Once an obscure idea confined to the darker corners of the internet, the anti-Islam ideology is now visible in the everyday politics of the west. How did this happen? By Andrew Brown. Fri 16 Aug
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Once an obscure idea confined to the darker corners of the internet, the anti-Islam ideology is now visible in the everyday politics of the west. How did this happen? By Andrew Brown. Fri 16 Aug I n July , a quiet European capital was shaken by a terrorist car bomb, followed by confused reports suggesting many deaths. When the first news of the murders came through, one small group of online commentators reacted immediately, even though the media had cautiously declined to identify the attackers.
They knew at once what had happened — and who was to blame. As the news grew worse, the group became more joyful and confident. The car bomb had been followed by reports of a mass shooting at a nearby camp for teenagers. It is too early to tell. The truth turned out to be worse than Fjordman feared.
The massacre in Oslo had not been committed by Muslims. And, according to the manifesto he published online, Breivik had been directly inspired by Gates of Vienna — the blog where all these comments appeared on the day of his massacre. It takes its name from the siege of Vienna in , when an Ottoman Turkish army was defeated by a Polish-led one. Its essential thesis is that this was only one battle in a long war and that Europe and its civilisation are constantly threatened by a Muslim invasion.
On these varied online forums, the narrative was always the same: a liberal cabal was conspiring with hostile Muslim powers to hand over the decent working people to Islam. This is the doctrine that Jensen promoted and Breivik acted on, a hidden underpinning of a movement that has changed the world. It is a lesson in the danger of half-truths, which are not only more powerful than truths but often more powerful than lies. In a series of books, originally written in French and published from the s onward, she developed a grand conspiracy theory in which the EU, led by French elites, implemented a secret plan to sell out Europe to the Muslims in exchange for oil.
It is difficult for an outsider to understand how De Gaulle, who led the French resistance to the Nazis and was probably the greatest conservative statesman in French history, could be reinvented as the man who betrayed western civilisation for money.
But Littman had lived many years in France, and the French far right hated De Gaulle, and indeed tried several times to assassinate him. Agreeing to Algerian independence was understood by the French far right as a betrayal. De Gaulle had been brought out of retirement and restored to power in because he was believed to be on the side of the settlers in their war, which was opposed by much of the left. And so, to the far right, the Mediterranean came to seem like the frontline in a long, shifting struggle between rival colonialisms, Christian and Muslim, in which the Muslims had won a great victory in Algeria.
Where would their new advance stop? She saw tentacles of the great conspiracy in committees of blameless tedium and obscurity, such as the Euro-Arab Dialogue, an institution set up by the European Economic Community and the Arab League in the 70s to promote greater discussion between the regions.
She explained to Haaretz the future she saw for Europe. This was the idea that the Norwegian Jensen was enchanted by, and which, as Fjordman, he transmitted to Anders Breivik.
Jensen is unusual among Eurabia believers in that he has actually had some experience of the Muslim world and even speaks Arabic. He is the son of a socialist politician in Norway and studied Arabic in Cairo — his earlier university studies in Bergen had included English which he writes fluently , Russian, Arabic and Middle Eastern history.
I have been part of their daily lives. Unusually among Scandinavians who have worked with Palestinians in Israel, he identified with the Israelis. He narrowly escaped a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, at a bar where two of his colleagues had been killed in another attack the previous year. The experience cemented his growing fear and loathing of Islam. The fact that the Norwegian press took a generally pro-Palestinian line while he and his friends had been the victims of Palestinian terrorism helped to convince Jensen that Islam was an existential threat to European civilisation which the politically correct establishment was wilfully ignoring.
Like Littman, he seems not to acknowledge any element of nationalism in Palestinian consciousness: it is all either Arab or Muslim. In fact, the belief that Islam is hostile to national consciousness is quite widely held on the right: the philosopher Roger Scruton brought it up in a controversial speech on nationality in Hungary in , in which he contrasted European Christian nations with Islamic empires.
In , Jensen returned to Norway, where he attempted to make a name for himself as a public intellectual. At first, he was hostile to feminism, accusing feminists of destroying Norwegian manhood. But the focus of his concerns soon switched to Islam. From then on, his writing appeared in English, on American-hosted blogs.
There, he hammered into shape the narrative of elites, specially identified with the EU, who are destroying and betraying Europe by the deliberate encouragement of mass immigration. At this point in time, the Eurabian conspiracy appealed largely to those who had long perceived a conflict between Islam and the Judeo-Christian west — with Israel as a beleaguered and persecuted outpost of western values.
These people, largely on the American right, were among the earliest exponents of Eurabia — but as they never ceased to complain, theirs was not an attitude very widely shared in Europe. What would soon supply the emotional force of the fantasy was another set of ideas about global migration, less conspiratorial in their essence, but much more widely accepted among generally apolitical Europeans.
T he idea of the great replacement had its origin in a blatantly racist French novel of the s, The Camp of the Saints, in which France is overthrown by an unarmed invasion of starving, sex-crazed Indian refugees when the French army is not prepared to fire on them. The moral of the book is that western civilisation can only be saved by a willingness to slaughter poor brown people.
Steve Bannon , among the founders of the rightwing news site Breitbart and a former adviser to President Trump, has referred to it repeatedly. Throughout the 80s and 90s, the naked racism of The Camp of the Saints kept it largely out of public debate. But the rise of Islam as a global force allowed the question to be recast.
If the threatening masses were defined by religion rather than by skin colour, then hating them could be presented as an intellectual commitment rather than a racist one. And the paranoid did have a large, shadowy half-truth to fall back on. The demographic shrinkage facing Europe is real and undeniable, and it was obvious in the early years of this century, too. So are the much greater birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.
The next stage in the development of a xenophobic populist worldview was for the two narratives to merge, so that Islam and Muslims became both a conspiracy and a demographic threat. Israel and the US now shared a sense of being under attack from Muslims. But the assault on the twin towers unleashed an immense backlash of wounded American pride and nationalism that led to the devastation of two whole countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, and countless deaths.
It also fuelled a demand for explanations. Theories about the unique malevolence and danger of Islam answered a popular hunger. George W Bush declared at the time that the US had no quarrel with Islam, but many of his compatriots disagreed. Islam, more than any religion humans have ever devised, has the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, and after the invasion, coverage in American newspapers and on television was, to a European eye, jingoistic in the extreme.
The possibility of defeat was unthinkable. One of the earliest and most influential of these was Little Green Footballs, founded and run by Charles Johnson, a Los Angeles-based former session guitarist with an interest in web design. It was typical of the moment that he was an opinionated amateur with no credentials, whose real advantage was that he could build websites at a time when this required some programming skill.
Both Spencer and his frequent collaborator Pam Geller were banned from the UK in for making statements likely to foster hatred and violence between communities. Jensen was active on all these sites, taking part in discussions in which the Eurabian beliefs gave rise to something that called itself the counter-jihad movement.
Nowadays, when Facebook effortlessly spreads disinformation around the world, it is difficult to recapture the sense of revelation, and of belonging, that once accompanied the discovery of a new blog.
The cramped but, to its adherents, strangely comforting thought world of the counter-jihad blogs turned politics into a gigantic online game. To the east, two well-preserved Roman towers remain, and so do the walls built to separate citizens from barbarians. Some were less highbrow. In , the Daily Telegraph gave a column to the Canadian prophet of American greatness Mark Steyn, who had originally made his name as a witty critic of musical theatre.
The Yugoslavs figured that out. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion America is rotting from the inside out, and peaceful means to stop this seem to be nearly impossible.
In , the believers in a counter-jihad began to meet up in the real world. After a preliminary meeting of bloggers, commentators and Danish and Norwegian sympathisers in Copenhagen, attended by Jensen, a conference was arranged by May and the far-right Flemish party Vlaams Belang, in Brussels in This brought together most of the ideologues of Eurabia, as they attempted to transform it from an idea into a movement. Littman was the keynote speaker. Ted Ekeroth, of the nationalist, rightwing Sweden Democrats, also attended.
As both Ukip and the Sweden Democrats rose to become powerful political forces, anxieties about terrorism were subsumed into much wider anxieties about demography, and about status within the old order. The American anthropologist Scott Atran has carried out extensive research into the mindset of the young men who become Islamic terrorists: the combination of wounded pride with the delight of belonging to a movement which has both global, apocalyptic significance and a living presence in a friendship group is tremendously important in recruiting jihadis.
The same dynamic operates among their enemies: Breivik was remarkable chiefly in that he was so solipsistic that he could radicalise himself without the aid of any friends in real life, only those he imagined on the internet. You do not have to be a jihadi to feel the tug of these compulsions. The counter-jihadis, just as much as their enemies, believed they were entering an apocalyptic battle between good and evil.
This is a century of wounded pride and anxieties about status for almost everyone. D espite all this, there were some signs, even before the Breivik killings, that the original Eurabian front would break up.
Those who were opposed to immigrants in general began to separate from those who hated Muslims in particular. Johnson, the founder of Little Green Footballs, excommunicated most of his followers in because of their increasing closeness to parties of western Europe that he regarded as being descended from fascists — the Vlaams Belang in Belgium and the Sweden Democrats, although he also denounced the English Defence League.
Johnson was a genuine philosemite, who could not forgive the taint of antisemitism. The anti-immigrant right had good reasons for separating itself from the anti-Muslim right. Commenters such as Douglas Murray and Caldwell quite genuinely believed that Breivik was insane, and that his actions had no relation to the ideas that he espoused.
There may in this have been an element of self-deception, but it is also a testimony to the sort of instinctive, unthinking decency we all need sometimes to rescue us from the consequences of our ideas. It seemed that some kind of pragmatism would prevail.
The hope now seems deceptive. They showed that there was a huge constituency for racialised hatred and despair and — for them — no real negative consequences, electoral or otherwise, in pandering to it. They have spread into the politics of all European countries.
In the campaign for the European elections this May, the German far-right party AfD ran posters showing a naked white woman being pawed by dark-skinned men in Arab headgear.
The myth of Eurabia: how a far-right conspiracy theory went mainstream
He has been active in the counterjihad movement, which argues that multiculturalism , particularly Muslim immigration, poses a threat to Western civilization. He has promoted this belief in a self-published book titled Defeating Eurabia ,   and stated that "Islam and all those who practise it must be totally and physically removed from the Western world". According to the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation , Fjordman is "considered a 'hero' among the bloggers and debaters constituting the new far right. Fjordman denies that he is an "extremist", and sees himself simply as having "a strong dedication to truth.