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Hichem Karoui: European militant fascism
July 30, 2011
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Although one may subscribe to Bruce Riedel’s suggestion that the tragedy in Norway “is a reminder that extremists — Christian and Muslim — both seek a clash of civilisations” in a hope to “re-create their medieval fantasies,” I acknowledge it is hard to understand how we could put this whole case on the account of a Christian/Muslim clash without yielding to the logic of the terrorist. After all, who are the victims of Anders Behring Breivik? He bragged that he was fighting the “Muslim invasion” of Europe, and the mainstream media conveyed “kindly” the message of the terrorist, stressing that he proceeded out of an anti-Islam far-right ideology.

Indeed, the far-right is anti-Islamic. But it is also anti-Semitic and anti-democratic.

And who were the victims? First, eight people died in a terrific explosion at government buildings in central Oslo, then, on a nearby island, 68 mostly teenagers at a popular summer youth camp run by Norway’s Labour Party, the leading partner in the coalition parliament. Probably the majority of them (if not all) were Christians.

So, how can you call a fundamentalist-Christian killing Christians an anti-Islamic militant?

This is possible only by a twist in the logic commanding the mind. I mean by an act of violence against common-sense.

What brought Islam into the case was the hate-filled, anti-government, anti-Muslim manifesto, 1,500 pages long, Anders Behring Breivik left on the Internet before he went on his rampage. In other words, the insane justification of his mass-murder. In his manifesto, he blamed white “traitors” for Muslim immigration into Europe, and referenced several anti-Muslim American bloggers and writers, including long passages from Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

So, even if Brievik saw himself as a modern reincarnation of the Knights Templar, the order of knights who helped lead the Crusades to re-establish a Christian kingdom in Jerusalem, and even he allegedly attended a 2002 meeting to revive the Templar order, that does not make of his victims Muslims.

To stress that he was anti-Muslim while killing Christians, is not only to convey his insane justification, but also to overlook that Islamophobia is just an element in the far-right ideology that also happens to be: anti-Semitic and anti-Democratic.

However, one can only sympathise with the families of the victims and understand what the media in Europe strive hardly to conceal. I mean: the disappointment caused by the discovery that the terrorist was not as expected a Muslim, but a Christian.

A concealed disappointment? Of course, and the bitterest one.

How would you feel when your own son kills his own brothers and sisters? Your first reaction is: disbelief and horror. Yet, soon disbelief is followed by a terrific disappointment, the rejection of the killer and the condemnation of the crime. Maybe also an obscure guilt feeling, or at least a question as to your eventual responsibility in the education of your son. Yet, despite the horror anyway, you would probably feel relieved if you were told, the murdered is not actually your son, but a stranger. Who wouldn’t?

Well, this is nearly the picture in Norway and Europe: what happened is unjustified anyway. But in a democratic system where the far-right organisations’ input is considered not only legal, but also “positive” for the social and political balance, a terrorist like Breivik would soon acquire the statute of “Super-Hero” for all the little neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist groups that are pushing for a clash between communities.

Meanwhile, the media followed up with comments on the immigrants in Europe. What does this have to do with them? The terrorist was not an immigrant, neither were his victims. But would Europe ever recognise that domestic terrorism has domestic causes? Would Europe ever recognise that the real threat to her civil peace does not come from the immigrants, whatever their religion, but from her far-right political parties that propagate the ideology of hatred between ethnic and religious communities?

Terrorism experts distinguish between old and new terrorism. Acts of violence depicted as “old terrorism” — such as bombing police headquarters and assassinating political opponents — could be understood as tactics aimed at achieving political goals. New terrorism is less clear as to its objectives while it is frequently embedded into a delirious religious rhetoric. The bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993 and, two years later, the unleashing of nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system are not directly connected to a clear-cut strategic goal. Moreover, it is home-grown.

Mark Juergensmeyer, who published extensively on this topic, remarked that the new terrorism rose in the eighties of the last century as the traditional forms of political conflict in the Middle East seemed slackening. By the 1990s religious-based terrorism aimed at the general population as well as at symbols of government power throughout the world. Activists from nearly every religious community were involved: not only Islamic suicide bombers in the Middle East, but also Christian militants in the United States and Europe, Jewish murderers in Israel, a terrorist Buddhist sect in Japan, and radical Sikhs and Hindus in India...

The last decade of the 20th century and the first of the 21st were certainly those of the new terrorism. In 1980, the United States State Department listing of international terrorist groups contained scarcely a single religious organisation. But in 1998, in their list of the 30 world’s most dangerous groups, over half were religious and included Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. Add to them the many Christian militia and other paramilitary organisations found in the United States, plus the European neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist movements which form the extreme-right of the quite legal right-wing parties, and you would have a considerable nebula of an international scope.

The point is that while the US and Europe pressured the Middle Eastern governments encouraging them to forbid and repress the right-wing organisations (hardliners, that is), they omitted to do the same at home. Furthermore, even when a mass-killing happens in a Western city at the hands of militants from the far-right, the parties that inspire the murderers’ ideology are seldom pointed at as morally responsible. The terrorists are generally considered either as insane, or as individuals acting on their own, although we all know that individuals do not act this way without an ideological motivation, or some kind of support which have to be found in their political connections.
The author, an expert on US-Middle EAst relations, is based in Paris

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