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Friday, April 3, 2020
BERLIN, Jul 27 2011 (IPS) - The Norwegian right wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed at least 76 people in two terrorist attacks Jul. 22 Oslo and Utoya, is a member of a network of more than 10,000 neo-fascist groups spread across North America and Western and Northern Europe.
Common to this informal North Atlantic neo-fascist coalition is the hatred of Islam, the radical opposition to immigration and to multicultural society, the belief in white racial supremacy and in Christian fundamentalism, the unconditional support of Israel, sympathies for the U.S. ‘Tea Party’ movement, and contempt for democratic institutions.
Sympathetic to these neo-fascist groups are extreme right wing parties functioning in practically all European countries, from the Norwegian Progress Party, the Sweden Democrats, the True Fins, and the Danish People’s Party, to the French Front National (FN), and the Italian Lega Nord. The perpetrator of the massacre on Jul. 22 was a long-standing member of the Norwegian Progress Party.
Further evidence of the pervasiveness of extremist right wing views is the fact that 14 of the 27 countries represented in the European Parliament have at least one MP who defends xenophobic views and calls for stern anti-immigration policies.
While some of the parties – such as the FN in France, the Freedom Party in Austria, and the Lega Nord in Italy – have a relative long history, most of them were founded in the late 1990s and early 2000s, in reaction to the growing multiethnic character of European communities and to immigration, especially of Muslims.
Leaders of all these parties and groups, including the Norwegian Progress Party, are trying to disassociate themselves from the mass murders in Oslo and on Utoya Island.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, who has reached global notoriety thanks to his speeches against Islam, and who recently faced legal proceedings under charges of instigating racism and for having called Mohamed “a child abuser”, described Behring Breivik as “a psychic ill, violent man”. Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate of the French FN, also called the Norwegian killer “a crazy guy”.
Siv Jensen, head of the Norwegian Progress Party, called Behring’s deed “abhorrent” and said her party was “an innocent victim” of the tragedy.
All these parties have become popular in their respective countries precisely for attacking migration policies, and for expressing openly racist views. Typical of these parties is the Swedish Democrats’ repeated description of Sinti and Roma and other minorities as “parasites”; and immigration, multiculturalism, and Islam as “Europe’s worst dangers”.
Meanwhile, blogs and Internet forums expressing extreme right wing views emerged practically simultaneously with the popularisation of the Internet, and multiplied and became stronger after the terror attacks against New York and Washington in Sep. 2001.
“Right wing extremists were among the first political groups to use the new media,” said Rick Eaton, researcher for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. “The first neo-Nazi website ‘Stormfront’ appeared 1995, that is shortly after the emergence of the world wide web. By now, there are more than 10,000 forums and blogs on the Internet in the U.S.”
Contrary to the established parties, the moderators of extremist right wing forums and blogs adopted an ambiguous position towards Behring Breivik. The German forum Politically Incorrect (PI), which describes itself as “a bastion against Islam”, endorsed Behring’s 1,500-page strong manifesto saying, “Most of what he writes could be published in this forum”.
Elsewhere, though, PI calls Behring “a psychopath” and his crime “an abhorrent, inhuman deed”.
At the same time, some of the authors who publish their views in such forums tried to trivialise the mass murder in Oslo and Utoya. “While some 17,000 terror attacks by Islamist groups have killed more than one million people, one single Christian terror attack just killed 90,” one author wrote in another blog. The author also called the mass murder of Oslo and Utoya “the beginning of the civil war against Islam in Europe”.
Such forums “set the blaze for [racist] violence, even though they do not explicitly call for terror acts,” said political scientist Sabine Schiffer who is a researcher on anti-Islamic movements and media and the director of the German Institute for Media Responsibility. “The repetition of phrases such as ‘when will we [Europeans] start to defend ourselves’, or ‘let’s do something against Islam in Europe’,” constitute an implicit appeal to terror, she said.
Schiffer is joining political leaders in calling for a redefinition of freedom of expression, to “set a clear line between legitimate criticism and commentary and racial and religious hatred,” she said.
But some conservative politicians are using the mass murder in Oslo and Utoya to repeat past calls to censor Internet. “The mass killings in Norway were born in the Internet,” said Hans Peter Uhl, who is in charge of home security for the conservative Christian Social Union party. “Although Behring appears to be a lonely killer, he had numerous contacts with likeminded people through the Internet.”
“What should the state do in such cases, when there is a clear violation of laws that criminalise sedition and racial hatred,” Uhl asked. “Should we be perplexed in the face of such crimes? No, we must better control the Internet,” he said.
Eaton warned that the attacks in Oslo and Utoya “surely were not the last acts of terror in the name of the armed fight against Islam”.
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