A new and terrifying threat emerges for the Western world
Many lessons must be learned from the atrocities in Norway last week. Most important is the need for a real debate about Europe's future.
Many UK media outlets are today reporting that the accused and reportedly self-confessed bomber/gunman, Anders Behring Breivik had "links" with a nationalist movement here in Britain called the English Defence League.
The EDL were formed as a hyperbolic response to the alleged "Islamification" of the United Kingdom. If you've ever seen one of their rallies, or God forbid found yourself inadvertently in the middle of one, you'll realise they're not a pretty bunch. Think drunken football hooligans hypnotised by a smattering of far-Right slogans.
Nevertheless, EDL forums have been quick to denounce Breivik's actions, and there is little to suggest that mass, lethal violence forms part of their agenda, past, present or future.
Until Friday, Islamist terrorism was the first thing that came to mind when someone mentioned large-scale atrocities that could do massive damage to Western cities. If Breivik truly wanted to bring to the fore his concerns about the "Islamification" of Europe, as his collected writings suggest, he has gone about it in a very strange way.
It has been argued that if he really felt this way about Muslims, he would have attacked them and not young Labour Party activists. His rationale remains to be seen. He is due in court today.
But given that his gripe appears to be with multi-culturalists and "cultural Marxists" it is possible that, "lone wolf" as he may have been, his actions had a certain evil and twisted logic about them. In killing the children of the Norwegian Left he hoped to wipe out the next generation of politicians before they had had a chance to mature. Gruesome, to be sure. But not insane.
A few random thoughts now come to mind when analysing this situation and how Breivik has changed the political landscape in Europe and the West:
1. Breivik may have played into the hands of those he was so concerned about. Now a world that was beginning to use "terrorism" as another term for "violent Islamism" will have to alter its lexicon -- ensuring that it makes key distinctions between far-right, Islamist, separatist and other forms of terrorism. While of course "terrorism" should never have been used for just one type of insurgency, there is a sense in which Breivik has done more to de-stigmatise Islamism than any of the current Islamist groups around the world have thus far been able to.
2. While it is well known that the liberal left have sought to pander to Islamist types over the past decade, asking not what drives them, but what the West has done to drive their ideology, the same will probably not be done for Breivik, as he wished. Left-liberal establishments have far less sympathy for the concerns of the extreme right than they do for jihadists.
3. Despite his awful actions, Breivik will likely emerge from a Norwegian prison by the time he is just 50 years old. He may be considered a hero of the far-right by that time, if he isn't already. What the West must do is avoid knee-jerk reactions but refocus on the contributing factors to an ongoing clash of ideologies now playing out on the streets of Western cities - to the great suffering of the general populace.
The great risk is an implosion of the centre ground where far-right and far-left/Islamist groups battle it out (literally) on their own, while centre-right and centre-left become increasingly irrelevant. A real debate about the future of Europe is now more urgent than ever.
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