Are we really living in end times?
Every new day brings a new outrage, a new horror. No one seems to
be safe anywhere — not even in the serene, scenic Norwegian
paradise. But then, as Bible warns, you reap as you sow. And
Europe is reaping what its politicians and assorted purveyors of
hatred have sowed all these years.
The perpetual demonization and vilification of “the Other” and the
endless talk of creeping Shariah and Islamisation of Europe
couldn’t have happened in a vacuum. It had to show its results
someday on the ground. And it did in Norway this past week.
Still there are many out there who continue to live in denial.
Within the first couple of hours, television pundits, from CNN’s
Richard Quest to BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardener, had
persuaded themselves that the Norway attacks were the handiwork of
“Islamist terrorists.” Soon Rupert Murdoch’s Sun was screaming:
“AL QAEDA MASSACRE: NORWAY’S 9/11”.
And then the pundits went on to identify the reasons why Muslims
“hated” Norway, the all-embracing Scandinavian paradise. They
hated it because of its role in Afghanistan and Libya, they said.
They hated it because of its freedoms and liberal society, as
George W. Bush revealed long ago. They hated it because some
Norwegian newspapers had reproduced the controversial cartoons.
But that was years ago, wasn’t it? Well, they nursed their grudge
long, didn’t they?
Next morning the whole thing was turned on its head when it turned
out that it wasn’t the Muslims after all but Norway’s own
homebred, all-white, Christian zealot behind Europe’s biggest mass
murder by an individual in recent memory. The wonks were in no
hurry to condemn Anders Behring Breivik as a “Christian terrorist”
They went to great lengths to paint him as a lone ranger who had
turned the guns on his own kind in a fit of rage. He did not
represent the peace-loving people of Norway or Europe for that
matter, they asserted. Of course, he didn’t. But was he an
aberration? Was it a random act of madness? I wouldn’t think so.
Indeed, the more details about the attacks emerge, the clearer it
becomes it was no chance act of momentary madness. Breivik is the
product of years of hate campaign and propaganda against Muslims.
So most tragic as these attacks are, they shouldn’t come as a
surprise to anyone, given the madness that has been going on in
the name of fighting terror.
And those trying to portray Breivik as a lonely lunatic, an
outsider, are not just wrong, they are out of sync with a
dangerous reality. They are living in denial of the fast spreading
malaise of rabid Islamophobia and intolerance on both sides of the
Atlantic and its consequences.
This is not an isolated case of one man going off the bend but
represents a growing threat. Breivik’s actions, patiently planned
and executed over the past nine years, are entirely consistent
with the periodic mass violence European fascists have carried out
in recent years. More important, this “madness” was rooted in
mainstream right-wing discourse that one even hears from
politicians like Sarkozy.
Breivik’s 1,500-page doctrine, put online weeks before the
carnage, champions a global apocalyptical crusade against Islam
that now supposedly threatens the territory, morals and culture of
Western civilization, indeed the whole world. In a June 11 entry,
Breivik says: “I explained to God that unless he wanted the
certain Islamic takeover of Europe he must ensure the warriors
fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail.”
And it’s not just the Caucasian Christians that Breivik sought to
enlist for his cause, he reached out to both the Zionists of
Israel and our own Hindutva friends in India. Indeed, Israel’s
policies appear to have inspired our hero. There’s a method in the
madness that targeted young Labour Party supporters on Utoya
Island. Eskil Pedersen, the youth wing leader of the party, had
been increasingly speaking for the Palestinians, calling for an
international boycott of Israel.
The intense hatred for Edward Said, the Palestinian author of the
seminal Orientalism who had the audacity to hold a mirror to the
Empire, is matched by admiration for luminaries like Bernard
Lewis, Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer, all known for their
“preoccupation” with Islam and Muslims.
Again it’s not surprising that Breivik sees the Hindutva zealots,
who dream of driving all Muslims out to create a Greater India
stretching from Afghanistan to Burma, as crucial allies in the
global crusade against Islam. He devotes 102 pages to India and
the successful Hindutva campaign targeting the common enemy.
Applauding Hindu groups that “do not tolerate the current
injustice and often riot and attack Muslims” he suggests, “Hindus
are suffering from the same persecution as their European cousins.
It’s essential the European and Indian resistance movements learn
from each other and cooperate.”
So this monster’s manifesto indeed is Mein Kampf of our times, as
The Economist puts it, in which Jews are replaced by Muslims as
“the Enemy” who must be fought and expunged from the face of the
Breivik’s worldview is a lethal mix of Christian zealotry and
extreme Islamophobia. And he isn’t alone. Generations of Europeans
and Americans have grown up on a heavy diet of bigotry peddled by
politicians like Geert Wilders of Netherlands, who compared the
Holy Qur’an to Hitler’s Mein Kempf, and Marine Le Pen of France
and Newt Gingrich, Peter King and televangelists like Pat
Robertson in the land of the free.
Feeding on the stereotypes and paranoia about Muslims, this new
breed of fascism that not surprisingly turns to Israel for
inspiration, poses a clear and present danger to our world. The
gravest threat we face today comes not from the Islamic world but
the radical Christian right and the secular fundamentalists who
propagate the bigoted, hateful caricatures of Muslims, as Chris
Breivik has killed many more people than the four “Muslim” bombers
did in the 7/7 London attacks. Indeed, more people may have died
in the violence by neo-fascist, radical right groups since the
Great War than all the attacks, blamed on Muslims, put together.
Yet Western governments have so far treated such groups with kid
gloves. Just as successive governments in India have dealt with
the Hindu extremists despite their implication in recent terror
attacks and mass violence targeting Muslims. Indeed, police turn
on the victims after every such atrocity.
Inaction is a luxury the world cannot afford though, if it is to
avoid more mindless carnage and a bigger conflict — in the West or
in India. If we continue the way we are going, the confrontation
that Samuel Huntington obsessed over all his life cannot for long
remain an academic hypothesis. Norway is a wake-up call. Let’s not
wait for the next great war to take place between Islam and the
Aijaz Zaka Syed is a widely published commentator. Write him at
This article first appeared in Arab News.