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Gerald Caplan has an MA in Canadian history and a Ph.D. in African history from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He is an author, teacher, media commentator, and social and political activist with a lifelong commitment to African development. He is preoccupied with genocide and genocide prevention, particularly the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, about which he has frequently written. He has been a consultant on African development issues to many United Nations agencies as well as to the African Union. His latest book is called The Betrayal of Africa. He writes a weekly online column for the Globe and Mail.

Understanding Norway's terrorism

| August 13, 2011

There are several things we must grasp if we're ever going to understand what motivated Anders Breivik's murderous rampage in Norway. As is well known now, Mr. Breivik was a devotee of those many strident voices on the web who accuse the Norwegian Labour Party and its ilk of treason for being too soft on Muslims. For him, the logical response was to slaughter the children of the "traitors" in huge numbers.

The first thing we need to understand is the all-important difference between Muslim terrorists and European terrorists like Mr. Breivik and American terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber and Jared Loughner (killer of six in Tucson, Arizona, attempted killer of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords). Here's the difference: Apparently Muslim terrorists terrorize because they are Muslims and that's what Muslims do. White, European, American and Christian terrorists terrorize because they are psychotic loners who represent nothing besides themselves.

Besides Mr. McVeigh, Mr. Loughner and the Unabomber, there are many other American terrorists in the same category of psychos who represent no one but themselves. Nor do they only want to terrorize Muslims; some, with broader aspirations, are also dedicated to terrorizing African-Americans, Jews, feminists, liberals and people with freckles. There are in fact far too many of these deranged loners to record here. But they include, for example, white supremacists whom the Department of Homeland Security warned about in a 2009 report called "Rightwing Extremism," which was naturally withdrawn by the Obama administration because it offended conservatives.

Then there's the Hutaree, a Christian militia in Michigan accused last year of plotting, in the name of Jesus, to kill police officers and plant bombs at their funerals. They had accumulated an arsenal of weapons larger than that of all the Muslim plotters charged in the United States since the 9/11 attacks combined. Hutaree is said to mean "Christian Warrior", comparable to being a Muslim jihadist. But while jihadists are Muslims, Hutaree devotees are apparently not real Christians.

Add to the list of non-Muslim terrorists in America the other 126 armed extreme right-wing racist militias identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organization that tracks hate groups nationwide. And let's not ignore those all-Americans who have committed direct and deliberate crimes against American Muslims for being Muslims.

These cases exemplify a widely held claim for Muslim-haters: that while all Muslims may not be terrorists (we can't be sure), all terrorists are Muslims (except the ones named above). This would also include the three young Muslim men who were killed in Birmingham, England this week trying to protect a gas station from vandals.

According to former Fox News megastar Glenn Beck, 10 per cent of all Muslims in the world are terrorists. That's more than 150 million Muslim terrorists around the world as counted personally by Mr. Beck. Clearly the rest of us infidels are doomed.

Americans obviously face a special challenge, since American Muslims now constitute 0.8 per cent of the U.S. population (yes, less than 1 per cent) -- very possibly a tipping point. Fortunately, America's major political leaders grasp the Muslim threat. Sarah Palin warns that Sharia Law, now rapidly spreading nowhere in the U.S., could be "the downfall of America" while president-to-be Michele Bachman believes that "totalitarian control" by American Muslims is alive and well and living in the White House; just remind yourself about his middle name, and you'll know.

Canadian Muslims, meanwhile, comprise 2.8 per cent of the Canadian population, which is why certain extremist Christian groups and certain conservative media outlets have taken to warning us about the looming Muslim threat to the Canadian Way Of Life.

Which brings us back to Truth Number 1. In all the cases where terrorists plot in the name of Christ, they are simply nutbars and not real Christians. When Muslim terrorists claim to be acting in the name of Islam, they are in fact acting in the name of Islam. It seems we can trust Muslims to speak the truth, but not European or American Christians.

Truth Number 2 follows logically. None of the long list of Muslim-haters in Europe and North America who Mr. Breivik specifically says influenced him actually influenced him. He's whacko and has no idea what he's talking about. In fact no one influenced him and no one is responsible for the poison in his soul. That includes the extreme right-wing Muslim-hating political parties thriving across Europe who are not to blame for creating an atmosphere that might have influenced Mr. Breivik and others like him. Nor are those mainstream centrist-conservative European political leaders -- Ms. Merkel, Mr. Cameron, Mr. Sarkozy -- who actively appease Muslim-haters for shabby reasons of political expediency.

Also not responsible for anything bad are those gutless European leftist parties that have failed to condemn the scapegoating of minorities or to stand up for the rights of all people against the common enemy -- market fundamentalism, inequality, poverty, joblessness, fear of the new and unfamiliar, a bleak precarious future. Nor are those many European bigots who have somewhat belatedly discovered that the Jews are no longer The Enemy of Civilization. Now it's Muslims, with 3.2 per cent of the population of Europe -- surely an imminent tipping point, no? -- who are conspiring to Islamize Europe, turning it into "Eurabia".

Among those Mr. Breivik frequently cited as his influence in his manifesto -- a carefully assembled 1,518-page document that must be scrupulously ignored, having been prepared by a crackpot -- are sources familiar to Canadians. These include Mark Steyn, formerly a star columnist for Maclean's magazine, and Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician who has been given great prominence in Canada by Ezra Levant, a conservative associated with the Sun media chain.

Mr. Levant's dozens of fans know him as a courageous fighter for the rights of free speech for anyone whose speech he approves, like Mr. Wilders and Mr. Steyn not to mention Ann Coulter who has called Muslims ragheads and "absolutely insane savages." For some reason best known to himself, Levant also insists on his own right to assert that President Obama was born a Muslim, even though a moment's research shows that it's not true.

Coming soon: More about Muslim-haters in Canada and their enablers who didn't influence Anders Breivik.

This article was first published in the Globe and Mail.

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Comments

Caplan never mentions the source of Breivik's hatred for Muslims - namely, his ardent Zionism.

Michelle Goldberg wrote:

Anders Breivik is a Christian nationalist terrorist obsessed with preserving the "Nordic/Germanic" people. He is also an ardent Zionist. Though he finds elements of Nazi ideology appealing, his 1,500-page manifesto condemns anti-Semitism. He argues that Hitler should have used his "military capabilities...to liberate Jerusalem and the nearby provinces from Islamic occupation" and give them to the Jews. Breivik calls on his imaginary comrades: "So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists."

Coming from a Scandinavian fascist, this is a remarkable sentiment. The European far right has long been rooted in Nazism, and for decades, anti-Semitism was its hallmark. But Breivik's embrace of Israel, far from being unique, is just the latest sign of a great shift among the continent's reactionaries. Indeed, in European politics, fascism and an aggressive sort of Zionism increasingly go together.

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I think I pretty much agree with most of what Gerald Caplan is getting at.  My only critisism (if you can call it that), is that he could have tried to say what he is saying in a much more straight forward manner instead of using so much irony and sarcasm, which became a little confusing to read at times.

Just come out and say it...Anders Breivik is not an insane, lunatic, whacko.  He is motivated by his politics, which are right-wing christian fundamentalist.  His ideologies do not exist in a bubble, but instead are fostered and nurtured by the racism, xenophobia, social conservative and right -wing politics of the society around him.  Political Conservativism needs to be taken to task for the creation of this man.

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