– “You don’t need to be a Muslim to be a terrorist”

WEEKEND OPINION

A VERY INCONVENIENT TERRORIST

By Ronald Eissens

JULY 29, 2011- Every time I sit down to try to write an article about the Norway massacre, there’s a new stream of opinions coming in, which of course need to be read. It is not easy to wade through the overload of contributions, op-eds and comments; especially since the stuff some write is quite unbelievable. There are a lot of people out there who are actually happy with what Anders Breivik did. Yes, they are happy. Happy that seventy-six Norwegians, most of them youngsters, were slaughtered in a bombing and killing spree committed by blonde, blue-eyed Aryan poster boy Anders Breivik, who thinks himself a modern-day Christian crusader against Islam. These happy folks are people that share Breivik’s agenda and warped world view, or think this terrorist is their friend, since they consider Islam and anybody to the left side of the political spectrum to be ‘the enemy’. Surprising? Not really. Sadly, those sentiments have been around for some time and are getting stronger.

The issue is, who’s responsible? People are not an island, and Breivik did not come to the conclusion that he needed to do this out of nothing. Over the years, he formed his opinions based on information he found, mostly online, and he radicalised. Looking at his manifest it is not only quite easy to recognize the rhetoric of those who inspired him; he even names them. They are the usual anti-Muslim crowd in Europe and the USA. But he also lists the National Resistance, a strongly antisemitic Czech neo-Nazi organization. Those of us who research the extreme-right, populism and ultra-nationalism know that extremists often make strange but convenient bedfellows. The golden rule here is that they will find each other in their hatred against a common enemy, like Jews or Muslims. Some who have a past riddled with antisemitism and Holocaust denial, like the French Front National and members of the English Defence League, are now trying to ‘fit in’ by adopting a virulent anti-Muslim agenda and claiming to be friends of the West, of Israel and the Jews. And there are people who believe them. But ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is a dangerous delusion. Extremists say they are your friend today – but will try to kill you tomorrow. Above all, those who condone, incite to, or commit slaughter or terrorism for whatever reason can’t be friends – they are the enemy of us all.

The EDL, Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders, Robert Spencer (Jihadwatch) and other ideological fellow travellers of Anders Breivik are now screaming that they are not to blame. They aren’t, not directly, but only indirectly. Through their words and rhetoric, their anti-Muslim mantras often based on falsehoods and myths about secret Muslim plans to take over the western democracies and the world (where have we heard that one before). By holding all Muslims, the left and those they consider to be ‘lackeys of Islam’ responsible for the terrorism and extremism of a minority, they have added significantly to the creation of an atmosphere of bias, fear, and hate in which Anders Breivik and other extremists feel supported and righteous in their lunacy. Now they are desperately trying to distance themselves from the acts of their ideological spawn, like Islamists after a terrorist bombing or a suicide attack. They claim to always have been non-violent and in favour of peace, even when they endlessly speak about ‘the war with Islam’, ‘the west under siege’ and ‘crusades’. They are more worried for what Breivik’s terrorism will mean for their credibility than worried about the Norwegian massacre itself.

All of a sudden it becomes clear that you don’t need to be a Muslim to be a terrorist, that even Christians can be terrorists. A cynical revelation for those who had never heard of the IRA, the Ku Klux Klan, the Army of God, Timothy McVeigh and many others.

On nationalist and populist blogs and web forums all over we can see the praise Breivik gets, how many are pleased and want him ‘to come over and finish some leftists and Muslim scum in our country too’. Browsing stromfront.org, central station of the world’s Neo-Nazi’s, it is scary to note that comments there are relatively more moderate compared to this.

Even children know that words can have nasty effects. They learn it in the schoolyard. When opinion makers, politicians, or celebrities say something, they know that it can have consequences. We’ve seen time and time again that propaganda can poison the public debate, can turn people against each other, can ultimately lead to hate crime, civil war and genocide. We believe that bloggers and social media users can cause revolutions. What’s more, we see them do it. But, in the case of the rhetoric of anti-Islam moguls it all of a sudden means nothing?

Quite a cop-out.

The Internet is full of Breiviks waiting for the day they are going to ‘save the world’ from the Muslims – or the Jews or the left-wingers, or from anybody they don’t like. They take their lead from us and if we engage in repeating hateful mantras, lies and disinformation, if we don’t check if the information we disseminate is in fact correct, when we think that whatever we publish or say has no real consequences, then we are helping them, supporting them and creating more of them. This has become an age of fact-free information, intelligence-free thinking and who-cares-about-consequences rhetoric. We need to slow down, sit and think, read more, check the facts and judge less.

Ronald Eissens is General Director of Magenta Foundation, located in Amsterdam, and a board member of The International Network Against Cyber Hate.

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