The July 22 killing of 76 innocent Norwegians, mostly teenagers, in twin terrorist attacks by lone wolf Anders Behring Breivik has exposed the monstrous face of European far-Right, a Christian fundamentalist tradition that transcends centuries. Its significant growth in recent years, afflicting especially the continent’s four Scandinavian countries—Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark—owes largely to anti-Muslim rhetoric increasingly visible in European media and political discourse.
Consequently, Norway’s far-Right Progress Party, of which Breivik was once a member, is currently the country’s second largest political party. In Finland, ultra-nationalist True Finns party enjoys nearly 20 per cent political support. The right-wing Danish People’s Party is an influential partner of the coalition government in Denmark. And, in Sweden, the political clout of Sweden Democrats, with a slogan ‘Keep Sweden Swedish,’ is no less significant. The trend elsewhere in Europe, from Austria to France, and Switzerland and the Netherlands, has been similar.
It was, therefore, only a matter of time for a spectacular act of right-wing terrorism during peacetime to occur in some part of Europe faced with the growing wave of far-Right nationalism and Christian fundamentalism in recent years. Norway happened to be that country. And it may not be the last—until European governments and publics learn valid lessons from the Norwegian tragedy and act in unison to defeat what can be aptly described as the forces of evil.
Norway is otherwise a peaceful country, home to the Nobel Peace Prize, known for mediating conflicts such as Palestine and Tamil and providing generous economic support to poor countries. It is rich in oil and gas, and considered an ideal welfare state by the United Nations. That a tragedy of this proportion could occur in such a country has shocked the world, and left the Norwegian nation terrified. Yet the country's response to the terrorist tragedy is simply appreciable.
“Our answer is more democracy, more openness to show that we will not be stopped by this kind of violence,” said Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in his first media appearance following the terrorist attack. A real liberal with strong principles, he did not succumb to fear or vicious speculation. Instead, he pledged to strengthen Norwegian democracy.
This was starkly different from the reaction we saw in much of the supposedly liberal Western media, which, while the terrorist act was unfolding and even for hours in its aftermath, continued harping upon the all-too-familiar theme of blaming al-Qaeda and Muslims for terrorism. Strangely enough, this time it was The New York Times, not the Fox News, running a headline stating that a virtually non-existent Muslim terror group had claimed responsibility for Norway terrorism. Even President Obama got carried away, by suggesting in his press statement the possibility of an international terror network (which can be meant as al-Qaeda) behind the terrorist act and calling for greater international cooperation to combat such terrorism.
However, as it turned out in the end, it was a lone 32-year white Norwegian, who perpetrated terrorism consciously, detailing every aspect of what he was going to do, until the moments before going for the first kill.
“This is going to be an all-or-nothing scenario,” Breivik wrote in his over 1,500 pages long English-language online manifesto, titled '2083: A European Declaration of Independence,' on the morning of the attack. “First coming costume party this autumn, dress up as a police officer. Arrive with insignias:-) Will be awesome as people will be very astonished:-).” Then, dressed to kill and perhaps savoring a last quiet moment, he closed the manifesto with a final, chilling thought: "I believe this will be my last entry. It is now Fri July 22nd, 12.51."
Now recalling how he chased young souls, attending a youth camp of Norway’s ruling Labour Party on the island, through the woods and gunned them one-by-one sends chill down one’s spine. So does the TV footage the following day, of him clad in red pullover and sitting calmly in the vehicle besides a policeman en route to the court hearing.
Breivik’s declared mission was to save Europe from what he sees as the threats of Islam, immigration and multiculturalism. He wanted to make a political point following the terrorist act. Martyrdom was an option, which he rued out. That is why he so easily surrendered to the police. Breivik requested two things for his court appearance: he wanted to wear a uniform, and he wanted the hearing to be open, both requests denied. He, therefore, cannot be dismissed as a madman. Opposed to immigration, he has a rage against Muslims and multiculturalism.
Breivik planned everything so well. It took him three months to make bomb at a remote farmhouse. After he was arrested, he is reported to have described his actions as "heinous, but necessary". He had launched his own war to "awaken" his fellow countrymen. Perhaps he imagines that, in time, he will become the hero that "saved" Norway.
All of this is clear from his self-authored narrative in an exceptionally lengthy manuscript, which is something of a template for right-wing terrorism, targeting "cultural Marxists" and "multiculturalism" and blaming them for the destruction of Western culture. He describes being part of a secret society that is getting ready to take control of Europe and expel all Muslims. "The time for dialogue is over. We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come," Breivik wrote.
On the face of it, Breivik’s barbaric acts of first blowing government buildings in Oslo and then going on a massive killing spree on the island of Utoeya appear to have been planned and orchestrated by him alone, even though he has reportedly told the police about the existence of two other such cells manned by maniacs like him. However, the incident cannot be seen in isolation from the broader negative political trend visible in several European countries whose principal victims are Muslim immigrants. It is a problem that cannot be solved by blaming al-Qaeda or Muslims alone for Europe's terrorist troubles.
As Henning Mankell wrote in The Guardian (25 July), “We might ask whether we have been waiting for this, a brutal act of terrorism not committed by people who have kidnapped the Islamic faith and who claim to act in the name of that religion, but a man with a different political and religious motive. A rightwing extremist, a nationalist with elements of Christian fundamentalism! At least we now know one thing that we might not have been certain of before yesterday: people can find the justification for acts of terrorism in all religious, political and ideological contexts. Now we know that those who claimed that terror is always synonymous with the Islamic faith were wrong.”
What is clear from the great tragedy that struck Norway is that Europe certainly has a great problem at hand, which can be solved only by the Europeans themselves. If the white Christian Europeans want Muslim and other immigrants to integrate into the European culture, they also have to do their part in welcoming the immigrant communities into their fold.
The commentary was published in weekly Pulse Magazine, July 29-August 3, 2011.