The Rise of the Macro-Nationalists
By THOMAS HEGGHAMMER
Thomas Hegghammer is a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment in Oslo and the co-author of “Al-Qaida in Its Own Words.”
AT first glance, the 1,500-page manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the man accused of the terrorist attacks in Oslo, appears to be a fairly standard ideological treatise of the far right. The document, which Mr. Breivik posted online on July 22 just hours before the attacks and which he titled “2083 — A European Declaration of Independence,” evokes several of the movement’s central themes and cites numerous right-wing ideologues.
On closer inspection, however, Mr. Breivik’s worldview does not fit squarely into any of the established categories of right-wing ideology, like white supremacism, ultranationalism or Christian fundamentalism. Rather, it reveals a new doctrine of civilizational war that represents the closest thing yet to a Christian version of Al Qaeda.
For example, although Mr. Breivik says he fears “the extinction of the Nordic genotypes,” racial hygiene is not high on his agenda. He wants to expel, not kill, Muslims in Europe, and he does not mind Jews and non-Muslim Asians. Similarly, while Mr. Breivik says he is “extremely proud” of his “Odinistic/Norse heritage,” he is not a Norwegian nationalist — his “declaration of independence” applies to all of Europe. And while he is Christian, he admits that “I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person.”
Instead, Mr. Breivik’s goal is to reverse what he views as the Islamization of Western Europe; indeed, he sees himself as a soldier in a defensive war against “Islamic imperialism.” In his view, Muslims are colonizing Europe, helped by high birth rates and a doctrine of multiculturalism advocated by the European elite. Islam, for him, represents an existential threat to European civilization, a threat that must be countered at all costs. The best way to do so, he argues, is to wage war against “cultural Marxists” — his label for the European political and intellectual elite — because they are the traitors who allow the colonization to take place.
While Mr. Breivik’s violent acts are exceptional, his anti-Islamic views are not. Much, though not all, of Mr. Breivik’s manifesto is inspired by a relatively new right-wing intellectual current often referred to as counterjihad. The movement’s roots go back to the 1980s, but it gained substantial momentum only after 9/11. Its main home is the Internet, where blogs like Jihad Watch, Atlas Shrugs and Gates of Vienna publish essays by writers like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Bat Ye’or and Fjordman, the pseudonym for a Norwegian blogger. Mr. Breivik’s manifesto is replete with citations of counterjihad writers, strongly suggesting that he was inspired by them.
Of course, by advocating the mass murder of European politicians, Mr. Breivik goes much further than any counterjihad ideologue has ever done, and his manifesto contains ideas and information that have no precedent in the counterjihad literature. For example, he provides extensive advice on how to build bombs and plan terrorist attacks. The leading counterjihad writers have virtually never advocated violence, and several of them have condemned Mr. Breivik’s actions.
He also claims to be a member of a knightly order called the European Military Order and Criminal Tribunal, which he describes as a reincarnation of the Knights Templar and which he says he founded in London in 2002 with activists from eight countries across Europe.
Indeed, the more belligerent part of Mr. Breivik’s ideology has less in common with counterjihad than with its archenemy, Al Qaeda. Both Mr. Breivik and Al Qaeda see themselves as engaged in a civilizational war between Islam and the West that extends back to the Crusades. Both fight on behalf of transnational entities: the “ummah” — or “community” of all Muslims — in the case of Al Qaeda, and Europe in the case of Mr. Breivik. Both frame their struggle as defensive wars of survival. Both hate their respective governments for collaborating with the outside enemy. Both use the language of martyrdom (Mr. Breivik calls his attack a “martyrdom operation”). Both call themselves knights, and espouse medieval ideals of chivalry. Both lament the erosion of patriarchy and the emancipation of women.
Of course, these similarities should not be taken to mean that Mr. Breivik is inspired by or emulates Al Qaeda. Rather, they suggest that Mr. Breivik and Al Qaeda are manifestations of the same generic ideological phenomenon: “macro-nationalism,” a variant of nationalism applied to clusters of nation-states held together by a notion of shared identity, like “the West” or the “ummah.”
Extreme macro-nationalists view their people as under attack and fight in their defense. In the Muslim world, so-called pan-Islamism has a long history and has inspired militancy since at least the 1980s, when Arabs traveled to Afghanistan to fight with fellow Muslims against Soviet occupation. The West has long lacked similar movements, but the rise of counterjihad in the 2000s and the appearance of the Breivik manifesto suggest that this may be changing.
If a violent anti-Muslim movement does emerge in the West, we can expect it to be divided on the question of who its targets should be, just as jihadis have been. Some will prefer to punish the European elite for their “treason,” as Mr. Breivik did. Others will attack Muslims directly, as did the sniper who killed and injured several immigrants in Malmo, Sweden, last year.
Countering extreme macro-nationalists like Al Qaeda and Anders Breivik is difficult because the causes they espouse often enjoy a certain popular support, even if their prescription — mass murder — is almost universally rejected. Just as Al Qaeda exploited widespread Muslim opposition to American policies in the Middle East, so does Mr. Breivik tap into a relatively large reservoir of anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe.
We can only hope that Mr. Breivik’s actions will be seen as so horrific that they undermine his cause.
Comment: What does this last portentous sentence mean. What could it mean? Does it mean, as grimly predicted the other day: "Don't let Anders Breivik win/Let five million Muslims in." One Qaeda is more than enough. [so the lone madman Breivik is metastasized into an imaginary "Christian" Al Qaeda, with hundreds of thousands of adherents, millions of supporters, and texts -- venerable, immutable texts -- akin to the Qur'an and Haidth, which are inculcated into the "Christians" of Europe from a young age, and reinforced at every step, by every aspect of that society.
How much absurdity can one be expected to accept?