Norwegian Demons and the Serbian Connection
by Stephen Schwartz
The terrorist attacks in Norway on Thursday, July 22, could not have been less mysterious. The aggressor, an ethnic Norwegian named Anders Behring Breivik, left a 1,500-plus page compendium of meandering and self-contradictory commentaries, citations, and plagiarized writings, titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence. The essence of his message, if it may be dignified with such a term, was that European politicians have betrayed their people by encouraging Muslim immigration and the dilution of a European identity that, in reality, does not exist and has never existed. Europe is united neither in culture, language, religious tradition, nor in its institutional legacy. The failure to create such a united Europe is visible most obviously in the financial turmoil involving the common currency, the Euro, and the attempts to avoid the collapse of Greece.
Rather than analyzing the social and economic environment, now in crisis, that resulted in Breivik's evil acts, commentators have focused on Islamophobic and other writers with whom the Norwegian malefactor expressed common views or to whom he extended approval. But that is to, as banally described, miss the forest for the trees.
Breivik himself stated the origin of his madness, on page 1279 of the online version of his laborious treatise:
"Q: What tipped the scales for you? What single event made you decide you wanted to continue planning and moving on with the assault?
"A: For me, personally, it was my government's involvement in the attacks on Serbia (NATO bombings in 1999) several years back. It was completely unacceptable how the US and Western European regimes bombed our Serbian brothers. All they wanted was to drive Islam out by deporting the Albanian Muslims back to Albania. When the Albanians refused, they really didn't have any choice but to use military force."
Breivik's obsession with Serbia as a victim of the West is a consistent theme in his "handbook." He returns to it repeatedly, reciting the propaganda clichés of the Belgrade regime: Serbian legends about the battle of Kosovo in 1389, anti-Muslim atrocity tales from Serbian and other Balkan writings, assertions that Bosnia and Kosovo were originally Serbian land, diatribes against Kosovo independence, fantasies about Kosovo as a spearhead of Islamization.
The source of Breivik's horrific act is therefore clear: intoxication with Serbian propaganda. On page 1378 of his compilation, he states, "I had the privilege of meeting one of the greatest living war heroes of Europe at the time, a Serbian crusader and war hero who had killed many Muslims in battle. Due to [European Union] persecution for alleged crimes against Muslims he was living at one point in Liberia."
Serbia, for its part, is hardly eager to welcome the actions of Breivik. But at the same time, its native advocates will not face the truth. Serbian writer Željko Cvijanović wrote in the website Novi Standard that Breivik is "the child of the anti-Serb propaganda of the time in the West," adding "Breivik could not have been motivated by Serbia, but [by] the terrible picture painted by the West." The Serbian writer equated Breivik with the French intellectuals Bernard-Henri Lévy, Alain Finkielkraut, and André Glucksmann, and the British writers Noel Malcolm and Timothy Garton Ash!
To emphasize, Breivik's "declaration" is a stylistic and organisational patchwork. It is difficult to imagine that it is the product of a single individual. While reporters and pundits have tried to identify its inspiration in American polemics against Islam or criticism of Islamist ideology, British anti-Muslim agitation, admiration for Israel, Hindu nationalism, and other "easy" explanations, it makes much more sense to look in the direction of Belgrade.
In 1986-1990, the Serbian state bureaucracy, in a calculated manner, utilized the crisis of Communism to revive fascism in Europe. I believed then and continue to believe that consciously-recognized precedents for this action included ethnic attacks on Muslims in Bulgaria, beginning in 1984, followed by conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1988 and atrocities in the Caucasus, leading, finally, to the horror of the Yugoslav wars. What began on the western fringe of the former Soviet empire was exported to Sarajevo, a city only an hour away from Rome by air.
The Breivik massacre has provided the world with a third more recent, and similar example of failure by global media, whether in print form, online, or broadcast, to investigate and report adequately on a major problem. Worldwide opinion still fails to grasp the political consequences of Serbian aggression in the former Yugoslavia. It is remembered simply as a tragedy, not as a chapter in the ideological history of contemporary society. But in the past four years has come media bafflement over the recession of 2007-09, which few people can say they understand based on accessible reportage. A second phenomenon leaving Western media challenged has been the ongoing social upheaval in the Arab countries. Journalists grope their way through it, with few seeming to understand the phenomenon better now than when the Tunisian regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fell at the end of last year. (As I have often pointed out, the "Arab revolution" would better be called a "Muslim revolution" in that the opposition Green Movement in Iran plays a crucial role in it, if not, finally, occupying the most important place in the chain of social conflicts.)
The deficiency in analyzing the crimes of Anders Behring Breivik repeats these prior inadequacies, and shows that global media are not simply caught by surprise when cataclysmic events in human relations take place.
The Arab/Islamic revolutions and the terrorism of Anders Behring Breivik are both indicators of the depth of the global predicament, created by heedless greed, that began with the recession in 2007. The fall of Muslim regimes saw the worldwide political and economic chain of relationships, under pressure of this calamity, break at its weakest links. Breivik, with his apocalyptic visions and schemes, his fixations on long-vanished secret societies and uniforms, and his hatred of globalism, represents the same fascist politics that emerged in Europe during the similar economic downturn of the 1930s. Its reappearance was a logical and predictable effect of the deep anxieties and increase in conspiratorial beliefs that have accompanied the current global economic difficulties. But as Breivik himself repeatedly states, the seed of this new fascism was sown by Serbia.
Breivik's convoluted, bloated manifesto reveals that he hates the globalization represented by the U.S. and the EU as much or more than he hates Muslim immigrants. He even states candidly that so-called "European cultural conservatives" may ally with jihadists! On pages 958-959 of his tome, he writes, "We both share one common goal. They want control over their own countries in the Middle East and we want control of our own countries in Western Europe. A future cultural conservative European regime will deport all Muslims from Europe and isolate the Muslim world. As a result, the Islamists will gain the necessary momentum to retake power in several countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Oman, Algeria, Morocco and a few others. The Jihadists know this very well… Both groups win if the attacks are successful… There might come a time when we… will consider to use or even to work as a proxy for the enemies of our enemies. This might be an option if we feel that conventional approaches are fruitless or if the intelligence agencies/system protectors working for the Western European regimes successfully manage to neutralize our long term efforts to liberate our countries. Under these circumstances [we] will for the future consider working with the enemies of the EU/US hegemony such as Iran… al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab… European Christian martyrs can avoid the scrutiny normally reserved for individuals of Arab descent and we can ensure successful deployment… in the location of our choice."
While to the ordinary journalist or reader this illogic might seem typically pathological, as characteristic of a disordered mind, it should be recalled that the German Nazis, although considering non-whites racially inferior, schemed to ally with them against the dominant enemy, which they considered to be British and American capital, allegedly controlled by Jews. Subhas Chandra Bose, the Indian nationalist turned collaborator of the Japanese, learned to his dismay, when he visited Berlin, that Hitler was not about to abandon the contemptuous attitude toward Indians expressed in Mein Kampf.
Western experts have tried to remove from Breivik the label of "Christian terrorism," comparable to "Islamic terrorism." Most such commentary reflects a failed attempt at clever dialectics. The Norwegian assassin was fascinated with resuscitating the Knights Templars, a Christian crusading military order, and that chapter cannot be divorced from Christian history any more than jihadism can be neatly separated from Islamic history.
The nostalgia of Breivik and others like him for a singular, unitary European sense of collective self is a reactionary fantasy. He and his Serbian mentors yearn for an imaginary past much like that seen in Italian fascism, which evoked the glory of the Roman empire, German national socialism, projecting itself as the heir and perpetuator of Nordic paganism, and Stalinist Communism. Both Serbianism and Stalinism melded a sentimental view of the rural commune with Slavic nationalism and the unifying ideology of Orthodox Christian "Caesaropapism" – the Byzantine mode of governance in which church, state, and people were one. In the Byzantine order, clerics did not rule the state; rather, the Greek emperor ruled the church.
As we have seen in the Muslim lands, similarly retrogressive, idealized images of the past permeate the milieux of Islamist radicals: Wahhabism, originating in central Arabia and long-financed by the Saudi state, the doctrines of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the South Asian extremist Deobandi sect and the Jamaat-e-Islami founded by Mawdudi all claim to revive an Islam "as practiced by the Prophet Muhammad." The hallucinated discourse of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, as well as his bizarre cohort, led by his brother-in-law Esfandiar Mashaei, and their rivals within the dominant stratum of the clerical state, promise, in one or another form, a revival of the past achievements of Persian Islam.
But Serbia remains the key to Breivik's convoluted anxieties and plotting, and Serbia followed a similar path in cohabiting with Arab nationalism after its attacks on its Muslim and Catholic neighbors in Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Kosovo. After the Kosovo war, Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic received an invitation from the Palestinian Authority to attend an Orthodox Christmas celebration in Bethlehem; the visit could not be made because Israel threatened to arrest Milosevic as a war criminal indicted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Serbia received military and energy assistance from the dictatorships of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Mu'ammar al-Qadhdhafi in Libya. Indeed, Serbian media defended the Libyan tyrant when the NATO powers commenced planning military intervention in earlier this year. And an Iranian delegation visited Belgrade, expressing Tehran's support for Serbia's refusal to recognize the independence of Kosovo, in July.
Serbia, Arab dictators, Iran. These factors have fascist ideology in common. And that explains the horror in Norway.
Related Topics: Albanian Muslims, Balkan Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, Deobandism, Kosovo, Macedonia, Muslim-Christian Relations, Muslim-Jewish Relations, Pakistan, Terrorism receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free center for islamic pluralism mailing list
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