By Ben Small
Some of you may have come across the article that I wrote last week on the English Defence League (EDL), an anti-Islamic street movement in my homeland, Britain. The article drew comparisons with Islamphobia in the US, particularly among Tea Party constituents.
In the wake of the abhorrent events that occurred last Friday in Norway, information has come to light revealing connections between the terrorist suspect, Anders Brehing Breivik, to the anti-Islam movement in England, as well as to prominent Islamophobes in the US. Do these recent revelations mean that people will begin to identify the extreme right as a terrorist threat and stop assuming that all terror acts are associated with Muslims?
There are unconfirmed reports that Breivik, whose deplorable acts were committed to “save Europe” from Islam, was involved directly with the EDL as recently as 2010 when he attended at least one of the movement’s marches.
Much attention has also been given to Breivik’s championing of the American right-wing, anti-Muslim celebrities Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller who are mentioned numerous times in his 1,500 page manifesto entitled ‘2083: A European Declaration of Independence’.
Breivik cites Spencer’s work as inspiration, saying, “about Islam I recommend everything written by Robert Spencer.” Breivik cites him scores of times throughout the manifesto; he clearly held him in very high regard.
Similarly, he lists Geller among his roll of “decent human beings”, linking to her anti-Muslim blog Atlas Shrugs . The two partners in spreading Islamic hatred together created such anti-Muslim hysteria as the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy and have, interestingly, both vocalized their support of the EDL [although Gellar retracted her support recently when she realized the EDL is also anti-Semitic.
There is no doubt that to, at least some extent, the opinions and thoughts of Breivik have been influenced by the likes of Spencer and Gellar. Whether it actively informed his detestable views or simply made him more comfortable in the fact that he is not alone in what he believes.
Breivik’s relationship with far-right groups in England dates back to 2002, when the seeds of Breivik’s vile hatred were originally being sewn, seven years before the EDL was officially founded. It was then that Breivik allegedly met with other extremists in London to clarify their goal: to establish the Knights Templar Europe, a group that harkens back to the Crusades of the Middle Ages and brings forth those ideas to the arena of modern Europe to campaign against Islam.
Since then he has been in league with those involved with the EDL, whether it be before its founding or after, amassing 600 EDL friends on Facebook and speaking with “tens of EDL members and leaders”, as described in his manifesto.
He even claims to be an important part of the EDL’s foundation, saying “I was one of the individuals who supplied them with processed ideological material (including rhetorical strategies) in the very beginning.” A sobering prospect indeed that the same terrorist that murdered scores of people last Friday served to inspire the formation and the tactics of an anti-Islamic group in England.
Following what I wrote on the far-right threat last week, the events on Friday made very clear the threat cannot be ignored. In fact, the popularity of far-right groups in Europe is increasing as they speak about Islamic hatred on cultural grounds, rather than the racial grounds of the traditional far-right. This is deemed a more acceptable and less irrational for those that feel their cultural values are “threatened”.
The notion of “Eurabia”, which is the idea that due to high immigration and birth rates the European continent will become Muslim, has been snowballing in recognition in recent years. A very popular video with 13 million views on YouTube, entitled “Muslim Demographics”, is partly responsible.
The video is a lesson in scaremongering as it uses incorrect facts and figures to lead the viewer to believe various implausible outcomes for European countries, such as France becoming an Islamic Republic within 39 years. The BBC produced a video countering these claims for the BBC Radio 4 program More or Less that explains how the authors of the original video altered figures to make the situation appear different. It explains that, in general, the science of population demographics to project future population trends is often inaccurate, and I’m sure this is particularly true when the figures are wrong and the authors have a political agenda.
Nonetheless, it is the rhetoric of “Eurabia” in videos such as “Muslim Demographics” and opposition to notions of multiculturalism that inspired Breivik (the word “Eurabia” was commonly featured in his manifesto, alongside “demographic Jihad”) and could serve to inspire others. The fear links the British and the American far-right most notably with groups such as Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) and their counterpart Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE).
It has even impacted mainstream conservative politics as British Prime Minister, David Cameron, alongside the French and German premiers, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, who have all discussed the failure of multiculturalism. Further, Dutch politician and leader of the Netherland’s third-largest political party, Geert Wilders, regularly spouts his alarm over a Muslim Europe among his peers of more far-right leanings.
These groups and politicians deplore Breivik’s actions but their attitudes are the same. Although Spencer and Gellar’s words do not direct the reader to commit a massacre, there is complicity. When the two of them blame the teachings of Islam for causing terrorism, where do they see their own teachings in the terrorism they inspire? Breivik consumed their views, like millions of others around the world, but was simply more willing to step further in getting his point across. He is certainly a deranged individual but what is to say that there are not many more like him. Not all that make up the far-right are as erratic, unintelligent and disorganized as the thugs that constitute the English Defense League. Some, like Breivik, are calculated, methodical and capable of far greater atrocities than an immature street chant about Allah.