By Mohammad Aslam
SEVENTY-SIX. That’s the total number of fatalities that have so far been counted from the bomb explosions and shooting rampage carried out by 32 year old Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik.
The right-wing Christian fundamentalist’s bout of insanity in Norway’s otherwise peaceful capital Oslo and the island of Utoyo – the scene of a summer camp organized by the country’s ruling Labor Party – speaks volumes about the potential of far-right militants emerging as the new instigators of terror and mayhem into European societies.
More than 100,000 people gathered in Oslo at a vigil for the victims, minutes of silences are being held across the world and international concern and condemnation has been forthright. But for the unsympathetic individual who has already admitted to carrying out last Friday’s atrocities, his actions were only the leading role in a crusade to punish the rulers of his homeland for their inability to stem the tide of what he calls ‘Marxist and Muslim’ colonization in both Norway and Europe – he told the Judge who remanded him in custody.
If one cares to read between the lines, the pretext this killer was using as a precursor for his cold-blooded actions was the wish to ignite a religious and racial war.
Fuelled by right-wing extremism, the Norwegian seems to have been indoctrinated by a cult of intolerance and perhaps racial superiority. Indeed, his Lawyer has revealed that his client sees himself as part of an anti-Islam network with up to 80 like-minded cells across the West. He boasted about how his actions will one day be likened to those of a ‘savior’ and how even after 60 years people will fail to understand his heroic July 22nd actions.
If one was to scratch beneath the surface, Anders Behring Breivik should have been put on the radar many years ago. A 1,500-page handbook he reportedly e-mailed to 5,700 recipients hours before his twin attacks titled ‘2083: A European Declaration of Independence’ showed the extent of his motivations and international linkages.
It reveals his Islamophobic mindset and his appreciation for British far-right extremists, along with written discourse on right wing websites that he has contributed to. The material reveals the extent of the grudge which he harbors particularly against what he terms as the ‘Islamization of Europe’. The work of Breivik is not the work of him alone; he’s most likely a small actor in a much larger playground. If this found to be factual, it counters a 2010 report by Europol, the European Police Agency, which stipulated that there was no serious threat from right-wing terrorism on the continent.
In truth, we’ve not considered the far-right as a serious threat to our societies on the same breath as Islamic extremists, and the focus of resources and manpower toward checking the latter has rendered us susceptible to the openings of the far right; openings which over the years have shown a willingness to target the public. In a political climate where constant media attention highlights the threat from Al Qaeda linked groups, a sense of fear and being overwhelmed by foreign influence may drive otherwise rhetorical anti-Islamic and anti-Immigration bigotry group members to indulge in similar acts of violence and terrorism.
European security services now need to look beyond the spectacle of online anti-Islamic and xenophobic propaganda, since the steady pace of attacks and violence perpetuated by those who advocate it, is now likely to mutate over the course of time and potentially manifest into mainstream society with the ability erupt into domestic chaos.
The fact that Anders Breivik had for so long escaped the attention of European intelligence and security data bases, shows the extent to which we’ve overlooked simmering homegrown far right extremists within our midst’s. A new breed of introverted individuals harboring ambitions to become mass murderers obsessed with Hitler and making bombs – maybe the most potent threat we have to face in the near future.
The Author is a Ph.D Candidate in Political Science at the Department of Middle-East & Mediterranean Studies, King’s College London