32-year-old former member of the country’s conservative Progress party – who had become ever more extreme in his hatred of Muslims, leftwingers and the country’s political establishment – had ordered six tonnes of fertiliser in May to be used in the bombing. While police continued to interrogate Breivik, who was charged with the mass killings, evidence of his increasingly far-right world-view emerged from an article he had posted on several Scandinavian websites, including Nordisk, a site frequented by neo-Nazis, far-right radicals and Islamophobes since 2009.
The Norwegian daily VG quoted one of Breivik’s friends, saying that he had become a rightwing extremist in his late 20s and was now a strong opponent of multiculturalism, expressing strong nationalistic views in online debates.
Breivik had talked admiringly online about conversations he had had with unnamed English Defence League members and the organisation Stop the Islamification of Europe (SIOE) over the success of provocative street actions leading to violence.
“I have on some occasions had discussions with SIOE and EDL and recommended them to use certain strategies,” he wrote two years ago. “The tactics of the EDL are now to ‘lure’ an overreaction from the Jihad Youth/Extreme-Marxists, something they have succeeded in doing several times already.”
Before the attacks, Breivik uploaded his manifesto to Youtube.
Before he killed over 90 innocent people, Breivik quoted J.S. Mill:
“One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.”
Well, Breivik’s belief system is quite clear. A right wing, militarised, totalitarian ideology which puts all the ills of the world down to one cause.
In this case it isn’t communism, or capitalism, or ZOG, it’s Islam.
In the last ten years I’ve seen a spectre return to haunt Europe, the spectre of racism, hidden under the guise of Islamophobia. The phobia existed long before the attacks of 9/11 or the growth of Salafist extremism. It was present in the Bosnian war, mainly among Serb Nationalists. It caused the Kosovan War. It underlined much Neocon thinking, especially when Sam Huntingdon’s theories of civilisational conflict provided a new global enemy once communism had waned. It also informed the war in Iraq…
In the US, especially around the phenomenally misnamed ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Islamophobia is much in evidence. But in Europe, perhaps because of the proximity of the Mashriq and Maghreb, perhaps because Europe always sees immigration as a negative thing unlike the US, Islamophobia has taken root. It unites old fashioned racists, anti-clerics, intellectuals and neo-cons alike.
For the last few years, I have been appalled to see the casual racist statements made about Muslims (and their liberal enablers) in real life, in the media, and even more online where, in the UK, I find myself constantly combating statements about Islam which, if the word ‘Jew’ ‘Christian’ or ‘Buddhist’ replaced ‘Muslim’ would be apparent in their abhorrent hatred.
The spectre of racism is haunting Europe again in a way it hasn’t since a hundred years ago, when anti-semitism was rife. But this time, it’s mainly directed towards Muslims, and any philosophy of tolerance or secularism. The Utøya Massacre and the Oslo bombing is just the ultimate expression of this hate.
Words matter. Ideas motivate. And now we know where the apocalyptic language of the right can lead, even in tolerant Norway