Global Tolerance Slashed with a Sledge Hammer in Norway

Date: July 2011

When I wrote about religious tolerance dying a slow death in Western Europe a couple of weeks ago, I was looking at the issue from a political perspective. Little did I imagine the savagery that would follow just two weeks later, wiping out 77 innocent youths in Utoya an idyllic Norwegian island.

Friday, July 22nd was a stunning and sad day for the families, Norway and the world as Anders Behring Breivik, a 32 year old, right wing, fundamentalist Christian savagely killed teenagers. What kind of insanity is this, especially in a Scandinavian country -where peace and civility, social welfare for its citizens, and respectful integration of immigrants has long prevailed. Norway has long set a high bench mark and a sane role model for the world until this tragedy occurred. How could this happen and why?

One thing is clear: Breivik was inspired by America. But not in the way I had experienced, growing up in India in the 50’s and 60’s. For me and my contemporaries, America inspired us with its ideals of equality, democracy and freedom for all – a far cry from the death and violence spawned by Breivik.

Breivik, however, gravitated to the dark side of America today. He was inspired by American bloggers, ground zero Islamophobes, and right wing anti-Islamic ideologues. He fed on the foul taste, hatred, and inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric propagated by the promoters of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy in New York on 9/11/10. He bought into the racist, bigoted anti-Islamic hysteria whipped up to impact the 2010 election victories for the Tea Party and other Right wing candidates.

  • According to Lee Fang in Think Progress “Breivik cites blogger Pamela Geller…. The writer behind the popular anti-Muslim blog Atlas Shrugs …. perhaps the most proactive anti-Muslim activist, given the fact she was the first to smear the planned Park51 community center as a ‘victory mosque’ before the media showed any interest.” Connected to protests against mosques in California, Tennessee, and other states, Geller travels around the US, promoting her belief that Muslims are an inherent threat to American society.
  • Breivik also relies heavily on Robert Spencer, the leading Islamaphobe behind the blog, “Jihad Watch”. Spencer and Geller launched the group “Stop Islamization of America” as their own news source which distributes anti-Muslim perspectives into the mainstream media. “Spencer provides punditry for Fox News, National Review, and other top conservative media outlets.”
  • Fox does not mind hosting Spencer and his ilk but are they touchy when mainstream media points out that Breivik thinks of himself as a Christian crusader….watch this hysterical Jon Stewart riff .
  • Jihad Watch has also been behind efforts to purge the Republican Party of Muslims.
  • Fang has also dug out the fact that “Breivik linked ten times to video clips” for the Islamophobic documentary movie, Obsession, Radical Islam’s War Against The West, created by a secretive group called the Clarion. He recommended for “further study” a list including links to all ten parts of the documentary. In 2008, the Clarion Fund mailed Obsession to 28 million households, at a cost of $19 million, aiming at states that were critical in the election. “The movie argues that Muslims are waging a war against America, and will stop at nothing to destroy western civilization.”

Anders Breivik’s manifesto contains numerous in-texts and footnoted citations to prominent Islamophobic bloggers, supposed experts on Islamic terrorism and think tanks claiming to be on the front lines of battling Islam’s attacks on democracies.

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http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/BreivikCites.png

While a citation in the manifesto is far from an endorsement of violence by those Breivik referenced, it is increasingly clear that the Islamophobic right wing in the U.S. influenced his views.

And indeed, Geller has now posted to blame the Norwegians for the slaughter. She calls the summer camp an “antisemitic introdoctrination training center” She neatly equates the mass-murder with the fact that the party which sponsors the camp is a socialist party, and that Norway has been one of the major brokers of peace agreements in the past between Israel and Palestine – the Oslo accords. “There is no justification for Breivik’s actions whatsoever. There is also no justification for Norway’s antisemitism and demonization of Israel.”

As Lee Fang concludes in his blog post, Breivik Was Influenced By American Islamophobes Behind Mosque’ Hysteria in ThinkProgress writes:

“The American media has failed to connect the dots in recent years as anti-Muslim activists like Geller, Spencer, Gaffney, and Gabriel have played an incredible role in fomenting a surge in anti-Muslim hate in America. There is a well-financed, well-coordinated effort among far right Islamophobes to orchestrate a “crusade” against Muslims. While the American Islamophobe machine has mostly inspired petty vandalism against mosques and racist demonstrations in the United States, the massacre in Norway is a grim reminder that dehumanizing hate can have dangerous but unintended consequences.”
http://thinkprogress.org/security/2011/07/25/277631/breivik-influenced-by-american-islamophobes/

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Norwegians discuss their culture of consensus and in the context of modern diversity. Ironically, Bano Rashid, a young woman of Iraqi Kurdish origin who came to Norway as a child, worked at an amusement park last summer to purchase a bunad, the Norwegian national costume while her peers were buying iPads. Just hours before she died at the hands of Breivik, she fulfilled her dream of meeting her idol, former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. Rashid dreamed of becoming Prime Minister in Norway one day.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/30/world/europe/30norway.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Bano%20Rashid&st=cse

In an article entitled, “A War on Multiculturalism, a Massacre in Norway,” Indian author, Pankaj Mishra provides some food for thought on a changing world where minorities are scape goated in downward sliding economies and writes: when a madman kills more than 70 people because he thinks the West is being too soft on Muslims, the first impulse of many is to blame the horrific violence on — Muslims.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-29/a-war-on-multiculturalism-massacre-in-norway-commentary-by-pankaj-mishra.html

The Breivik tragedy is a wake up call for me: Naively, I had not focused on the cross continental interconnectedness of the anti-Muslim bigotry. And at a personal and human level, I just wonder where will the inspiration for peace, economic stability and progress come from? When and how will we support the important game changing paradigms like educating and empowering Muslim women – who could contribute to peace? How and when will humanity win over inhumanity?

Shahnaz Chinoy Taplin’s blog is inspired by Khadijah, Prophet Muhammad’s first wife. Khadijah is the quintessential role model for Muslim women. She was the first convert to Islam, the first Muslim woman entrepreneur, a globalist and a feminist

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