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July 29, 2011

Oslo's terrorism: Who is responsible?

Scott Stockdale

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Following the attacks in Oslo on July 22, where a car bomb was detonated outside Oslo's government headquarters and at least 75 mostly young people were shot and killed at a political summer camp on nearby Utoya Island, the featured headline in The New York Times online front page strongly suggested Muslims were responsible for the attacks in Oslo.

The BBC soon followed with definitive statements that Muslims were the culprits. One wonders how much, if any, of this angle to the story appeared on CBC or CTV.

The usual chorus of world leaders condemning terrorism soon followed, but the message changed when subsequently it emerged that the confessed perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, said he belongs to a group he said was founded in London in April 2002, which he calls the new Knights Templar- The Knights Templar was a medieval order founded to protect Christians in the Holy Land after the First Crusade.

Mr. Breivik claimed to be acting on behave of Christians, while espousing a right-wing philosophy against Islam that also purports to be pro-Zionist. 

In a 1500 page manifesto published online the day of the attack, Brevik said that after the attack he will be “a hero of Europe, a saviour of our people and of European Christendom.”

Subsequently, many, though not all, western media began to characterize the Oslo attacks as extremism, not terrorism.

If a liberal newspaper like The New York Times can't call the bombing and shooting of innocent civilians terrorism, what does this say about the mindset of the western world?

This mindset helped render Norway, and perhaps many other countries, vulnerable to the kind of carnage that took place in Oslo. While much attention in Norway has been focused on the threat of Muslim extremism, the threat from the far right was generally considered to have abated.

It's telling that no one in the western media is blaming Christians or the political right for the killings in Norway, nor is anyone characterizing this heinous act as Christian terrorism and demanding that Christian leaders condemn terrorism.

In numerous online postings, including his manifesto, Breivik promoted the Vienna School or Crusader Nationalism philosophy, a mishmash of anti-modern principles that also calls for "the deportation of all Muslims from Europe" as well as from "the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."

While his actions were that of a deranged person, some of the primary motivations cited by the suspect in Norway, are now mainstream issues.

German Chancellor Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK Prime Minister David Cameron all recently declared an end to multiculturalism. Multiculturalism “has failed, utterly failed,” Mrs. Merkel told fellow Christian Democrats last October, though stressing that immigrants were welcome in Germany.

In one of his most noticed speeches, Mr. Cameron told the Munich security conference in February that the country’s decades-old policy of multiculturalism had encouraged “segregated communities” where Islamic extremism can thrive. 

Meanwhile, Norway’s Progress Party, a right-wing populist party, is the second largest in the country, winning 23 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary election in September 2009.

Kari Helene Partapuoli, director of the Norwegian Center against Racism said that in the last two or three years his organization and other antifascist networks have warned of an increased temperature of debate and those violent groups had been established.

And Norway's right-wing scene is connected to the rest of Europe through the Internet forums where hate speech proliferates and through right-wing demonstrations that draw an international mix of participants.

“This may be the act of a lone, mad, paranoid individual,” said Hajo Funke, a political scientist at the Free University in Berlin who studies rightist extremism, referring to the right-wing fundamentalist Christian charged in connection with the killings, “but the far-right milieu creates an atmosphere that can lead such people down that path of violence.”

According to Breivik's manifesto, titled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence" and published under the pseudonym Andrew Berwick, the Vienna School supports "pro-Zionism/Israeli nationalism."

Breivik listed numerous European Freedom Parties and neo-Nazi parties as potential allies because of their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim stance, and mentioned that right-wing populists like Dutch politician Geert Wilders "have to condemn us at this point which is fine. It is after all essential that they protect their reputational shields."

Breivik's manifesto draws approvingly from the ideas of popular anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalism writers and figureheads such as Geert Wilders, Bruce Bawer, Melanie Phillips, Theodore Dalrymple, and Canadian Mark Steyn in order to characterize Muslims as being united in an ideological conspiracy to impose a “Eurabia: through “demographic warfare” and dominate the population.

Claiming allegiance with Israel and the Jewish people is an attempt to gain legitimacy against a perceived common enemy, according to Hajo Funke, an expert on right-wing extremism in Europe and the Holocaust at Touro College Berlin and the Free University Berlin.

"It is a tactical viewpoint of the rising populist right-wing to use this kind of identification, or forced identification with Israel, to be accepted," he said. "They say, 'Our enemies are not any more the Jew ... the real enemy as you can see all over the world is Islam, and not only Islam, but the Islamic person.' This is the new, great danger."

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that "in the recent years we have witnessed the phenomenon of radical rightists proclaiming their sympathy for Jews and their support for Israel, also in Germany," adding that "In many cases, it is clear that this is no more than a PR manoeuvre to create an air of respectability."

Businessman Erwin Kohn, newly elected head of the 750-member Jewish community, said in a telephone interview from Oslo that his organization prays that the authorities will be less naive on security issues and threats.

On the reports about Breivik's online postings, he offered his concerns.

“You have many others who are in the same ballpark, being scared of multiculturalism,” Mr. Kohn said, adding that Breivik’s alleged pro-Zionism is a sham. “We don’t need such friends, we don’t need such friends.”

Islamic scholars the world over have long said the same thing about people who commit heinous acts in the name of Islam, yet the western media continues describe these acts as Islamic terrorism.

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