Sunday, 24 July 2011

Europe's Timothy McVeigh

Europe is in shock this weekend after Friday's horrifying act of terrorism in Norway that killed 76 people. Because of the stated aims of the perpetrator, it is already prompting questions over whether Europe has been looking the other way as the far right has grown in numbers and power.

When the news first broke on Friday that a car bomb had gone off outside the prime minister's office in Norway, many people assumed it was an act of Islamic terrorism. But soon after, news broke that the bombing had been followed by a shooting spree at a political youth retreat for the country's ruling Labour party. Then it was clear that this was unlikely to be an act of Islamic terrorism, since it seemed to fit the modus operandi of either a deranged lone gunman or an act of far-right domestic terrorism. In the end, it turned out to be the latter.

The man accused of orchestrating the attack, Anders Behring Breivik, reportedly carried out the attack on the ruling Labour party because he felt that their tolerant attitude toward Islam was destroying the country. It was an anti-government, far-right, fundamentalist Christian act of terrorism - similar to the Oklahoma City bombing in the US in 1995 committed by far-right extremist Timothy McVeigh.

But it wasn't just Norway he was targeting. In a 1,500-page manifesto which the 32-year-old posted online before the attacks, he said he would be attacking the state in order to trigger an anti-Muslim revolution throughout all of Europe. He envisioned a far-right takeover of the countries of Europe, but he was no enthusiast of pan-European governance. He was at heart a nationalist, calling the European Union "organised treason" in his manifesto.

The document is strikingly similar to the statements issued by Al Qaeda, who say they are carrying out their attacks in order to trigger a holy war between Christianity and Islam. Breivik wanted to trigger the same thing, the only difference is that he wanted the Christian side to win.

Breivik railed against the policies of multiculturalism that he says governments across Europe have pursued in allowing large numbers of Muslim immigrants to come to Europe without acclimating to the wider society. The manifesto urges the far right in Europe to seek revenge upon the "indigenous Europeans" who have allowed the Muslim immigrants to come to Europe. He seems to target Europe's Socialist parties in particular, but he also says that Europe's centre-right parties had betrayed true Conservatism. Norway's government is one of the few Socialist governments remaining in Europe.

The far right parties that have grown increasingly powerful, particularly in Scandinavia, have been quick to distance themselves from the act of terrorism. But Breivik was reportedly an admirer of Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, whose party he said was the only true party in Europe for conservatives. He was a member of Norway's far-right anti-immigrant party the Norwegian Progress Party, and he was an active contributor on pan-European far right websites. He reportedly began orchestrating his terrorist scheme after meeting other right-wing extreemists in London, prompting a search for possible British accomplices in the UK.

What will be most frightening about this incident to people across Europe is that it is not Norway-specific. With rising anti-immigrant rhetoric across Europe, it seems as if this incident could have happened anywhere. And there is real concern about copycat attacks.

Breicik was apparently planning such an attack for up to nine years, so it wasn't the current rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric that inspired his fanaticism. But the recent rise in tensions may have pushed him over the edge and given him the inspiration to take such extreme and destructive action. When these far right groups use hyperbole and incendiary language, telling people that Muslims are taking over Europe and within decades "Europe will become an Islamic caliphate," it is no wonder that some of their most unhinged followers would think they need to resort to extreme action to prevent this from happening.


Captain Kid said...

I wonder if they are going to pass any anti-terrorism legislation which targets white Christians. After ten years of discriminating against Muslims, that would only be fair.

Anonymous said...

One positive outcome of this could be that people will finally wake up to the danger of the rising far right, and people who might be tempted to fall prey to their ideas will see what happened in Norway and think twice about going down the road of hatred.