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Lifting the Veil on Anti-Islamic Terror

August 1, 2011

By Yuebai Liu

July 22 saw Norway being horrifyingly shaken by two deadly attacks, first the bomb explosion that targeted government buildings in central Oslo and then the shooting rampage at the Labour youth camp. While the mass murder was still going on, televisions and online newspapers were quick to point fingers and speculate on an Al-Qaeda related attack. It had to be the Muslims. Accusations carried on even when facts suggesting the very opposite started to emerge, the British newspaper The Sun still titled its front page “Al-Qaeda’s massacre: Norway’s 9/11” the morning after, when it had already started to be clear that the shooter was a far-right Christian fundamentalist who despised the ruling socialist party.

Unsurprisingly, this is nothing new. It is unfortunately rather inevitable for the media and public opinion to make conjecture when we are bombarded with anti-Muslim rhetoric.  What is worrying, however, is how public reaction evolved as more facts emerged hour by hour.

The initial horror at the news that a native Norwegian had killed 77 of his own people triggered repulsion and disbelief. Why would someone that self declares to be an extreme nationalist and anti-migration kill his own countrymen? As I headed out to drink a coffee while writing this, my attention was caught by two middle age men discussing their surprise at the killings to be carried out by a “normal looking person” and that this clearly had to be a moment of madness. The Wall Street Journal published an article arguing that while the attacks were wrong, they do call our attention to the threat Muslims pose to Europe. The Jerusalem Post published similar points, warning the tragedy should serve as an opportunity to reform immigration policies. Right-wing politicians in Italy and France condemned the atrocities, but agreed with the ideology behind such actions.

Firstly, understanding why the attacks targeted Norwegians rather than solely Muslims is not difficult, such strategies were carried out throughout history – in this case, killing those that have the political and civil power that have and will permit equality and multiculturalism means attacking the very root cause of what is perceived to be the problem. As David Keen repeatedly highlights, violence is not irrational, but it serves specific functions.

Secondly, if the attacks are dismissed as a moment of madness it means dismissing the reality of far-right extremism in western societies. Much of the ideology is drawn and copied from right-extremists’ writings in the United States and Europe, ideas more prevalent and widespread across society than most of us would care to admit. We must admit, however. For acknowledgement of such views is the first step to understanding them and eventually fighting them. As Seuma Milnes writes, “The attempt to pathologies last Friday’s slaughter and separate it from the swamp that spawned it can only ratchet up the danger to all of us”.

The controversial responses found in newspapers and by right-wing European politicians simply confirm the degree to which xenophobia and islamophobia in particular,  are embedded in mainstream political discourse.

This is, perhaps, where the real tragedy lies. A murderer and terrorist who receives ideological consensus, becoming a sort of anti-hero.

Whatever happens next, whether the killings will be condemned as crimes against humanity or whether our governments will increase security measures against right-extremist groups, one of these atrocities’ goals has been achieved.

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