Nobody is suggesting that the actions of Anders Behring Breivik, the man suspected of bombing several buildings in downtown Oslo and then embarking on a shooting spree at an island youth camp, were acceptable — at least, not yet. But a disturbing number of people are stepping forward to defend Breivik’s message, and to label him a violent but prophetic herald of the coming struggle between Muslims and Europeans.
Pat Buchanan, in a piece for The American Conservative, is the latest to declare that the real threat to Europe is not “native born and homegrown terrorism. That threat,” he continues, “comes from a burgeoning Muslim presence in a Europe that has never known mass immigration, its failure to assimilate, its growing alienation, and its sometime sympathy for Islamic militants and terrorists.”
The language of crisis and clash between the European (Christian) West and the “inexorably advancing” Muslim world is disturbing, to say the least. Like the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who joined the many voices denying the fact that Breivik is a Christian terrorist (because, of course, Christians cannot be terrorists), Buchanan claims that Europe’s secular, civilized Christian culture is under siege. The invaders are barbaric, misogynistic and incapable of embracing our peaceful values. But we, as civilized Westerners, know better than to respond with similar violence , which is why Breivik is being denied the label of “Christian” and also why his lawyer is arguing that he is insane. Fischer even compared Breivik to Charles Manson.
Of course, suggesting that European governments do commit violence against their Muslim minorities when they deny them the right to build mosques or ritually slaughter their meat, to say nothing of the restrictions on face veils which send the clear message that visible displays of Muslim piety will not be tolerated, are not themselves acts of violence. They are attempts to protect European culture from the encroaching intolerance of Muslim society — because it is the Muslims, not the Europeans, who are intolerant.
Lest you think that these blatant displays of Islamophobia are contained within the radical right, take a look at Bruce Bawer’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, where he fans flames of fear about Muslim minorities’ ability to crush liberal European values. ”Muslim gay-bashing is driving gays out of Amsterdam. Muslim Jew-bashing is driving Jews out of Gothenburg, Sweden,” he writes. ”There is reason to be deeply concerned about all these things, and to want to see them addressed forcefully by government leaders who care about the preservation of individual liberty and human rights.”
None of these commentators will stand behind Anders Behring Breivik, for obvious reasons. But they are anxious to separate the cause from the man. They argue: just because this evil, non-Christian, potentially insane man decided to take his Islamophobia to a violent extreme, they reason, doesn’t mean that Islamophobia isn’t justified.
The one breath of fresh air in today’s commentary is a piece for CNN by Stephen Prothero, who calls for Christians to denounce Breivik’s religiously-fueled terrorism. ”Christians have a responsibility to speak out forcefully against him,” Prothero wrotes, “and to look hard at the resources in the Christian tradition that can be used to such murderous ends.”
Where are these resources? We need look no further than the words of people like Pat Buchanan and Bryan Fischer.
Photo from ranveig via Wikimedia Commons.