On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed eight adults at a government office complex in Oslo with a truck bomb and then gunned down 69 people, mostly members of the youth division of the Norwegian Labor Party, at a summer camp on the nearby island of Utøya. Before setting out on his murder spree, Breivik posted online a “manifesto”—consisting largely of cut-and-pasted material from other sources—in which he accused the Labor Party of abetting the West’s cultural suicide by encouraging mass Muslim immigration.
It hardly needs to be said that Breivik’s actions were deplorable, monstrous, sheer evil. Yet they did not suddenly negate the reality of the previous decade—major jihadist attacks on New York and Washington, Bali, Madrid, Beslan, London, Mumbai; growing Muslim enclaves in Western cities, whose residents, to an alarming extent, maintained the primitive practices (forced marriage, honor killing, female genital mutilation) associated with their faith, despised the core values of their host cultures, refused to assimilate into them but did not hesitate to exploit their welfare systems, and raised sons who commit violent crimes against non-Muslims, including gay-bashing, the tormenting of Jews, and the mass rape of children. In one Western country after another, surveys of Muslims showed that a terrifying proportion of them wanted to see the countries in which they had settled—many of them as refugees from Islamic tyranny—subjected to sharia law, under which apostasy from Islam, homosexuality, adultery, and many other offenses against totalitarian Koranic strictures would be punishable by death.
Yet if you listened to the overwhelming majority of Norwegian politicians and journalists—and no small number of their counterparts around the Western world—in the days and weeks after the Oslo and Utøya atrocities, you would think that the Islamic slate had been wiped clean. Even the most vituperative Muslim preachers of anti-Western hate—men who had openly expressed enthusiasm for jihadist terrorism and cheered the deaths of innocents—were embraced by public officials and treated as virtuous victims. And even the most honest, cogent, and levelheaded critics of Islam—people who had never in their lives advocated violence—were accused of having inspired Breivik’s massacre, and were even, in some quarters, equated with him. At the highest levels of the Norwegian government, and in the op-ed columns of the country’s leading newspapers, there was serious talk about silencing criticism of Islam and punishing those who dared to talk about its dark side. When Breivik came to trial, his lawyer, in brazen violation of Norwegian law, tried to compel some of those critics (including this writer) to appear in court, purportedly as “expert witnesses”—but really as co-defendants.
Now, on the opposite side of the globe from Norway, another evil act of mass carnage has taken place. Once again, there are two crime scenes: a pair of mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, at which dozens of Muslims were shot to death while at Friday prayer. The death toll, at this writing, has reached 49. Once again, there’s an online manifesto charging that Western leaders, by encouraging the influx of Muslims into the West, have served the cause of cultural suicide. (Whether the manifesto is a reflection of the alleged gunman’s actual views or was simply designed as a provocation remains to be seen.) Once again, a young man previously unknown to the authorities has been taken into custody. And once again, politicians, reporters, and commentators are exploiting this atrocity for their own political purposes.
Scanning the global media, I’ve noted dozens of people calling the manifesto writer and apparent gunman—an Australian citizen named Brenton Tarrant—a member of the “far right” and a Donald Trump fan; in fact, Tarrant rejects Trump’s politics and explains that “the nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.” He denies being either a Christian or a conservative. He has been repeatedly called a “white supremacist,” but his manifesto (reliable or not) isn’t a declaration of racial supremacy or superiority. It is, at least in part, an expression of rage about the steady repopulation of Europe by believers in an alien ideology and practitioners of a radically foreign culture—a legitimate concern, though by no means a legitimate excuse for Tarrant’s actions. Tarrant is also a fanatical environmentalist (“Green nationalism,” he avers, “is the only true nationalism”) and a fierce supporter of trade unions and “workers’ rights”—details that you probably won’t hear much about during the next few days.
What I do expect to hear more of is the kind of thing I found when I scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning—namely, a posting by an old friend of mine in Washington, D.C., that seemed to be aimed directly at me. “If you are one who has promoted such a sick ideology of [anti-Muslim] hate, perhaps inadvertently or unthinkingly,” he wrote, “it is not too late to reflect and stop.” Here in Norway, meantime, top politicians are using the Kiwi slaughter as an excuse to try to resume their targeting of Islam critics: on a Friday morning TV show, Minister of Culture Hadia Tajik and Oslo mayor Raymond Johansen lamented that Norway had “never properly dealt with the attitudes that lay behind Anders Behring Breivik’s attacks,” while prominent author and former politician Jan Arild Snoen suggested that if Islam’s critics would only “stop spreading hate against Muslims,” it might “lead to less terror.”
Today, a Norwegian friend noted that while two of the country’s leading dailies, VG and Dagbladet, ignored two major jihadist attacks in recent weeks—one that took 20 lives in a cathedral in the Philippines, and another that took 32 lives in a church in Nigeria—those same newspapers are packed with stories about the events in New Zealand. This same pattern is being replicated in media around the world. Note, too, that while routine acts of mass jihadist butchery never seem to inspire Western officials or journalists to look squarely at the scriptures that inspire the perpetrators, the reprehensible events in Christchurch will doubtless—like those at Oslo and Utøya eight years ago—provide many people of influence with a rationale for seeking to stifle frank discussion of those scriptures, and of their sobering implications for the future of the West.
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