- Anders Breivik and the Rise of Islamophobia by Sindre Bangstad
The terrorist attacks in Norway that occurred on July 22, 2011, have, as Danish literary scholar Hans Hauge points out, prompted a veritable cottage industry of books that aim to explain and demonize the perpetrator and “cementere det store vi” (“Det store Vi: Litteraturen om Breivik og Breivik i litteraturen,” Norsk litteraturvitenskapelig Tidsskrift 17, 2:127–38, 2014) [cement the great we]. Having read many of the studies of the perpetrator in what is perhaps a vain attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible, I think it is pretty clear that, instead, a template for portraying the perpetrator has been cemented. The three most widely discussed biographies of the perpetrator1 document his life and actions, intertwining them with the tragic stories of some of his victims, with only [End Page 323] slight variation. Each of these biographies presents what amounts to an individual pathology of the perpetrator, with varying degrees of emphasis on his relationship with his mother, his ostensible latent homosexuality, his inability to succeed in business and politics, his obsession with the video game World of Warcraft, and so on. None of these suggest that the perpetrator was anything but a lone wolf, isolated from mainstream Norwegian society. Not even Åsne Seierstad is willing to investigate the broader context that fostered this murderer of seventy-seven people, even though her title—En av oss: En fortelling om Norge (One of Us: A Story about Norway)—seems at first glance to suggest that she would seek to understand the massacre as part of larger social questions.
Social anthropologist Sindre Bangstad’s Anders Breivik and the Rise of Islamophobia presents a completely different analysis; Bangstad seeks to demonstrate that the perpetrator was not, in fact, an ideological lone wolf operating in an Internet bubble of extremist hate, but that his views are far more widespread in contemporary Norway than most are willing to acknowledge. Rather than focusing on the life of the perpetrator, Bangstad analyzes his writings, the writings that directly inspired him, and writings that have circulated within the right wing of mainstream Norwegian political life from roughly 1980 to 2011. Bangstad argues that a process of “societal externalization” has occurred, whereby the perpetrator’s aberrant acts have been pathologized, with analysts and commentators sealing them off from the perpetrator’s cultural context and refusing to examine possible connections between his worldview and the publicly expressed attitudes of influential public figures. Such societal externalization has dominated the discourse surrounding the perpetrator, making it possible for Norwegians to maintain a position of blamelessness while simultaneously continuing to allow overt and implicit Islamophobia to propagate (p. 16).
The first chapter, “Human Terror,” sets up the general arguments Bangstad wants to make, presenting an overview of the perpetrator, his ideology, his heinous acts, and their aftermath. Bangstad places particular emphasis on the perpetrator’s beliefs grounded in the so-called “Eurabia” movement espoused by writers such as Bat Yeˈor. The second chapter, “Muslims in Norway,” gives a brief overview of the history and demographics of immigration to Norway by Muslims, in order to provide the reader with accurate factual information against which to measure the perpetrator’s worldview. In addition to a brief overview of anti-Muslim discrimination in Norway, Bangstad covers in detail the not insignificant presence of actual radical Islamists in Norway, with sections on the criminal activities of the student group Islam Net, Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad (popularly known as Mullah Krekar), and Arfan Qadeer Bhatti. [End Page 324]
With this background information in place, Bangstad moves on to a reading of the perpetrator’s manifesto, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, in chapter 3.2 He discusses the sources (both acknowledged and plagiarized) of the manifesto, explaining the perpetrator’s understanding of terms like “cultural Marxist” (pp. 88–90) and “multiculturalist” (pp. 92–3), and attempts to answer the question regarding the perpetrator’s main targets: “Why social democrats and not Muslims?” (pp. 105–6).3 He also addresses the question of whether or not the perpetrator can accurately...