A man walks into an island full of young people and shoots 76 people dead. This, shortly after he had set off bombs at the heart of Norway's capital, killing eight people and causing untold mayhem. And why did he do it? So as to "inflict maximum damage on Norway's governing Labour Party because of its failure to clamp down on immigration". Yet again, the world mourned yet another senseless act of mass murder by yet another psychopath masking as an ideological warrior.
For this writer, the most remarkable thing about the Breivik massacre is that Europe has now been presented with an opportunity to confront its own internal demons, a chance to do deep introspection and take action to save itself from itself. America was presented with a similar opportunity by the Oklahoma Bombing of 1995, but arrogantly and thoroughly wasted the opportunity. With the result that today. America ishaving to contend with self-inflicted military humiliation in Iraq and Afghanistan. While a small section of the Republican Party could so utterly humiliate the American President at home, dragging the country to the edge of economic collapse. These, and even the prolonged crises in Libya, Syria and therest of the Arab world, all demonstrate America's folly in ignoring the dangers within, preferring instead to hunt for enemies outside its shores. Now that it has been presented with its "Oklahoma moment" what will Europe (not just Norway) do with this opportunity? And who are these enemies we speak of? The so-called extreme right wing of their political spectrum, for which Breivik spoke and acted.
A lot has been written so far about Breivik and his inner demons. Could this really be the handiwork of one man? Could it have been avoided? What would have caused a young man of 32 so much hatred asto coldheartedly plan and execute the murder of so many of his compatriots? Has Europe turned a watershed - a new era where its over-pampered youth are now the single most deadly threat to its wellbeing? (Incidentally, this last question is being asked of the London Riots as well-fed youths from different sections of the city went on rampage looting shops and wrecking lives - but that discussion is for another day).
It seems somewhat odd that we are trying to make sense of the insanity that drove Breivik; but we cannot simply dismiss the man - the damage that he did in a few hours guarantees him a prominent place of infamy in history. Just as we cannot ignore what he did, we cannot ignore what he represented.
As Muslims though, we are mortified that someone would hate our very presence so much that he would kill so many youth in cold blood, just to spite those who were supposedly assisting us, and making us feel guilty. Whatever anybody may believe, Europe and America's economies were built on the backs of immigrants, forced or voluntary. But now, there is an upswell of resentment against "foreigners" on both continents. This is not just a fringe movement; many governments in Europe (France, Italy, etc) are in power because they have formed alliances with right wing parties varying in their levels of extremism.
Right wingers (Breivik's camp will be called "far-right" or "extreme right") are fighting to defend what they consider to be the pure character of their societies (their culture, history and genealogy) against dilution by us, Muslims, Arabs and Africans - basically. They do not believe in "globalisation", or "multi-culturalism". They do not believe in institutions like the United Nations, because for them, these institutions have the sole aim of taking away their own freedoms and giving foreigners control over their lives. They do not accept immigrants taking a prominent place in their societies. They do not like mosques in their cities or hijabis on their streets. They are arrogantly nationalistic, and are often violent in their rejection of "foreigners". Again, they are not fringe opinions: the far right Front National and the Freedom Party are respectively the third largest parties -in France and the Netherlands. Far right parties in Scandinavia, Sweden, Denmark and Germany are all gaining in popular and electoral support. These parties generally extol the same set of sentiments that birthed Adolf Hitler's Nazi movement but that was a long time ago. Europe is now turning full circle and Muslims had better start considering their place in that society.
Many in Europe's political mainstream are now trying to distance themselves from Breivik's political views, but shall we so soon forget that it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel who (in)famously declared in October 20I0 that multiculturalism was dead in Germany - meaning there was no such thing as German-Muslim, German-African, etc. You simply pledge allegiance to the German state, speak German, take whatever Germany dishes you, and forget whatever cultural background you thought you had. Shall we also forget that Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron expressed similar sentiments earlier this year, practically declaring a war on "state multiculturalism", and blaming it for "Islamic radicalism" in Britain? When you make statements like these and back them with actions supposedly upholding secular constitutions - such as the French banning face veils or permitting youths to organise pork and wine parties in front of mosques and get rewarded with election victories, you inevitably breed a Breivik who will seek extreme measures to move things-faster along and validate their extreme positions.
In essence, Breivik could only have done what he did because he felt justified by the institutional support that the extreme right wing is enjoying across Europe, and we are not surprised that a member of the Italian parliament actually declared Breivik's stance against Islam and Muslims as "good"-and in some cases "excellent" (although his party later suspended him - asthe BBC reports).
So, are Muslims in Europe and America in a good place?The choice they are being presented with - and Breivik wants to make that brutally clear to all - is that they either leave their Islam or leave Europe. That view is inadvertently endorsed by the fact that his "issues" are being subjected to scholarly debates, rather than the unrelenting condemnation you get when supposedly "Mus~ radicals" perpetrate their own atrocities. Europe can avoid, another Breivik, but only if Europe would confront the folly of cuddling extremism at home while fighting "fundamentalism" abroad. Indeed letting Muslims practice the full dictates of their faith may just be the best humiliation people like Breivik deserve.