A decade of Islamophobia to justify the war in Afghanistan is now spreading violence to the West. Right-wing Islamophobe Anders Behring Breivik has killed 91 people in Norway, through the explosion of a bomb near the Prime Minister's building and a shooting spree in a youth camp organized by the Workers’ Youth League.
The initial response by international media was to blame Muslims. But when the alleged perpetrator turned out to be a blond-hair, blue-eyed Norwegian Christian nationalist, some are now denying there’s any context whatsoever for the killing. As a Norwegian official said, "It seems it's not Islamic-terror related. This seems like a madman's work."
But Breiviks was not driven by "madness," he was driven by right-wing Islamophobic politics. From 1997 to 2007 he was a member of the xenophobic "Progress Party." Since that time police chief Sveinung Sponheim describe his internet postings as having “some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views”, and others have pointed out his an admirer of prominent anti-Muslim individuals and organizations like Geert Wilders and the English Defense League.
Islamophobia existed well before the terror attacks of 9/11. After the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 (orchestrated by Gulf War veteran and right-wing extremist Timothy McVeigh), the media blamed Muslims, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee documented death threats against Muslims and vandalism of mosques. But for the past decade there has been a surge in Islamophobia to scapegoat populations at home and justify wars abroad. The Western countries with Islamophobic policies overlaps with those occupying Afghanistan: from the US (which incarcerated Muslims without trial in Guantanamo Bay), to Canada (which has rounded up Muslim men and pressured them to admit to terrorism, while Muslim Canadians have been abandoned abroad, and media have amplified fringe-group campaigns against prayer spaces), to France (which is banning girls who wear hijab from school, and women who wear niqab from public space), to Norway.
The website Islamophobia-watch has documented anti-Muslim racism around the world, which in Norway includes:
- 2006: the Directorate for Primary and Secondary Education of Norway banned girls and women wearing niqab form school
- 2007: anti-immigration politicians in Bergen threatened to use pigs feet to chase praying Muslims out of a public square.
- 2009: the Norwegian government tried to ban female police officers from wearing the hijab
- April 2011: attempts were made to set up a Norwegian Defense League -- modeled on the English Defense League--with a demonstration was called against the “Islamic occupation of Noway”. While only 10-15 Islamophobes turned up, up to 1000 people attended a counter-demonstration
- May 2011: a school in Bergen had to be evacuated when a national newspaper received a message threatening “A massacre at Gimle school Bergen. Everyone that stands in the way will die, especially Muslims.”
But police have refused to see Islamophobia as a threat. “It’s surprising, because the Norwegian police have long said that the right wing extremist community was under control,” said Hegghammer, of the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment.
Fight poverty, racism and militarism
As Martin Luther King famously said:
“The bombs in Vietnam explode at home. They destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America. If we reversed investments and gave the armed forces the anti-poverty budget, the generals could be forgiven if they walked off the battlefield in disgust. Poverty, urban problems and social progress generally are ignored when the guns of war become a national obsession.”
The horrific crimes of Anders Behring Breivik have exposed the consequences of war and Islamophobia, which are intensifying in the economic crisis. To counter this we must follow the words of King: "Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism."