On Friday this man, a right wing fanatic, committed one of the worst acts of individual terrorism ever seen. Earlier today a manifesto of his was published in which he rants about Islamic colonisation and a liberal conspiracy. His fixation with the liberal conspiracy is why he boarded a boat to Utoya island and in a truly brutal and horrific fashion murdered at least 84 youths at a labour conference, people he saw as being responsible for the "Islamo Marxist" alliance to destroy European Christendom. The young men and women had nowhere to run on the small island in what was must have been 45 minutes of unimaginable horror.
Many things about this event, beyond the obvious, disturbed me greatly. I was on twitter shortly after I heard about the initial blast in downtown Oslo. I like many, assumed we were dealing with an act of Islamic terror. I myself clumsily tweeted the following remark.
Murdering butchering Islamic terrorists at it again. This time in #Oslo
My assumption at the time was that Oslo was being subject to the same type of attack that London, Madrid, Washington and New york has seen in recent times. I should not have jumped to that conclusion so early and I do want to apologise to any Muslim readers of Gubu World who were offended. I did however realise quite early on, particularly upon hearing that the second attack was launched against the Norwegian Labour Party that it was likely a case of domestic right wing terrorism.
There were other things on twitter that bothered me. I follow Michelle Malkin on twitter. She claims to be a conservative pundit but is in fact a right wing smear merchant (she spent the 2004 US Presidential election trying to convince people that Democratic candidate John Kerry had shot himself in Vietnam to get a Purple Heart in order to boost his political career). Anyway, in the immediate aftermath of the Oslo blast she began a trend on twitter called #standwithnorway which was extremely active for about an hour. She herself tweeted many comments about standing up to Islamic terror. However, once it became clear the atrocity was not linked to Islamic terror, she stopped tweeting on the subject and the trend dissipated. Presumably she was no longer "standing with Norway"
British Col Richard Kemp, a man I respect, likewise disappointed me. He clearly lost interest in the story, evidenced by his tweets, after the identity of the perpetrator of the massacre became known. Although he did tweet the following interesting remark which I will discuss shortly.
Will those who "understood" motives of likes of Khan London attack on 7/7, ie "despair" of govt policy, also "understand" motives of Breivik's motives?
The reality is that in the hours before the motivation for the attack became known, The hawks hoped the Muslims were behind it where as the Doves (and pro Muslim) wanted it to be domestic. This aspect of the case reminded me of Jared Lee Loughner who in January of this year in Tuscon Arizona, shot and killed 6 people and wounded 14 others including democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Many people at the time assumed that as the victim was a liberal congresswoman in a conservative state, the perpetrator must have been a right winger. It subsequently became clear that he was a psychotic, but as in the Norwegian case, the Tuscon shooting resulted in a frenzied discussion (which lasted much longer) about whether the man had been influenced by right wing rhetoric coming from the more intense wing of the anti Obama crowd. People jumping to conclusions is natural if a little irresponsible. But I find it unfortunate that when facing a human tragedy people actively root for their beliefs to be vindicated.
Over the coming weeks we can expect a debate to take the following form. It is wrong to be overly critical of Islamic fundamentalism when Christian terrorists are prepared to carry out similar acts of extreme violence. It is also wrong to be overly critical of Islam in Europe in case it inspires the like of Breivik (I expect Dutch politician Gert Wilders will come in for some criticism this week). These are understandable points to make given events in Oslo but some realities must be pointed out.
1. In the western world, acts of Christian terrorism are extremely rare where as Islamic terrorism is commonplace.
2. It appears Breivik acted alone. He has no supporters, and in Europe you will not find a single town, village, house, or even a dingy flat somewhere where people will be rejoicing at the deaths of so many innocents.
3. I think it will become clear that Breivik's actions were more motivated by fascist or Nazi thought rather than Christian fundamentalism. And we all know that such ideologies are capable of unbelievably extreme levels of cruelty.
4. Fridays outrage should not prevent people of good will from expressing in a dignified manner their concern at Islamic extremism internationally or of its growth in Europe. People need to be confident in their convictions that to criticise one form of extremism is not to inspire another. Personally I am an anti fascist, anti racist, anti Marxist, anti religious fanatic who detests all forms of extremism including that practised by Irish Republicans.
The Far Right
The far right have always been a reality in Europe, a reality that I thought up until Friday was one which could be largely ignored. Extremism should always be confronted in whatever form it takes. It only needs to be understood in terms of how it needs to be defeated. Col Kemp's earlier tweet illustrates his frustration at how people on the left strive to understand the hatred of those committing acts of Islamic terror but will obviously not do so when it comes to Mr Breivik. And they would be right. Mr Breivik deserves no sympathy, not even in the faintist ideological sense. And neither do the men behind the countless acts of Al Quaeda horror. At the end of it all, if you are prepared to commit a spectacular act of mass murder against innocent civilians, it is not because of the injustices of US/British foreign policy, any more than it was Breivnik's reason to kill so many because he believed in a liberal conspiracy. It was because in both cases, the extremists are consumed by hatred and no amount of placating to them will appease them.
I know that many conservatives in the US argue that the reason Europe is susceptible to far right extremism is because they do not properly address the issue of Islamic immigration and that mainstream European politics isolates and demonizes those who are critical of Islamic ghettoising. I do not accept this. I believe that if Europe restricted significantly the levels of Muslim immigration into Europe, Mr Breivnik would still be a fascist Nazi animal hell bent on murder murder murder. Likewise, If Israel were to be wound up, something which some people argue would appease extremists and bring peace to the world, Islamic terror would not disappear with it. It would in fact be emboldened and increase. Extremism needs to be confronted and defeated, not circumnavigated.