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Religiously-motivated mass murder, terrorism & Islamophobia

2011: Religiously motivated mass murder in Norway

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The convicted perpetrator:

Photo of Breivik in a wet suit Anders Behring Breivik, 32 -- a.k.a. Andrew Berwick -- is accused of two related terrorist attacks in Norway that together resulted in 77 deaths. 1

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What happened?:

  • Picture of government offices in Oslo The first attack involved the detonation of an 220 pound (100 kg) ammonium nitrate fertilizer bomb in a Volkswagen Crafter automobile at about 3:25 PM local time on Friday 2011-JUL-22. The explosive device was identical in principle to that used by Timothy McVeigh in his attack in 1995 on the federal Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, OK. It killed eight people, critically injured more than 10, and left many others with less serious injuries. More would have probably been killed or injured if it were not for the timing of the attack. July is a major vacation month for Norwegians. Some government buildings, including the one housing the Prime Minister's offices, and the Ministry of Justice and the Police, shown above, were left without any intact windows on at least one side. 1

  • Aerial photo of Utoeya island He then is reported as having driven in a van about 24 miles (38 km) north-west from Oslo to the Tyrifjorden Lake where he took a boat about 1,600 feet (500 metes) to a wharf on the island of Utøya (a.k.a. Utoeya). The island is owned by the Workers' Youth League, which is the youth wing of the ruling Norwegian Labor Party. About 650 people were staying at a summer camp on the island at the time. He was disguised as a police officer and presented himself as additional security staff who had arrived to beef up protection at the camp because of the earlier bombing in Oslo. He started to indiscriminately shoot at the campers and was able to murder 69 persons, of whom 55 were teenagers. Some survived by jumping into the lake; others hid in trees to escape the gunman; others hid themselves in buildings, and still others survived by pretending to be dead.

    A vacationer, Marcel Gleffe, recognized the sounds of gunshots. Rather than run for cover, he heroically made four or five trips to the island, throwing life jackets to young people in the water. He is credited as saving the lives of up to 30 people. Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen, a married lesbian couple who were also holidaying in the area, braved being shot and saved another 40 individuals.

    About an hour into the shooting spree, a special police task force arrived and the gunman surrendered within two minutes. Of the 77 who died, 50 were 18 years-of-age or younger.

    Some lives could probably been saved on the island, except for deficiencies in the police transport facilities. The police lack a helicopter for transporting personnel. They only had one surveillance helicopter and all of its crews were on vacation. Backup military helicopters were too far away to be of any use. When they arrived at the shore near the island by car, they had difficulty finding find a suitable boat quickly. A SWAT team found a boat but it was overloaded and stalled in the middle of the lake. Subsequently, Norway's justice minister and police chief resigned.

On the morning of his attacks he had uploaded a 1,518 page manifesto titled: 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence. 1

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What were his goals?

On the morning of his attacks he uploaded a 1,518 page manifesto titled: "2083 A European Declaration of Independence." He also posted a video to YouTube on the morning of the attack. It has been described as promoting violence towards both Muslims and Marxists who reside in Europe.

His main stated goals were the eradication of Islam within Europe, a complete reorganization of Christian denominations, and an end to what he called "cultural Marxism." The end result would be to convert all of Europe into an exclusively conservative Christian region.

He promoted a number of principles, techniques, and projects:

  • Ultra nationalism.
  • Cultural conservatism.
  • Islamophobia.
  • "Far-right Zionism."
  • Serbian style paramilitarism.
  • Expelling of Muslims, particularly from Europe, using as his model the Benes Decrees which expelled Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II.
  • Expelling of Muslims from India.
  • Total eradication of multiculturalism.
  • Repeat of the Crusades
  • Opposition to feminism that he believes has eroded the fabric of European society. 1

Clive Williams, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, and an adjunct professor at Macquarie University's Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism wrote an article in The Australian, Australia's national newspaper, saying:

"Ideologically, Breivik has been characterized as a right-wing extremist and Christian fundamentalist. He was highly critical of Muslim immigration into Christian societies, he is pro-Israel and an admirer of the US Tea Party movement." 2

However, the belief that Breivik is a fundamentalist has more recently been rejected by many commentators.

Breivik has claimed to be associated with two terror cells in Norway. He also says that he is part of an underground group modeled after the Knights Templar -- fighters during the Crusades. However, for these two terrorist attacks, he appears to have acted alone. No evidence of an organized group has surfaced.

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Is Breivik a fundamentalist Christian?

That depends upon one's definitions of "fundamentalist" and "Christian." However, the brief answer is "No."

Breivik regarded himself as a cultural and moral Christian, but not necessarily a fundamentalist Christian as was suggested by a number of commentators. Nor does he regard himself as a religious Christian. However, he did decide at the age of 15 to be baptized and confirmed in the Norwegian Lutheran Church. In addition, there are hidden messages in the dates that he chose:

  • He apparently chose JUL-22 for his terrorist attacks because on 1099-JUL-22, Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine was elected ruler of the Crusader kingdom in Jerusalem. 5
  • The year 2083 in the title of his manifesto will be the 300th anniversary of the defeat of a Muslim army in their attack on Vienna.

In the section of his manifesto titled: "Distinguishing between cultural Christendom and religious Christendom - reforming our suicidal church," he wrote:

"A majority of so called agnostics and atheists in Europe are cultural conservative Christians without even knowing it. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian. ... I'm not going to pretend I'm a very religious person as that would be a lie. I've always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment. ... Religion is a crutch for many weak people and many embrace religion for self serving reasons as a source for drawing mental strength. ... I'll say directly that this is my agenda as well." 3

Massimo Introvigne, an authority on New Religious Movements (NRMs) wrote:

"At first, the media called Anders Behring Breivik a Christian fundamentalist, some of them even a Roman Catholic. This shows the cavalier use of the word 'fundamentalist' prevailing today in several quarters. In fact, Breivik is something different ... Breivik ... [was] a member of a St. John’s Lodge of the Norwegian Order of Freemasons ... [and] a fan of ... role-playing games ... and of the TV vampire serial Blood Ties; all anathema to the average Fundamentalist." 4

Other indications that his beliefs are far removed from fundamentalist Christianity are that Breivik considers pre-marital sex to be "a relatively small sin," and he favors women's access to abortion "if the baby has mental or physical disabilities" and in some other cases.

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Breivik's trial and conviction:

His guilt was well established. During the trial, he confessed to the murders The main issue to be determined was Brevik's sanity. He was examined by two teams of psychiatrists. One concluded that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia which would have resulted in a lengthy incarceration in a mental facility. The other team concluded that he is narcissistic and dissociable, but that he met the legal definition of sanity. The five-judge panel in the Oslo District Court accepted the latter determination and unanimously found Breivik guilty. He was sentenced to "preventive detention" and given the a jail sentence of 10 to 21 years. The latter is the maximum allowed under Norwegian law. He will probably die in jail because this type of sentence can be indefinitely extended as long as he is judged to be too dangerous to be released.

He had earlier promised to not appeal any ruling by the court as long as it did not declare him insane.

Karl Ritter of the Huffington Post wrote:

"Some far right leaders argued that Friday's verdict played into their core beliefs, though they have spoken out against his violent rampage.

"It was obviously wrong what he did, but there was logic to all of it," said Stephen Lennon, the 29-year-old leader of the English Defense League. "By saying that he was sane, it gives a certain credibility to what he had been saying. And that is, that Islam is a threat to Europe and to the world."

Within about five hours, the article had accumulated over 2,000 comments from readers. My favorite was also the shortest and most confusing: "I blame Obama."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "2011 Norway attacks," Wikipedia, as updated on 2011-AUG-08, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. Clive Williams, "Deadly, cruel lesson from Norway," The Australian, 2011-JUL-26, at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/
  3. "Anders Breivik Manifesto: Shooter/Bomber Downplayed Religion, Secular Influence Key," International Business Times, 2011-JUL-25, at: http://www.ibtimes.com/
  4. Massimo Introvigne, "The identity ideology of Anders Breivik. Not a Christian Fundamentalist," Cesnur, undated, at: http://www.cesnur.org/
  5. "Kingdom of Jerusalem," Wikipedia, as on 2011-JUN-21, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  6. Karl Ritter, "Anders Behring Breivik, Norway killer, deemed sane and sentenced to prison..." The Huffington Post, 2012-AUG-24, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-AUG-07
Latest update: 2012-AUG-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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