Just when the threat of Islamist terrorism seemed to be successfully suppressed, the actions of Breivik bring awareness of the evil engendered by other extremist ideologies.
When a Muslim terrorist commits an act of violence, Muslims all over the world tend to be blamed. As soon as an outrage is reported, the media jump to the conclusion that it must be Muslim terrorism. But when it turns out that a white Christian has committed an unspeakably violent act, then he is always a lone wolf. The recent horrific shootings in Norway prompted a rush to judgment by certain irresponsible commentators and bloggers that was soon contradicted by the facts. Like Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma, we have a new name to add to the list of lone, white extremist murderers of children — the Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik.
His bombing of government buildings in Oslo that Friday, followed by the slaughter of around 86 young victims on an island adds a chilling new dimension to Western-Muslim relations. Breivik was not Muslim and his victims were not Muslims and he did not bomb a mosque or a Muslim neighborhood. Fueled by his twisted Islamophobia, he chose instead as his target the “multicultural elites” who he believed were responsible for supporting Muslim immigration into Europe, accusing left-wing politicians in Europe of allowing Muslims to overrun the continent.
Calling himself a Christian conservative, patriot and nationalist, he said in his online manifesto that the “indigenous Europeans” responsible would be punished for their “treasonous acts.” So with convoluted logic, Breivik bombed government buildings in Oslo where the leading Labor party was headquartered and he targeted young people gathered at an annual Labor Party summer retreat.
Countries in the European Union are feeling particularly vulnerable to the latent and sometimes overt Islamophobia manifesting itself recently. Germany’s leader, Angela Merkel acknowledged publicly that “multiculturalism has failed” and the rise of nationalist, racist movements in Britain are causing deep concern. The European Union with its borderless inclusion of immigrants is currently under severe economic stress as the eurozone is on the brink of collapse. Any economic turmoil allows resentments to surface against the “other” — usually hardworking immigrants whose relative success is due to working long hours under difficult conditions, unlike the local unemployed white youth with their welfare entitlement mentality. It can be an explosive situation, especially if the immigrants are of another race, language, religion and culture, and Norway has been welcoming in recent years to thousands of refugees from Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia. The Muslim population of Norway is only 1.8 percent, small compared with Germany and France’s immigrant populations, but obviously outstanding in a homogenous population such as Norway’s.
* Published in Political Reflection Magazine (PR) Vol. 2 | No. 3
** Dr Azeem Ibrahim is a Fellow and Member of the Board of Directors at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding and a former Research Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and World Fellow at Yale.