The Norway Attacks and the Paranoid Mindset
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi is a student at Oxford University. He wrote this piece for Juan Cole's blog Informed Comment.
It has emerged that Anders Breivik- who is suspected of killing at least 76 people in two attacks in Norway on Friday a week ago– was an avid user of online so-called “counter-jihad” forums. At one such site called document.no he claimed in 2009 that he was now working “full time to develop/promote further the Vienna school of thought that Fjordman, Bat Ye’or…and many others have already contributed so much to.” (For more on this issue see this post.) This connection raises the question of whether some conspiracy theories pose a threat to the public, that is, whether they constitute a clear and present danger of promoting violence, because of the way they are formulated.
The “Vienna school of thought” refers to the outlook promoted by the blog “Gates of Vienna” (GoV), which is the most avid advocate of the “Eurabia” thesis first formulated by Bat Ye’or and promoted in detail by an anonymous Norwegian blogger known as “Fjordman.” (Eurabia is the daft idea that Europe is going swiftly to become a continent dominated by radical Muslim regimes). On multiple occasions, Breivik has advertised Fjordman’s work, most notably in describing his article “Defeating Eurabia” as “the perfect Christmas gift for family and friends.”
To what extent, if at all, should these various anti-Muslim blogs (they characterize themselves as “anti-jihadist”) — particularly the writings of Fjordman– that have so influenced Breivik be regarded as having a share of responsibility for the carnage? Of course, many will reply that attempting to draw such connections is merely “smear-by-association.” After all, the Gates of Vienna itself has condemned Breivik’s murderous rampage and has affirmed that “at no time has any part of the Counter-jihad advocated violence, and its raison d’être is to eschew violence, to preserve law and order, and to uphold the rights of the individual.”
But the British government has at some points seriously considered banning the radical Hizb-ut-Tahrir Muslim fundamentalist group, even though it uses the same diction as Gates of Vienna– that it condemns violence to achieve political ends. Nevertheless, Hizb-ut-Tahrir propagates a narrative that the West and non-Muslim world in general are actively waging war against Islam. At the same time, its literature constantly insists on the right and need for Muslims to assert their rights and “resist” the Western “occupiers.”
Once this framing of things is accepted, it is not hard to see how a Muslim reader of such pamphlets might reach the conclusion that the only way to combat the war against him is to resort to violence. Do we exculpate the likes of Hizb-ut-Tahrir for doing the kind of propaganda that may have led to actions such as the July 7, 2005 bombings in London by radicalized young Muslim Britons?
And so it is with the “Eurabia” thesis. This theory goes well beyond simply asserting that many on the liberal-left and in government have been naïve about the behavior and intentions of non-violent Islamists in Europe. Rather, their Eurabia hypothesis posits that the entire political left and European elites are actively conspiring with Islamists or the Muslim world to turn Europe into an Islamized continent, forming a joint Euro-Arab axis against Israel and the United States. Not all anti-Islam blogs adhere to the Eurabia theory: for example, “The Hesperado” prefers to see liberals and political elites as only naïve, well-intentioned, and therefore amenable to reasoned argument.
Fjordman has taken the Eurabia conspiracy further, seeing Western governments’ policies on immigration and multiculturalism as part of an attempt to foster “White Masochism” in the European natives. Hence, Fjordman urges whites to assert their rights to have “a place of our own where we can prosper…without being stripped of our heritage in order to placate people who moved to our countries of their own free will. We…are under no obligation to commit collective suicide and serve as a dumping ground for other countries.”
He goes so far as to accuse Western governments of practicing “reverse Nazism” since their policies are “based on the assumption that whites should have fewer rights than others and can be colonized or culturally eradicated with impunity. I don’t see why I should either be a “Nazi” or embrace and celebrate my extinction.”
It is clear how acceptance of Fjordman’s theories- warning of “reverse Nazism,” “collective suicide,” “cultural eradication” and “colonization” by (Muslim) immigrants- can inculcate a dangerously paranoid mindset, with numerous parallels to Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s outlook (namely in the idea that the supposed victims must stand up for themselves in the face of an imminent and existential threat). Reading Fjordman and the Gates of Vienna, one gets the impression that the halls of power are dominated by sinister leftists and cultural Marxists, that co-existence with the Left is impossible, and that we must be at war with the establishment to prevent the dire threat of decline, creating a sense of what The Hesperado terms “Gnostic alienation” from the West.
Far from being a shooting spree of someone mentally ill, Breivik’s attacks were evidently well calculated. Attacking the government in Oslo and the youths of the Labor Party he felt would be future leaders of his country, Breivik sincerely hoped he would free Norway from the grip of what he saw as a giant social experiment in multiculturalism, mass immigration and Islamization. Fjordman and the Gates of Vienna are either using hyperbole and vast exaggeration, or they sincerely believe that there is an imminent and existential threat to life and property. If the former, they should not be taken seriously. if the latter, their readers could be excused for concluding that violent action might be necessary to avert the threat.
In the end, responsibility lies with Breivik and his conscious decision to commit these atrocities. However, Fjordman, the Gates of Vienna and other promoters of the Eurabia conspiracy theory ought to re-consider their claims, and how they might be interpreted. Above all, demonization and personal vilification of one’s political opponents needs to be abandoned.
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