What should the UK learn from the Breivik case ?

Anders Behring Breivik is now a convicted far right mass murderer and terrorist. Last July he bombed government buildings in Oslo, resulting in eight deaths, then carried out a mass shooting at a camp of the Workers’ Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party where he killed 69 people, mostly teenagers.

Hate fuelled Breivik smirked his way through the trial, weeping only at his pathetic propaganda film. But it is not just Norway that must learn from last July’s events. Where once Europe was riddled with the poison of anti-Semitism, there is now a pandemic of Islamophobiaand anti-Roma hatred across the Continent. This hatred is frequent, deep, and alarming. Some recent examples include ;

Breiviek now get thousands of letters of supports from fans. The Sunday Mirror last week reported “prison chiefs in Norway have had to assign five guards to handle fanmail “.

Race crime and right wing ideology

Even here in the UK, most of us have seen the racist hatred of the English Defence League marching on our streets. One EDL member openly supported Breiviek in an interview with the Sun newspaper. It reports “the father of three, who said he has attended EDL events and subscribed to the British National Party’s newsletter, was unapologetic.”  Surely there is a connection between this though and the  Islamophobia that led Breivik to kill?

Breivik himself accepts that his ideas came from his digestion of the writings of several anti-Muslim activists, including bloggers Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Melanie Phillips. Breivik mentions some in his 1,500-page manifesto, posted online. The psychiatrist Tad Tietze noted in the Guardian that the case “clarifies the connection between his crimes and how dangerous rightwing ideologies have infiltrated an apparently “sane” mainstream discourse’.  After more than a decade of anti-Islamic and extreme right-wing ideology we have created states fueled by McCarthy-esque witch hunts, mosque burnings and vandalism. It is from this that Breivik has emerged

Political terrorist motivation

We have to accept the political terrorist motivation for Breivik’s violence. Over the past decade a number of writers and commentators have been quick to link a handful of al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in Europe and the US to what they call the ideology of radical Islam or Islamism (or sometimes Islam itself). In fact, the links (in terms of a shared political ideology) may be much closer between prominent members of the anti Islamic movement and Breivik than between most al-Qaeda terrorists and many mainstream Muslims.

Work by Searchlight and others show that the modern far right have successfully re-invented itself and created sufficient distance from ‘the old far right’ so as to become immune to pro-active police and security investigation. In the UK, for example, government and police have steadfastly refused to cast the English Defence League (EDL) in the role of ‘extremists’ despite a growing catalogue of violence out by its members and supporters. As a consequence the EDL are considered as more of a public order or social cohesion problem than a counter-terrorist issue. In the States, it is widely acceptable that the far right pose a much great threat than the Islamic movements.  Surely if we want to tackle extremism in our midst we have to tackle the far right issue?.

We must also remember that Breivik was able to take advantage of the fact that his prior membership of the Progress Party and his wide engagement far groups including the EDL were not regarded as evidence of ‘extremism’ or as a basis for reasonable suspicion in his activities. Norway’s Police Force last week accepted this weakness in a lengthy review of their conduct on the case.

Challenging far right ideology

However, we should accept that regardless of whatever Governments decide to do, the racism of Breivik is likely to increase. It should not be left to Breivik to explain and promote his political motivation and his political campaign from his prison cell. Now is the time to expose it, and explain its proximity to the far right movement. Now is the time to tackle far right terrorism.





Jagdish Patel is one of the editors of the TMG website. The Monitoring Group is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the author.


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