Anti-Muslim Radicalism in Norway and Beyond

What role did this fringe political movement play in inspiring the terrorist attacks last week?

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Breivik is transported in a police convoy in Oslo / Scanpix Norway, Courtesy Reuters

The massacre of dozens of Norwegians in Oslo and at a youth camp on nearby Utoya Island by what Norwegian police have described as a right-wing, Christian fanatic on July 22 highlights the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-immigration sentiment throughout Europe and the United States. In a 1,500 page online manifesto, the self-confessed suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, preached against the "Islamization of Western Europe" and multiculturalism, voicing similar concerns to that of many European populist parties across the continent.

The manifesto -- which refers to Muslims as "wild animals" -- shows that Breivik was also influenced by a vocal group of American bloggers and writers who have warned of a growing Muslim threat to Western culture.  Breivik said he wanted to start a new revolution to defeat liberal immigration policies and the spread of Islam.

Breivik's manifesto, "2083. A European Declaration of Independence," is reminiscent of Jihad instruction manuals posted on the Internet by Islamic terrorists in the years following the September 11 attacks, Magnus Ranstorp, a terror expert at the Swedish National Defense College, told TIME.  As Der Spiegel's Frank Patalong explains, the far-right blogs with which Breivik engaged share a common thread: They are "pro-Western, exceedingly pro-American and friendly to Israel -- but extremely anti-Muslim, aggressively Christian and openly hostile to everything which is liberal, leftist, multicultural, or internationalist."

Ali Esbati, an economist at the Manifest Center for Social Analysis, tells al-Jazeera that right-wing radicals in Europe are finding wider acceptance in mainstream politics because they play off public fears about Muslims taking over the continent. "The wider problem is that it's not even radical Islam that's seen as a threat -- it's the idea that all of Islam or Muslims are a threat," Esbati notes.

Speculation in the immediate wake of the attack that the perpetrators were Islamic extremists also is indicative of anti-Muslim tendencies in Western society, some analysts argue.  The incident is bound to stir a wider policy debate within the United States and Europe over whether governments are focused too narrowly on weeding out Islamic terrorists. Critics argue that the focus on Islamic militants not only contributes to wider anti-Muslim sentiment, but also detracts from the threat of other homegrown radicals that have nothing to do with Islam.

Some non-state actors, like Google's new "think/do-tank," Google Ideas, have taken a broader approach to radical extremism. The organization hosted a summit in Dublin last month, in conjunction with CFR, composed of former radicals -- from inner city gang members to religious extremists -- who debated global solutions to extremism and the "poisonous thinking" that has infiltrated Europe  and the United States.

This article originally appeared at CFR.org

Presented by

Christopher Alessi is an Associate Staff Writer for Council on Foreign Relations.

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