As the trial of Norwegian mass murdered Andres Breivik opens in Stockholm, we look on in horror at his arrogant posturing, his clenched fist salute, his regret that he didn’t kill more that seventy-seven. But the fact is that this outrageous young Norwegian, is in no way the crazed psychotic we would like him to be—an unrecognizable monster who by his ghastly acts has exiled himself from civilized society.
Deranged he may be, but his beliefs and bloody actions are very much a natural product of the mounting fear and hatred of Muslims throughout much of Europe these past few years, as well as the United States.
Indeed, going about their daily lives there are probably tens of millions of Europeans (and Americans), shocked at Breivik’s actions, who would, just the same, probably agree with the premise that drove him to action: Muslims are a threat to the Western world.
In France where I live, for instance, five to six million Muslims represent about ten percent of the population, the highest concentration in Europe. We are constantly receiving emails forwarded by friends–middle-class, well-educated, professionals mind you–who are convinced that, with their growing numbers, and higher birthrate, the Muslims will soon predominate in France.
The next step, the argument goes, is that they will insist that their own fundamentalist teachings, the Sharia, become the rule of law in France—for all the French.
For instance, an email that arrived just yesterday was from a blogger outraged by a Socialist Party proposal to give the vote to all residents of France–including immigrants who are not yet citizens. “France is for sale!” reads the message. ‘When they will have the right to vote, they will make pro Sharia candidates, as is already being done, and they will then hold in their hands the future of YOUR children!”
Which brings us to an interesting question the court in Norway will probably never address: would Breivik ever have launched his murderous attacks if he had not viewed himself as part of a global crusade, cheered on by his fellow besieged Europeans, and even more by rabid Islamophobes on Internet sites around the world.
In fact, as I wrote at the time, most of the rambling manifesto posted by Breivik before he launched his attacks last July was not spun out of his own unhinged mind, but was drawn from the writings of notorious Islamophobes, such as Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, the latter a regular on Fox News.
Tellingly, Pamela Geller attempted to wash her hands of any pre knowledge of Breivik’s plans by excising a paragraph from one of his long rants which she posted in 2007. The portion cut out: “We are stockpiling and caching weapons, ammunition and equipment. This is going to happen fast.”
In fact, so many Internet sites now speak of Islam as a deadly menace, so many of them issue a call to arms before it’s too late, is it any wonder that a few deranged individuals take that threat seriously, decide to give their lives, as valiant champions if you will, of “our Christian way of life”.
Bottom line: Either there is a mortal threat to our civilization, or there isn’t. If there is, then how can you possibly condemn a heroic young fellow like Andres Breivik who decided to heed a clarion call to selfless action?
Barry M. Lando, a graduate of Harvard and Columbia University, spent 25 years as an award-winning investigative producer with 60 Minutes. His latest book is “Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.” Lando is currently completing a novel, “The Watchman’s File”, concerning Israel’s most closely guarded secret (it’s not the bomb.) He can be reached through his blog.