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Massacre in Norway: the threat of Islamophobia and violent, right wing politics

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What motivated Anders Behring Breivik to kill over 90 people in Norway? His actions can only be understood in the context of rising Islamophobia and the far right, argues Dave Stockton

Anders Behring Breivik , the perpetrator of the horrible massacre in Oslo is believed to have acted alone. His lawyer has revealed that he was motivated by hatred of the Norwegian Labour Party and its youth organisation – which he saw (wrongly) as Marxists. Reports suggest he was “a Christian fundamentalist with a deep hatred of multiculturalism, of the left and of Muslims” (Guardian).

In short, he was motivated by class hatred against the labour movement. But the focus of his murderous rage was actually his belief in an Islamic takeover of Europe – he thought that the Labour Party was being too soft on Islam.

This mania is not the sole preserve of individual ultra-rightists nor of fascists like the EDL in Britain (whom he admired and contacted). In fact, Islamophobia – the latest avatar of imperialist racism - is the stock in trade of popular tabloids in Britain and many other countries. Millions read this stuff day after day.

The Mail, the Express, the Sun, the Star, all regularly pump out stories that suggest a massive influx of Muslim immigrants that are in some way supposed to be threatening “our” Christian, tolerant, democratic culture. A decade of such propaganda has fostered the development of the EDL and its campaign against an “extremist Islamic” takeover of Britain.

It should be no surprise that if the millionaire media subjects millions to these noxious ideas, a few thousands will take to the streets to try to intimidate Muslims (or people they think are Muslims). Nor should it be a surprise when individuals like Breivik, or tiny groups of such people, resort to indiscriminate terrorism such as what took place in Oslo and on Utøya.

Attacks on multi-culturalism by world leaders such as Angela Merkel, coupled with the insistence by the Pope that the European Union defend its Christian heritage by excluding Muslim countries like Turkey, have all played to the hysteria of a Muslim takeover that the far right take to its logical conclusion.

But the expressions of sympathy and indignation from ruling class politicians against terrorism are hypocritical. In Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan today their armed forces are carrying out equally savage, but far more sustained, terrorist attacks on innocent people, young people, mothers and their children. That warplanes or even unmanned drones can do it at a distance does not make the horror unleashed on its victims any less than that suffered in Oslo, nor the grief of their families any less devastating. At best these receive a perfunctory apology if they cannot hide the fact that their victims are civilians not “terrorists.” In many cases of civilian deaths in Afghanistan the imperialist soldiers have refused to apologise at all.

The British and Norwegian governments are part of Nato and as such are either carrying out attacks or giving them logistical support. It is an intrinsic part of “our” imperialist culture – that the sufferings of Europeans are individualised and humanised in the media whereas those of Muslims in the Middle East are not. That this is combined with paeans of praise to European or Western society, values of tolerance, to our open society, to our humanity, is truly sickening. Even the horrific Israeli slaughter of 1,400 inhabitants of Gaza was always “balanced” by equal focus on the 11 Israeli victims of rockets.

Putting the attacks in this context is not intended to offset in any way sympathy with the young victims at the youth camp on Utøya or the civil servants in the government offices in Oslo.

The killer intended the atrocity as an attack on working class, internationalist and progressive values – represented by the fact that the youth on Utøya had just been discussing solidarity with the Palestinians. But the values attacked, and the values we must defend, are most definitely not shared by the governments of Nato – nor for that matter by the leaders of the British and Norwegian Labour Parties who continue to support atrocities like those carried out by “our” forces in Afghanistan.

They are the values of international solidarity – with Muslim communities under attack in Europe, with the countries of the Middle East under attack for their oil wealth, with the Palestinians struggling for the right to statehood against the Zionist settler states and its US and EU backers and in defence of the right to return of millions of their refugees to their homeland. To this must be added the real values of defending the labour movement and its democratic rights against the far right but also of exposing the respectable racists and Islamophobes in the media and in the political parties of Europe that give these ideas “the oxygen of publicity.”

This includes the need to organise our own stewards, our own security, our own defence against the far right who will aim to use the crisis to rally ever more enraged people to their ranks.

Last, but not least, the labour movements of Europe, faced with the rise of Islamophobia - the modern day anti-semitism in the present capitalist crisis - needs to combat it every step of the way. We must not give it an inch by debating "the failure of multiculturalism" or the supposed refusal of Muslim communities to integrate.