Anders Behring Breivik's admission that he planted the car bomb at the Oslo prime minister's office and stalked a nearby island, killing 76, had led to speculation about the potential for more mass violence from Europe's radical right.
But some commentators argue that despite his deplorable methods, Mr. Breivik has a point: "Multiculturalism" has failed and Europe should turn back toward the narrower, traditional national cultures of the region.
They argue, Breivik's attacks – among the largest mass murders carried out by a single person in history – should push Europe to redouble its opposition to both Muslim immigration and to Islam itself.
Exhibit A this morning is a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Bruce Bawer, an Oslo-based American critic of the role of Islam in Europe, whose book "While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within" was admiringly quoted by Breivik in the rambling 1,500 page manifesto he published online before his rampage.
Breivik – a self-described Christian nationalist opposed to the "Islamic colonization" of Europe abetted by mainstream European politicians ("a corrupt class of abject traitors") – argues that modern Europeans have been "indoctrinated" by a "multicultural orthodoxy." Both Bawer and Breivik appear to be of the belief that members of the European political elite are ignoring general public opposition to immigration and a growing threat to nations like Norway.
But while Bawer condemns Breivik's "unspeakably evil" approach to addressing such concerns, he appears far more concerned about the likelihood that Breivik's violent methods will detract from a cause they both care deeply about.
In a column at the Pajamas Media blog last Friday, Bawers worried "that legitimate criticism of Islam, which remains a very real threat to freedom in Norway and the West, has been profoundly discredited, in the eyes of many Norwegians, by association with this murderous lunatic."
Bawer has not been alone in worrying about the need to criticize Islam. Yesterday, a Jerusalem Post editorial made much the same point. "Europe’s fringe right-wing extremists present a real danger to society. But Oslo’s devastating tragedy should not be allowed to be manipulated by those who would cover up the abject failure of multiculturalism," goes the summary at the start of the editorial.
"As Israelis, a people that is sadly all too familiar with the horrors of indiscriminate, murderous terrorism, our hearts go out with empathy to the Norwegian people, who perhaps more than any other nation symbolize the unswerving – and sometimes naïve – pursuit of peace.
Oslo is the namesake of one of the most ambitious – and misguided – attempts by Israel, under the mediation of the Norwegians, to reach a peace accord with our Palestinian neighbors. ...
Perhaps Brievik’s inexcusable act of vicious terror should serve not only as a warning that there may be more elements on the extreme Right willing to use violence to further their goals, but also as an opportunity to seriously reevaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere. While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right."
Pamela Gellar, an influential right-wing blogger who runs an organization called "Stop Islamization of America," wrote, "The Islamic supremacists are having a field day with the Norway mass murderer. No mourning for the children, no; only accusations, obfuscations and cries of victimhood," she wrote, while launching an attack on a plan to build a mosque in Brooklyn.
There are of course strong points to be made about the large pockets of Muslim immigrants in Europe who have failed to integrate and who pose challenges for society – particularly when socially liberal values appear under threat by highly conservative newcomers. But it's an odd choice to focus on that question in light of the 76 bodies laid out by Breivik.
Conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin took the opportunity to remind Americans that jihadis are still the main threat. "There are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans, and we should keep our eye on the systemic and far more potent threats that stem from an ideological war with the West," she wrote.