Isn’t it amazing that while a large number of Muslims grieve over the Christian West’s highhandedness and imposition of wars on Islam, a Norwegian Christian brutally kills more than 90 innocents of his own ‘tribe’ and terrifies all of Europe because of the West’s support for Palestine, its friendly relations with Muslim-majority countries, its crime of allowing Muslims to settle in their countries, its armed campaign against Serbs and its failure to arm Christian groups all over the world against Muslims?
‘Terrorism has no religion’ – Andres Behring Breivik, the terrorist from the Oslo attacks, was dismissingly aware that we will draw this conclusion. But he was unable to provide more than a few passages to dispel the possible remonstrance against this essential determination in his 1,518 pages long compendium titled ‘2083: A European Declaration of Independence’ in which he elaborates on the thoughts, motives, methods and objectives of his actions. One of his primary theses was to necessitate terrorism with Islam. He not only miserably failed through his shallow, biased and selective reading of history, but through his actions gave an indubitable proof of whatever he denied. While the acts of Andres Behring Breivik may not be condoned by many, his views are surely held by several far-right segments in Europe, hence demanding serious consideration.
The first half of his compendium is relatively interesting to read as it involves a lot of political and social theory, on which he tries to base his case. Starting with a relatively argumentative criticism of cultural Marxism, multiculturalism and Islamization, he erroneously jumps to the conclusion that the existing system of democracy and public discourse is unable to address the issue since it has been hijacked by ‘liberal traitors’ and ‘demographic warfare’ waged by Muslims. Hence pro-active violent action, which he calls ‘resistance’, has to be adopted to free Europe. But does this not read like the narrative of Islamist Jihadists?
Although Muslims around the world breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that the alleged murderer was not a Muslim, the facts surrounding his motives have such a deep relevance to Muslims that he cannot be ignored. Pakistan has been widely mentioned as his point of concern. The information and arguments put forward by Breivik in his compendium are hardly new. Many belonging to the far-right in Europe and USA hold similar views and Breivik proudly mentions them. The atrocities committed by him must make us all think that racist, supremacist and hateful thoughts are dangerous ab-initio. They provide the essential ground of insensitivity upon which psychological delusions can easily result in unremorseful violence. Some may claim that an element of truth exists in his allegations and radical Islam does pose a threat to the West. Here the answer would be that we need to draw a line between radical Islam and Muslims living in Europe. The inability to differentiate between Islamists and Muslims is at the heart of this problem. An Islamist is one who seeks to impose one interpretation of Islam over all of society, either through violence or through the force of the law. Conflating Islam with Islamism, which is done by Islamist and far-right extremists alike, is based on sheer ignorance of religion and its place in society. Religion is meant to fit into the big picture of societal trends and work in conjunction with other social institutions, not to override them.
While Muslims may be conservative in their outlook, they are not essentially Islamists. However it can rightly be pointed out that sufficient efforts are not being carried out by Muslims, especially by those living in West, to dispel Islamist interpretations of Islam and to work toward mutually respectful integration. One example is that after the Oslo attacks, Norway’s Foreign Minister visited the biggest mosque in Norway to express solidarity to Muslims but Muslim organizations have not returned the favor. Moreover, a general deterioration of relations between Muslim-majority and Western countries worsens the problem. Recent research by the Pew Research Centre indicates that this hostility has consistently increased over a decade. However it is important to note that from 2006 onwards, opinion about Muslims has softened in West but the trend is otherwise in Muslim majority states, despite the fact that there has not been any major war since then and the Obama administration has taken some reconciliatory steps.
Those with similar views to Breivik must take into account that there is no lack of atrocities and bloodshed instigated by Western civilization and perhaps a more compelling list of charges can be framed against the West, but this is not the way to move forward. Historical baggage of hatred and animosity will do nothing but shun the possibility of peace and prosperity for people across borders. Breivik’s vision of Europe is a rejection of everything that has contributed to forming a positive view of the West, including institutions such as the EU, UN and ideals such as multiculturalism, feminism, egalitarianism and humanism.
From the family system to the dominance of Western civilization, the underlying impulse of Breivik’s compendium is a desire to go back in time. Similar are the ambitions of Islamists. But the fact remains that history cannot be undone, and a desire to undo it inevitably leads to deadlocks and eventual violence. Those groups who adopt violence and abandon democracy and dialogue as a means of presenting their demands prove bankrupt on the question of legitimacy of their methods. It is thus exposed that their arguments and reasoning are nothing but rhetoric to get attention, because they will immediately fall back on violence when their arguments no longer hold. Such is the case for both Islamists and the far-right.
Breivik was inspired by many far-right thinkers, but it is notable that the Jihadi intelligentsia, with its proud claims of taking over Europe either through ‘jihad’ or through an increasing Muslim population, is also an accomplice in this crime. On many occasions, Breivik has shown concern about Europe being threatened by ’Muslim terror’. But his actions have proven what he and others of the far-right would not have admitted otherwise: that it is both the Islamists and the far-right that are a threat to Europe and the world.