By: Paul Hockenos
In this essay, Paul Hockenos writes that it would be a mistake to dismiss Breivik’s hate-drenched tirades as the outpourings of a madman and points to the fact that Islamophobia has been a staple of political discourse in European politics and an inspiration for the extreme right since 9/11. He calls for greater vigilance on the part of intelligence and security forces and stronger resistance from democratic parties in Europe
The biggest mistake that Europeans could make would be to discount Anders Behring Breivik’s rambling tirades against Islam and multiculturalism as the ravings of a crackpot. Breivik’s thousand-page manifesto and his convictions in general are not the “bizarre” product of a “delusional thought universe”, as the first Norwegian psychiatric report concluded. On the contrary, Breivik’s “thought universe” bears all the staples of a political ideology that accurately reflects a potent Islamophobic discourse that has taken hold across the continent and beyond since 9/11.
Breivik’s monstrous crimes must serve as a shrill wake-up call for Europeans – and not just Europeans – to acknowledge the very real potential for violence inherent in this movement and take action to stem it at its source.
Breivik is not a Norwegian novelty, but is instead symptomatic of a growing culture of politically motivated violence across the continent. Muslims have been assaulted and killed, their mosques and institutions smeared with graffiti and bombed. Indeed security services have been far too lax about the threat from the far right, especially its most radical, Islam-obsessed currents.
Yet the source of the discrimination, hate speech and violence increasingly directed at Europe’s Muslim communities lies much closer to home: Islamophobia has won an accepted presence in mainstream discourses and politics from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. Political parties that espouse a somewhat milder version of Breivik’s thoughts sit in parliaments across northern Europe and in the European Parliament, and even participate in ruling coalitions.