Monday, July 25, 2011

Islamophobic Terrorism: Mainstream Racism Comes Home To Roost

No sooner had the smoke started clearing from the rubble in the streets of Oslo, the word was out: jihadi Islamic terrorists have struck again. Even the New York Times briefly reported a sudden claim of responsibility alleged to have been issued by some previously unreported al-Qaeda-like sectlet. Then came the reports of shootings on a "youth camp" outside of Oslo. Soon a shooter was apprehended: He was distinctly blonde and Scandinavian. Between the bombing and the shooting, at least 75 people were dead and dozens more wounded. The news stories changed: the terrorist was now claimed to be a Norwegian convert to Islam. To fit the standard established media narrative, as more came to be known of Anders Breivik, the word "terrorist" started appearing less and the word "madman," more. For days afterward, the American wingnut site World Net Daily ran a poll: "Do you think more Islamic terrorism of the kind that hit Norway today will visit U.S.?"

And then out came the truth: in a propaganda video slideshow, a record of copious web posting, a facebook page, and a thousand-page manifesto, Anders Breivik announced himself to be not only a Christian, but a dedicated crusader (in the most literal sense of that word) to fighting Muslim immigration to Europe and its enablers, "multiculturalism" and "cultural Marxism." He revealed himself to be an ardent supporter of Zionism and the State of Israel. And he revealed himself to be an ardent fan of the whole roster of pseudo-scientific European and American Islamophobes including the vile Pam Geller of the American Atlas Shrugs hate blog. He announced the beginning of a historic struggle to defeat a Muslim takeover of Europe on the scale of the war that defeated the Ottoman Empire at the gates of Vienna in 1683 (that battle is shown in the illustration above: it is apparently a central theme of European Islamophobes and a recurring motif in Breivik's opus). His Norwegian targets were chosen because, out of some sci-fi scenario, he felt it was necessary to snuff out the next generation of "cultural Marxists." The youth camp, it turns out, was affiliated with the ruling Norwegian Labour (socialist) Party, and routinely held solidarity workshops with international struggles like Palestine and the Western Sahara (although condemning the attack, the American fascist commentator Glenn Beck charmingly suggested the youth camp sounded like "the Hitler Youth.")

Here's the thing: while Breivik's murderous rampage may place him on the violent fringe, his ideology is something quite less than fringe. Right-wing politicians across Europe in the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and elsewhere have been stoking the flames of hatred against Muslim immigrants and against "multiculturalism." While not everybody might be waxing nostalgic about the Knights Templar and the Winged Polish Hussars as Breivik does, clearly this idea of a white Europe besieged by brown heathens has caught the imagination of many, many people.

And the ideas of Islamophobia are seeping into mainstream discourse.

I saw this snippet from British "new atheist" Richard Dawkins posted at Lenin's Tomb earlier this year. In it the allegedly humanist Dawkins, a darling of intellectual liberals in the U.K. and America, speculates: "Given that Islam is such an unmitigated evil, and looking at the map supplied by this Christian site, should we be supporting Christian missions in Africa? My answer is still no, but I thought it was worth raising the question. Given that atheism hasn't any chance in Africa for the foreseeable future, could our enemy's enemy be our friend?" Wait, Dawkins is willing to speculate about casting his lot with (wildly conservative) evangelical Christians just to defeat the evil Muslim menace?? Dawkins' suggestion that Muslims represent a force of "unmitigated evil" that transcends his normal principles should be a danger sign that his ideology is infected with European nationalism that is ultimately racist at its core.

I have written earlier about "Everybody draw Muhammad day" in the U.S.: in my opinion it's an excellent example of how what might look like a laudable action in support of civil liberties becomes transformed into a mass demonization of the Muslim "other," a crazed, armed, and bloodthirsty mob threatening the foundations of Western civilization. How easily defense of secularism can be manipulated into an orgy of racist stereotyping, disinformation, and alarmist hype.

If in the U.S. the most outspokenly anti-Muslim politicians are obviously bigoted Republicans like Herman Cain and Congressman Peter King, one can see a potential trajectory based on how anti-Muslim immigrant attitudes have taken hold in Europe. A number of the right-wing anti-immigrant politicians in Europe are openly gay, claiming in Islam a special threat to European social tolerance. But this is a specious argument, presupposing that Muslim immigrants are not only specially predisposed to violently oppose homosexuality, but also closed to the possibility of coexistence. This despite the fact the Islamic scripture on homosexuality closely follows that of the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity which, it must be acknowledged, birthed European secular society. In my experience in discussions on gay blogs, I can easily see Muslim immigration becoming — perhaps thanks to the Zionist investment in pinkwashing — a wedge issue that starts to chip off layers of privileged gays toward a conservative agenda. The condemnation of Islam's alleged social conservatism is not usually a serious theological discussion but an amalgam of fantasist assertions and alarmist generalizations usually invoking the notion that all Muslims want nothing more than to behead anyone who stands in their world-dominating way. Note that the anti-Muslim immigrant politicos, gays included, are so wrapped up in their narrative of these murderous "others" there is no thought to the bridges that might be built, for example by queer muslim immigrants (and there are plenty) between communities that might unite to find common — multicultural, and even class — interests.

Here's where, most closely tied to neoconservatism, the faux authorities on Islam step in: Pam Geller, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Bruce Bawer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and others. These cultural theorists beat a drum of hatred toward Muslims, hatred that is transformed into violence at the hands of activists like Anders Breivik.

And here's the truth you won't get from the media narrative: according to Europol, terrorist "attacks by separatist/nationalist groups far outnumber attacks by Islamists." (See Matthew Yglesias at Thinkprogress). It is not the Muslims who are bringing violence to Europe's streets. And on the contrary, fascist nationalist groups like the English Defense League (which Breivik was apparently in contact with) have been organizing not only behind the scenes, but openly provocative street actions as well.

This is a photo (from TPM) of one of the hate-fests held to protest the downtown Manhattan Islamic Community Center in 2010. Note the pro-torture "Waterboarding Instructor." These are not thoughtful secular humanists, this is a reactionary mob. The 75 acts of murder committed by Anders Breivik are an easy-to-understand warning to take the mainstream ideology of Islamophobia dead seriously. Are Breivik's writings the "Mein Kampf" of a future mass movement, as one leftwing blogger suggests? I'd rather not wait to find out.


  1. "Norway killer 'insane' says his lawyer" -- to which I reply, "Duh!" - sane people don't kill. But if I had a sit down discussion with Geir Lippestad, Anders Behring Breivik's attorney, I imagine we would differ greatly on our individual definition of insanity.

  2. Excellent article I thoroughly enjoyed it.