A madman calling himself a Christian fundamentalist or an anti-Islam crusader can be as dangerous to global peace as al-Qaida. The horrible fact is that the man who killed 93 in a few hours on Friday hailed from Norway, reputedly the last place to spawn terrorism on earth.
As investigation into Anders Breivik’s bombing of a government building in Oslo and his shooting at hundreds of youths on a political retreat on Friday goes on, we are appalled at the deep anti-Muslim antagonism grown all these years in Western societies, which has developed into opposition to multiculturalism and immigration in general. This sick man feared a “colonization of Europe” by Muslims and he massacred youths who supported a party that favors opening doors to immigrants.
Breivik who once was a member of the conservative Progress Party billed the government of the left-leaning Labor Party as treasonous to Europe in a “manifesto” he posted in his website. Norway has become increasingly multicultural in recent years as it accepted refugees from the strife-torn Middle East and North Africa. Many children of immigrant families join political events like the retreat on Utoya Island, the scene of the carnage.
The manifesto vowed revenge against the indigenous Europeans it accused of betraying Europe. “We, the free indigenous peoples of Europe, hereby declare a preemptive war on all cultural Marxist/multicultural elites of Western Europe,” the document said. Breivik detonated a truck loaded with about 1,000 kilograms of explosive in front of the prime minister’s office and then moved to the small island to open fire on hundreds of youths. He fired at the heads of boys and girls as they pled for their lives.
A state of complacency must have prevailed in the Nordic country about its relative safety from the kind of security threats that have gripped the world since Sept. 11. Breivik was apparently not on the Norwegian authorities’ watch list of potential subversives. In his preparation for a “revolution,” he made explosives at his farm. His blog even contained tips on how to produce bombs by mixing fertilizer with fuel after purchasing a farm to cheat the police.
What further dismays the world is that the perpetrator of this most heinous crime is to get a maximum penalty of 21 years in prison, certainly a serious legal loophole in the global fight against terror and a blot on the universal system of justice. Norway’s King Harald and political leaders from the left and right still expressed their strong belief in the freedom and openness of their society despite the vulnerability exposed by the attacks.
Before they learned who the killer was, Norwegians suspected al-Qaida terrorists were behind the attack, considering it a result of allowing the immigration of Muslims into their country. Now the world knows who did it, and it is plain to see that a Christian fundamentalist can be just as violent as an Islamic fundamentalist. The Oslo attacks may be an isolated event, but there are thousands of neo-Nazis, skinheads and other chauvinist idiots who might be tempted to emulate Breivik.
If Breivik is a monster, those violent and potentially violent strains are growing in all parts of Europe, nurtured by anti-foreign, anti-Muslim sentiments. The Oslo tragedy is a wakeup call for the European governments and parties to the perils of right-wing fanatics and other anachronisms. The cost of this lesson was far too big.
At this moment, we are strongly reminded of the great stake the international community has in preventing terror of any kind through close collaboration, as U.S. President Barack Obama said. Global efforts should be directed toward watching and controlling far-right extremism among whites as much as Islamic extremism. Political leaders should be especially warned against fanning racial antagonism in any form.