The lessons taught by Norway’s Anders Breivik – Nathan Lean in the LA Times

BreivikNathan Lean, editor in chief of and author of The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims (Pluto, 2012), continues the discussion about Islam, racism and right-wing extremism in the aftermath of the Breivik sentencing; he argues that the case of Norway’s mass killer proves that amplified racism has real consequences, and society must address the problem.

Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced by an Oslo court to 21 years in prison last week – a term that represented the maximum-allowable sentence for the crime perpetrated by Breivik last July – for the murder of 77 people and the wounding of countless others. At the sentencing, Breivik was declared sane and culpable for his actions – a decision that delighted him, having repeatedly insisted during his ten-week trial that his fertilizer bomb and machine gun were necessary instruments to stop what he viewed as a creeping Muslim takeover of Europe.

As Lean writes:

The court’s decision was the right one. It comes at a time when heightened anxiety over the presence of Muslims in Europe and the United States has ignited a string of attacks on the faith community. The extreme right-wing ideology from which Breivik emerged has fueled McCarthy-esque witch hunts, mosque burnings and vandalism, and temple shootings. While wildly out of touch with responsible human discourse and seemingly pathological, this climate of hate is hardly the stuff of lunatics. It is a dangerous political reality with destructive consequences.

He continues to demonstrate through a series of shocking statistics, that right-wing extremism is increasing at a far more troubling rate than supposed Islamic terrorism, constituting a much more serious threat. The number of anti-Islamic hate groups continues to rise, however, often influencing anxious citizens about the perceived menace of minority groups through their incendiary rhetoric. Lean continues:

The Islamophobia that led Breivik to his ruinous binge, for example, came from his digestion of the writings of several anti-Muslim activists, including bloggers Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, who head the group Stop the Islamization of America. Breivik mentioned them in his 1,500-page manifesto, posted online. The pair has agitated some of the country’s nastiest displays of prejudice. Their bus advertisements equating the Palestinian cause with jihad created a stir in New York and San Francisco, and they fanned the flames of the uproar over the Park51 Islamic Community Center in 2010.

Though Spencer and Geller identified with Breivik’s cause, when it was publicized that the Norway killer mentioned them in his writings, they attempted to distance themselves from his actions, citing his obvious insanity. After Breivik’s initial psychological evaluation Geller expressed relief, writing, that Breivik was “declared certifiably insane, which was evident by his actions and his ten-years-in-the-making manifesto.”

Lean draws out the double-standard in their stated opinion:

No normal person, in Geller and Spencer’s view, would ever do such a thing. But only if that person is not a Muslim. When Muslims engage in violence, they are represented by Islamophobes as ordinary believers acting in a way that aligns with tenets of their faith, not fringe lunatics whose delusional religious interpretations lead them to a monstrous end. Though Spencer and Geller denounced Breivik’s violence, they never rejected his anti-Muslim ideas. And that is a problem.

He concludes:

The Norwegian court’s verdict… underscores the need for society to address those who promote hatred and jabber about the evils of multiculturalism and the looming clash of civilizations. It proves that amplified racism, which carves society into fragments and pits them against one another, has real consequences and reaches the minds of rational thinkers who absorb such narratives and take them to their logical conclusions.

For the full article, please visit the Los Angeles Times.

The Islamophobia Industry

How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims

Nathan Lean. Foreword by John L. Esposito

Disturbing account of the rising tide of Islamophobia sweeping through the United States and Europe.

“This concise, accessible and illuminating book meets one of the most urgent needs of our time. Lean has provided a compelling counter-narrative that reveals the vested interests and highly organized networks of those who preach the virulent Islamophobia that is not only endangering world peace but is also corroding the tolerance and egalitarian ethos that should characterize Western society. This book should be required reading.” – Karen Armstrong

“Islamophobia is not only about ignorance and fear. Some people purposefully nurture it and use it as a political strategy. Nathan Lean’s The Islamophobia Industry shows what is happening behind the scenes. It is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand the rationale and objectives behind those who foster this new racism against Muslims.” – Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University and author of The Quest for Meaning

£12.99 only £11.50 on the Pluto site

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