Sunday, July 24, 2011

Still blaming Muslims

We understand that the media would rather be talking about Islam.  They jumped on the first sign that the killer of dozens of Norwegian children might be a jihadi group, despite its lack of plausibility.  They didn't even wait for that sign - the assumptions were already embedded well before then.  Long after the rumours had been disproven, and the culprit emerged as a white, right-wing Christian from Norway, many papers still wanted the conversation to be about Islam and 'Al Qaeda'.  We understand this, just as we understand the media's discomfort at dealing with an outrage in which the very Islamophobia which they do most to propagate is implicated.

However, if you want to understand the attitude of the punditocracy to fascist terrorism, consider the query put by BBC News to the former Norwegian Prime Minister yesterday: "Do you think not enough attention was paid to those unhappy re immigration?"  Or, consider this New York Times article blaming the failure of multiculturalism.  Or, look at this Atlantic article, which describes such racist terrorism as a "mutation of jihad" - that is "the spread of the 'jihad' mentality to anti-immigrant and racist groups".  You begin to get the picture.  The idea is to find some way in which all of this is still the fault of Muslim immigrants.  The logic will be: the fascists express legitimate grievances, but go too far.  Or worse, in their natural outrage, they have allowed themselves to become like them.

These memes are replicating across the right-wing blogosphere as well as the news media.  By one means or another, what is being avoided here is that Anders Breivik's politics were shaped not by the fact of immigration, nor by jihadism, nor by any actually existing Muslims, but by ideas beginning in the mainstream right and radiating out to the far right.  The 1500 page manifesto he has written under the pseudonym Andrew Berwick comprises, alongside a set of instructions for little would-be fascist killers, a distillation of standard right-wing Islamophobic material from Bernard Lewis, Bat Ye'or, Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer, as well as a regurgitation of just about every poisonous attack on multiculturalism from the gutter press and politicians. 

The core of it is the development of an historical narrative detailing various clashes between 'Western Europe' and 'Islam', the two key protagonists.  Like much far right literature these days, it is ostentatiously 'philosemitic', or at least expends a lot of energy charging Islam with antisemitism.  It has the standard references - the gates of Vienna, the Lebanon, Moorish Spain, Turkey and the Armenian genocide, etc. - with extended quotes from the aforementioned sources.  It is pro-colonial and pro-Israel and is concerned to defend the nation-state against 'multiculti', 'cultural Marxists', 'traitors', Muslims and so on.  Of course, the whole document is laced with the usual fascist mysticism and augury, and concludes with the proclamation: "By September 11th, 2083, the third wave of Jihad will have been repelled and the cultural Marxist/ multiculturalist hegemony in Western Europe will be shattered and lying in ruin, exactly 400 years after we won the battle of Vienna on September 11th, 1683. Europe will once again be governed by patriots."

Anders Breivik, though not a Third Reich enthusiast, is obviously a fascist of some description.  His manifesto, his activism and his links to the UK far right scene, talked down by the Norwegian police, are evidence that he didn't seek to be simply a lone ranger.  He has made it clear that his massacres were an attack on the political system, and he clearly intended that they should be followed by others.  But the ideas that led him to fascism are not at all marginal.  The Islamophobia that has been energetically disseminated by the belligerents of the 'war on terror', the view seriously entertained by many that Europe's Muslim minority constitutes a threat meriting legal supervision and restriction at the very least, has provided the intellectual and moral basis for the mass murder of Norwegian children.  No one who is not prepared to countenance this can have anything morally serious or even creditable to say about this slaughter.  And anyone who starts from the idea of blaming Islam is placing themselves in a contemptible affinity with the perpetrator.