Al-Tamimi: The Norway Attacks and the Paranoid Mindset

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi writes in a guest column for Informed Comment

The Norway Attacks and the Paranoid Mindset

It has emerged that Anders Breivik- who is suspected of killing at least 76 people in two attacks in Norway on Friday a week ago– was an avid user of online so-called “counter-jihad” forums. At one such site called document.no he claimed in 2009 that he was now working “full time to develop/promote further the Vienna school of thought that Fjordman, Bat Ye’or…and many others have already contributed so much to.” (For more on this issue see this post.) This connection raises the question of whether some conspiracy theories pose a threat to the public, that is, whether they constitute a clear and present danger of promoting violence, because of the way they are formulated.

The “Vienna school of thought” refers to the outlook promoted by the blog “Gates of Vienna” (GoV), which is the most avid advocate of the “Eurabia” thesis first formulated by Bat Ye’or and promoted in detail by an anonymous Norwegian blogger known as “Fjordman.” (Eurabia is the daft idea that Europe is going swiftly to become a continent dominated by radical Muslim regimes). On multiple occasions, Breivik has advertised Fjordman’s work, most notably in describing his article “Defeating Eurabia” as “the perfect Christmas gift for family and friends.”

To what extent, if at all, should these various anti-Muslim blogs (they characterize themselves as “anti-jihadist”) — particularly the writings of Fjordman– that have so influenced Breivik be regarded as having a share of responsibility for the carnage? Of course, many will reply that attempting to draw such connections is merely “smear-by-association.” After all, the Gates of Vienna itself has condemned Breivik’s murderous rampage and has affirmed that “at no time has any part of the Counter-jihad advocated violence, and its raison d’être is to eschew violence, to preserve law and order, and to uphold the rights of the individual.”

But the British government has at some points seriously considered banning the radical Hizb-ut-Tahrir Muslim fundamentalist group, even though it uses the same diction as Gates of Vienna– that it condemns violence to achieve political ends. Nevertheless, Hizb-ut-Tahrir propagates a narrative that the West and non-Muslim world in general are actively waging war against Islam. At the same time, its literature constantly insists on the right and need for Muslims to assert their rights and “resist” the Western “occupiers.”

Once this framing of things is accepted, it is not hard to see how a Muslim reader of such pamphlets might reach the conclusion that the only way to combat the war against him is to resort to violence. Do we exculpate the likes of Hizb-ut-Tahrir for doing the kind of propaganda that may have led to actions such as the July 7, 2005 bombings in London by radicalized young Muslim Britons?

And so it is with the “Eurabia” thesis. This theory goes well beyond simply asserting that many on the liberal-left and in government have been naïve about the behavior and intentions of non-violent Islamists in Europe. Rather, their Eurabia hypothesis posits that the entire political left and European elites are actively conspiring with Islamists or the Muslim world to turn Europe into an Islamized continent, forming a joint Euro-Arab axis against Israel and the United States. Not all anti-Islam blogs adhere to the Eurabia theory: for example, “The Hesperado” prefers to see liberals and political elites as only naïve, well-intentioned, and therefore amenable to reasoned argument.

Fjordman has taken the Eurabia conspiracy further, seeing Western governments’ policies on immigration and multiculturalism as part of an attempt to foster “White Masochism” in the European natives. Hence, Fjordman urges whites to assert their rights to have “a place of our own where we can prosper…without being stripped of our heritage in order to placate people who moved to our countries of their own free will. We…are under no obligation to commit collective suicide and serve as a dumping ground for other countries.”

He goes so far as to accuse Western governments of practicing “reverse Nazism” since their policies are “based on the assumption that whites should have fewer rights than others and can be colonized or culturally eradicated with impunity. I don’t see why I should either be a “Nazi” or embrace and celebrate my extinction.”

It is clear how acceptance of Fjordman’s theories- warning of “reverse Nazism,” “collective suicide,” “cultural eradication” and “colonization” by (Muslim) immigrants- can inculcate a dangerously paranoid mindset, with numerous parallels to Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s outlook (namely in the idea that the supposed victims must stand up for themselves in the face of an imminent and existential threat). Reading Fjordman and the Gates of Vienna, one gets the impression that the halls of power are dominated by sinister leftists and cultural Marxists, that co-existence with the Left is impossible, and that we must be at war with the establishment to prevent the dire threat of decline, creating a sense of what The Hesperado terms “Gnostic alienation” from the West.

Far from being a shooting spree of someone mentally ill, Breivik’s attacks were evidently well calculated. Attacking the government in Oslo and the youths of the Labor Party he felt would be future leaders of his country, Breivik sincerely hoped he would free Norway from the grip of what he saw as a giant social experiment in multiculturalism, mass immigration and Islamization. Fjordman and the Gates of Vienna are either using hyperbole and vast exaggeration, or they sincerely believe that there is an imminent and existential threat to life and property. If the former, they should not be taken seriously. if the latter, their readers could be excused for concluding that violent action might be necessary to avert the threat.

In the end, responsibility lies with Breivik and his conscious decision to commit these atrocities. However, Fjordman, the Gates of Vienna and other promoters of the Eurabia conspiracy theory ought to re-consider their claims, and how they might be interpreted. Above all, demonization and personal vilification of one’s political opponents needs to be abandoned.

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Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi is a student at Oxford University.

21 Responses

  1. The forces on the far right, who espose an ideology (hatred of foreigners, hatred of immigrants, hatred of Islam and other non-Christian religions) essentially identical to that of the terrorist Breivik, now attempt to defend themselves, and their ideology by claiming that Breivik is a “lone wolf”, an isolated crazy man who has nothing to do with them.

    And I agree with this part of that claim: the terrorist Breivik is indeed insane. I think everyone can agree with that. But what kind of mental illness does he suffer from? It’s not dementia or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or any other common mental illness. Take away his ideological preoccupations, and Breivik appears like a normal, indeed a quite boring human being. Everything that he did that was insane had some kind of ideological motive; indeed, if you grant his ideological premises — which, preposterous and monstrous though they are, are shared by at least hundreds of thousands of people and are propagated daily by media organs that reach tens of millions — his actions are at worst unwise, but otherwise logical and justifiable.

    In other words, the terrorist Breivik is insane — but the insanity is the ideology. His mental illness consists of a paranoid belief system built on a systematic set of lies about the meaning of multiculturalism, the role of immigrants, and the nature of non-Christian religions. Those lies were the foundation of Breivik’s terrorism, but he did not invent them.

    Anders Breivik is insane. There is no disputing that. But he shares his ideological insanity with hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people just as insane as he. What I’d like to know is: is there a cure?

    • “And I agree with this part of that claim: the terrorist Breivik is indeed insane. I think everyone can agree with that.”

      Uh, no. Sorry.

      “The July 22 attacks were so carefully planned and executed that it would be difficult to argue they were the work of a delusional madman, said Dr Tarjei Rygnestad, who heads the Norwegian Board of Forensic Medicine”, Brievik’s assessment panel…
      link to telegraph.co.uk

    • “The terrorist Brevik is indeed insane. I think everyone can agree with that.”…But he shares his ideological insanity with hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people…”

      Amongst terrorist murderers, where do they slip into insanity? The American KKK merely lynched blacks one-by-one, and as photographs attest, it was a community supported activity. During the Civil right era, five schoolgirls were bombed to death, by murderers who hid concealed themselves, not crazies.
      Islamic suicide bombers are considered deluded, although some scholars disagree.
      Is it a suicidal mission that is the dividing line between Brevik and the KKK? Is it mass murder? Or is it white Europeans as the target?

  2. In looking at Breivik’s actions and attack on the Labor party, do not under estimate his relationship with his parents – both were active in the Labor organization. Breivik’s father a former diplomat , who had many unstable marriages, one before Breivik’s mother, his mother and another relationship which came one within a year after his birth – this one lasted it appears 12 years, then another relationship. And Breivik’s father stopped seeing him at 15 because Breivik was caught doing graffiti. Ignoring, excluding, minimizing, marginalizing and demeaning are all methods, and they are methods.

    It would be interesting to know what type of graffiti he was doing – political, artsy, etc. But at this point this appears to be the turning point in his life. He did not like his mothers’ second husband, an officer in the Navy who he claimed was a pervert because of his step-fathers many trips to Asia for prostitutes.( was this for under-age children?)

    There is the appearance from reports, he had a growing resentment inside him which he projected on others (meaning middle-easterns). This is a young man who was struggling for his identity. This type of damage can be done through a bad series of experiences, or it can be something done with intentional malicious purpose – with an end in mind. As far as ‘demonizing’ , or de-humanizing a person, or a group, this is a weapon of political leaders – and at times there is little difference between and religious leader and a political leader – some leaders wear both hats, even if one of the “hats” is hidden from public view. To ‘demonize’ another has the objective of rendering the party helpless – by picking up added voices as the attacks build in a crescendo leaving the ‘target’ also unable to have their voice heard – in essence defenseless.

    Sometimes there is a man (men) standing behind the curtain, manipulating while being unseen.

  3. David:

    I may agree with you that terrorist Breivik is insane, if you can name just one other terrorist who was not white and not Christian.

    It is the usual pattern of the western news media if the terrorist is white & Christian then surely he is either insane or he has very bad child hood.

    In case of Christian terrorist Breivik, new media is portraying that he is not even Christian.

    • Shahid Shahid, if my other posts are read, my feeling are he was ripe for recruitment,and questioned a possible Serb influence due to some of the associations he has claimed, as well as, places he stated he visited.

      Not to get too spooky, but there is mind manipulation, it is real and some people fall prey, or are victims to it. Breivik seemed right for recruitment to me.

  4. Prof.Cole’s guest commenter did not suggest that Breivik is “insane.” On the contrary, he wrote wrote: “In the end, responsibility lies with Breivik and his conscious decision to commit these atrocities.”

    There is no objective way/medical test, to tell whether an idea/action is caused by a (mental) illness or is is just a (bad) idea.

  5. Another great piece – I can’t say that too often but . . .

    Above all, demonization and personal vilification of one’s political opponents needs to be abandoned.

    Only to the degree ones political opponents are not actual demons or villains. Seriously, do we demonize David Duke when we remind people of his KKK history? Could Hitler have been rightfully demonized by his political opponents? IMO there has to be a place and time for righteous indignation and truthful expression even when it includes some hyperbole.

  6. Al-Tamimi asks a pertinent question but fails to answer it satisfactorily:

    Question: “To what extent, if at all, should these various anti-Muslim blogs (they characterize themselves as “anti-jihadist”) — particularly the writings of Fjordman– that have so influenced Breivik be regarded as having a share of responsibility for the carnage?”

    Answer: “In the end, responsibility lies with Breivik and his conscious decision to commit these atrocities.”

    To use an old British expression: what a load of old bollocks!

    If any Muslim blog held the same position in public as say Fjordman (from the other end of the spectrum obviously), not only would they be closed down, but the authors hunted by the police and accused of incitement to terrorism, hate speech, etc.

    Also, regarding any insanity. Breivik is as insane as any other terrorist who uses violence.

  7. I’d remind the recent Koran burning in the US and how it was treated by the officials. Put together, these facts tell quite a lot about the Western backing of the Arab Spring. It looks more and more like thin wrapper for the War on Terror which seems to be quietly forgotten.

  8. Breivik’s case is so similar to the case of the US abolitionist John Brown and the Secret Six, wealthy influential men who backed him anonymously.
    It CAN happen here.

  9. ‘It would be interesting to know what type of graffiti he was doing – political, artsy, etc.’

    It is very unlikely to have been political when Brevik was it his mid teens. At that point, according to the biographical details he gives in his manifesto, he behaved like a typical spoilt brat of the haute bourgeiosie, into hip-hop, break dancing & ‘tag’ graffiti. A bit of a ‘wigger’ in other words.

    ‘There is the appearance from reports, he had a growing resentment inside him which he projected on others (meaning middle-easterns). This is a young man who was struggling for his identity. This type of damage can be done through a bad series of experiences, or it can be something done with intentional malicious purpose’

    Again, in the autobiographical bits of his manifesto, he recounts about ten instances from his late teens/early twenties of incidents with muslim youths in which he describes them as the aggressors and he &/or his friends as victims. However at the time he didn’t draw any direct political conclusions from these events. The trigger in changing his outlook (or so it appears from the autobiographical bits of his manifesto)was the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, ostensibly undertaken to defend the intersts of the (mainly muslim) population in Kosovo.

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