This article was written for Himal South Asian, here
Soon after the attacks in Norway, my Facebook page was filled with updates condemning the Western Media’s surprising double standards in describing Anders Breivik a ‘madman’/’attacker’ and reserving special accolades like ‘terrorist’ for Muslims alone (Please see Stephen Colbert’s hilarious take on youtube!). However, as noble as the intentions of these people were, some of them got too carried away in their tit-for-tat approach and tried to brand Anders Breivik as a ‘Christian fundamentalist’. Anders Breivik was many things; a right wing terrorist, racist, and a cold blooded killer. But the term ‘Christian fundamentalist’ would be a sum lesser than its parts. One describes someone as a Christian/Hindu/Islamic fundamentalist not on the basis of his religious background, but motivations.
A Christian fundamentalist is one whose world view is shaped by literalist interpretations of the Bible and other Christian texts. In Breivik’s manifesto, one sees considerable evidence of a white-supremacist-christian agenda. It is a curious mix of many different ideologies. At the beginning, he shows a very conservative bent of mind by mourning over the loss of traditional European values and the emergence of phenomena like homosexuality and promiscuity as a direct consequence of immigration. However, later on he shows concern over the loss of liberal western values in face of shariatisation of Europe. In fact, his view over homosexuality and the ‘feminisation of men’ coincides with what any conservative Christian priest or Muslim cleric would tell you. Ironically, his own vision for Europe closely mirrors the ‘Euro-Arab’ that he is afraid of.
However, instead of basing these arguments in a religious framework, he places them in a socio-cultural context. In fact, whilst claiming to be a religious Christian, he writes:
“As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science and it must always continue to be that way.
Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.”
Debate, not Dismiss
Many on the liberal-left (not hyphenated in the strict sense) side have condemned Breivik’s manifesto, and rightly so. However, whilst we should condemn his writings, it would be foolhardy to ignore them so dismissively. A sizeable population in Europe now believes in such propaganda, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the manifesto now acquires a cult status amongst underground networks and future ‘Breiviks’. The manifesto symbolizes the underlying tensions in European society over issues of immigration and assimilation, and it calls for introspection from both sides. Right in the beginning, Breivik highlights on the culture of ‘political correctness’.
This is a complaint being voiced by many people not just in Europe, but also in America and India where people think that Islam is being treated with kid gloves. Ironically, the left, which was the traditional bastion of secularists and atheists, has now become more restrained in its approach as it juggles between championing the rights of minorities and its core ideology. In absence of constructive criticism from the left, the right has been able to capture public attention by indulging in shrill propaganda based campaigns. It is a bit like the right wingers stealing the left’s thunder.
Thus the reason why the likes of Breivik are gaining support is that we dismiss their talk as ludicrous, instead of countering their arguments in a proper manner. To a frustrated man on the street, Breivik’s manifesto will come across as coherent, logical and provide him with all the (wrong) answers. How many manifestos have we come up with to refute his arguments?
Right now, Europe’s far right elements and Islamic neo-fundamentalists are engaged in a vicious feedback loop, the results of which would be devastating for everyone. The longer we stay silent, the longer we shall suffer.