Norway massacre likely to ramp up monitoring of right-wing groups

Norway massacre: Right-wing parties have distanced themselves from Anders Behring Breivik's violent methods, whose attacks killed 76 people. But many share his basic views on immigration and minorities.

Fartein Rudjord/AP
Debris covers the area outside a building in the center of Oslo, Norway, Friday July 22, following an explosion that tore open several buildings including the prime minister's office, shattering windows and covering the street with documents.

Ideological far-right fellow-travelers of Anders Behring Breivik are rushing to distance themselves from the Norwegian killer’s carefully planned murder spree – even as many of these groups defend their own often virulent anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant viewpoints as reasonable.

Groups ranging from the “Gates of Vienna” blog to the English Defense League to the Netherlands Freedom Party of Geert Wilders that seeks to ban the Koran from the country, among others, issued clear denunciations of violence to achieve political ends.

But the sudden appearance of a murderous and crusading figure who sees himself as a martyr for Judeo-Christian European civilization is expected to ramp up surveillance by intelligence services of a far-right culture that has grown and flourished in the greenhouse of the Internet, analysts say.

Mr. Breivik’s killing of 76 persons in Oslo and the island of Utoya – authorities have revised down the death toll – may indeed have struck a severe, immediate blow to the far right in Europe, which in recent years has sought to cultivate a more moderate profile attractive to mainstream voters.

"How do I feel about knowing that the assumed perpetrator of these atrocities has quoted me in his much-talked about book? Absolutely terrible," says blogger “Fjordman” on the Gates of Vienna website.

Breivik has said the Dutch Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, the third-largest in the Netherlands and an informal member of the ruling coalition, is the only “true” conservative party in Europe. Yet Mr. Wilders's party today issued a statement that it “abhors all that Breivik represents and has done.”

Amid allegations that Breivik in 2002 visited members of the English Defense League, the British nationalist group issued a statement decrying any Breivik ties to the EDL: "It would seem shameful that journalists have been all too quick to link the English Defense League to this murderous creature.… It couldn’t be made any clearer that Breivik did not like the way the EDL was a peaceful organization, open to all, making our point through legal and democratic means.…”

Breivik, the son of a diplomat, has been characterized in some media as a mad lone wolf. But observers of anti-Islam right movements here point out that the content of Breivik’s writings, tracts, and manifestos, which have appeared regularly and voluminously in far-right venues, are not unusual or particularly extreme for this milieu.

Norwegian terrorism expert Lars Gule told reporters in Norway today that Breivik’s ideas are “common ideas on the extreme right … we are talking about thousands who share his ideas, but fortunately … no one has shared his actions….”

Indeed, the current far right sprint away from Breivik does not extend to his basic views on minorities, immigrants, and Muslims in Europe, often categorized under the label “Eurabia.” Some groups have sought to shift focus from Breivik’s acts to Islam itself, arguing that Breivik's chief sin was to use the tactics of violent jihad that is espoused by extremist Islamic groups.

"His total lack of respect for human life is not … something he picked up from me,” says Fjordman the blogger. “Indeed, the lack of respect for human life is often one of the great shortcomings of Islamic culture that we have consistently pointed out."

The group Stop Islamization of Europe, whose sister US organization is run by Pamela Geller, a leading figure in efforts to block the so-called World Trade Center mosque, offers that “Islamic jihadists … routinely invoke Islamic texts and teachings to justify violence … by contrast, our record of support for human rights and the dignity of all human beings is consistent and unbroken."

Ms. Geller, of whom Breivik writes approvingly, says of any speculation linking her to him: “Thiis whole exercise is ridiculous. Anders Behring Breivik is responsible for his actions. If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists.”

What the catastrophe of Breivik’s actions may open, says Jonathan Laurence of Boston College, author of several works on Islam in Europe, is a way for European governments to finally make tough and explicit policies that clarify what is and isn’t acceptable by growing numbers of Muslims and other religious groups here.

“Governments must articulate why this is not a culture war or a crusade … but involves the modalities of coexistence,” Mr. Laurence said. “That kind of dialogue has been postponed because it is not electorally rewarding.”

The shock of events in Oslo is a “window of opportunity,” Laurence continued, to state what is and is not permitted for emerging religious groups in Europe: “You can’t deport or kill your way out of these challenges.”

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