On Breivik and Europe’s far right

An interview with Mattias Gardell

Mattias Gardell is professor of comparative religion at Uppsala University, Sweden. His research focuses on the interaction between religion and politics, and is the author of a number of publications including In the Name of Elijah Muhammad and Gods of the Blood. Following the terrorist attacks that occurred in Norway on 22 July, Mattias has focused much of his current research on the militant anti-Muslim environment that produced Anders Breivik Behring. We spoke to Mattias about his article, ‘Terror in the Norwegian woods’, which is featured in the latest edition of Overland.

You write that Anders Behring Breivik was ‘clearly a product of a political milieu that has been growing for decades’ in Europe – that is the anti-Muslim far Right. To what degree do these far Right groups bear any responsibility for the Breivik massacre?

Breivik, of course, needs to take responsibility for his own actions. He did not receive any order from above, but followed the principles of the ‘leaderless resistance’ strategy adopted by the militant wing of the anti-Muslim milieu. Taken over from the white power underground, the strategy proceeds from the notion that the western regimes are controlled by traitors who have sold out their countries to the enemy who is bent on destroying the West, the outpost of freedom in the world.

As the traitors run the police and intelligence agencies, the ‘resistance’ cannot rely on membership-based organisations that may be infiltrated and monitored, but has a two-tiered structure with a public wing of parliamentarians, parties, ideologues, and propaganda centres, whose representatives need to stay within the confines of the law, and a decentralised underground of armed cells and lone wolf assassins that functions without a central command, and whose activists are themselves responsible for financing, planning, and carrying out their operations. Hence, when a ‘patriot’ decides to join the armed wing he needs first to leave any public organisation and party – as Breivik did when he left the Norwegian Progress Party – to protect the public wing from being associated with his violent deeds and to give the politicians the benefit of deniability.

If you look at how Breivik’s 22/7 massacre was perceived within the milieu, you’ll find three main positions: 1. Breivik acted prematurely and attracted unwanted attention to the scene, 2. At this stage, it would have been pedagogically better if Breivik had attacked a Mosque, an Islamic convention, or a Muslim youth camp, 3. Breivik was a hero who sent a message to the traitors that the day of reckoning is near, and he is a source of inspiration to other militants.

Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy have all recently claimed multiculturalism to be a failure in their countries. Cameron specifically called for better integration of young Muslims in order to combat home-grown terrorism. What sort of impact have these kinds of statements had on the rise of Islamophobia in Europe?

These kinds of statements obviously pave the way for the anti-Muslim movements and sentiments; they legitimise anti-Muslim attitudes and policies, and are indications of where the political mainstream in Europe currently is. The alternative to multiculturalism is monoculturalism, which happens to be what Breivik fought for: a monoculturally Christian Europe. What really bothers me is what may happen if the Eurozone crisis proceeds. The political and corporate elites have no answer except for knocking at the door of China, hoping that China will buy the insolvent European states and industries, and the Left seems lost in confusion after the end of the Cold War. Should the Left not get its act together and formulate a viable response to the crisis, the new fascists will seek to fill the vacancy with their palingenetic vision of a Reborn Europe rising from the ashes of humiliation to retake its rightful position as the beacon of mankind.

One of the things that disturbed me while reading your article were the ‘Counter jihad summits’. It seems remarkable that these summits aren’t being scrutinised by the mainstream media. Particularly when, as you point out, European parliamentarians have been actively involved in these summits, which aim to ‘de-Islamise Europe’. Why the lack of outrage?

Actually, this question puzzles me as well. Of course, there are numerous investigating reporters, researchers, and anti-fascist activists who are alarmed, and do publish in a wide array of leftist magazines, journals of critical thought, and dissident media, but as far as mainstream media goes there is a deafening silence, which, in it self, is quite bothering.

What’s next for you? Are you working on any new writing?

I was to begin a comparative project of Religion, Secularism, and Democracy, when Breivik broke himself into my research plans. I decided to put that project on the side for the time being and begin to systematically investigate the militant anti-Muslim networks out of which he emerged. Among my earlier projects is a study of the white power underground milieu in the United States (Gods of the Blood, Duke University Press 2003) that was based on years of field research with lots of interviews with the main wanna-be leaders of Aryan America, and a study of the anti-Muslim tradition (Islamofobi, Leopard Press 2010 – which unfortunately is not yet published in English), which makes me well positioned to conduct my new study.

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