I was in Florence spending some time with my family when yesterday the local news informed me of a car bomb in Oslo, followed only moments later by news of a horrible mass shooting. Immediately the newscasters told us that it may be an Al-Qaeda attack in revenge of Norway’s marginal role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the more recent Libyan air campaign. Islamic terrorism has hit Europe again. Immediately a flurry of comments about the high number of Muslims living in Oslo appeared – yet these were quickly substituted, upon confirmation that the culprit behind the bloodshed was a tall blonde man, with comments about the danger of ‘converts’.Even to a naive observer, despite the first confused facts that emerged and the false claims of responsibility by an obscure jihadi group, the Islamic-terrorist-revenge story sounded rather strange. The very political nature of the Labour Party target might have suggested a different interpretation. Indeed, when this morning some Italian newspapers persisted in hinting at the Islamic fanaticism theory, it was already well known that the guilty prayed to Jesus rather than Allah. Were the now frequent bad habits of international journalistic practice impartial, the morning headlines would have heralded the horrors of Christian terrorism.
Instead, reflecting a restraint rarely employed in the press, both the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘Christian’ are infrequently used and when they do appear, they are presented as descriptive details of no more importance than the colour of the perpetrator’s hair. Shooter, as in the US, is now the preferred word for European committing terrorist actions as part of their political or religious beliefs. Similarly to the prevailing opinion in Italy, which among very few I reported some years ago, Christians are commonly considered incapable of terrorism by definition, let alone killing in name of Jesus.
As many readers of my blog know, I do not believe that religion per-se can induce behaviors. Texts, as holy as they may be, cannot suggest actions beyond the machinations of an individual’s brain and even in this case the religious affiliation of the assassin would tell us little. Rather, to the anthropologist, his anti-multicultural and anti-Islam attitudes would speak more. Although we certainly need time to fully understand this particular case, we have also to acknowledge that a certain generalized European, and politically promoted, anti-multiculturalism and anti-Muslim sentiment has encountered the skeleton of a dark European past in the turmoil of a socioeconomic crisis of global proportions: the Nazi movement, which behind a new guise remains unchanged in substance.
The dramatic negligence of states and European secret services to the new explosive cocktail of essentialism, racism, white supremacism and ideologies reminiscent of Nazism, together with the politically Machiavellian anti-Islam movements inspired by Geert Wilders, the Italian Lega Nord, and the English Defense League (just to mention few), has again provided an example of the level of disruption it can produce in the West.
“Islamic terrorism” is becoming increasingly localised and linked to regional disputes and wars while the new ‘international’ phenomenon, yet still very much locally perpetrated, may be a very pernicious Neo-Christian-Nazism which, as Nazism itself, has used the anti-multiculturalism and anti-Islamic excuses no differently to how anti-Semitism was used by Hitler.
Of course, Europeans and Americans (indeed I expect the phenomenon to become stronger on the other side of the Atlantic soon) will react in very much the same way as the majority of Muslims have: they will repeat that Christianity is only love, that this is not terrorism but rather a case of insane individuals acting by themselves and misusing religion and so on. Very soon, in addition to political targets like the Labour Party event, Muslims and mosques may be threatened and what today has been a kind of test can possibly degenerate into a situation reminiscent of 1970s communist and fascist terrorism.
The difference is that the primary reasons behind these attacks are twofold: firstly to be visible and secondly to destabilize through a real, rather than a strategically political, attack against multiculturalism in the hope that the arising tension will implode in an uncontrollable clash of what I have defined elsewhere as ‘civilizers’.
This kind of terrorist will be no less deadly than the ‘Islamic’ variant, and similarly to it, will be fragmented and often organized in small cells, frequently linked to international movements, which are not always violent. As in the case of Islamic extremism, western states have found themselves unprepared and questioning more than answering why today we have such events.
Europeans have spent so much time and effort in banning veils, minarets and preventing the construction of mosques that they have forgotten their own native cancer, which after a period of remission appears to be showing signs of a metastasis that has already clearly demonstrated its deadly potential.