Anders Behring Breivik is a Norwegian nationalist of the most dangerous stamp: an extreme right-winger who loathes what he sees as the creeping Muslim and Marxist colonization of Europe. He viciously opposes politicians he believes have encouraged multiculturalism. Isolated perhaps by his readiness to kill, it remains unclear whether he acted alone when he killed at least 76 of his fellow Norwegians just a few days ago.
With cohorts or not, the 32-year-old was far from alone in his views. What’s clear is that he shares an outlook with right-wingers far beyond his homeland.
“This guy knew what was going on in the rest of Europe,” says Matthew Goodwin, an authority on right-wing extremism at Nottingham University in England. “He had tapped into the whole ideological debate and can’t be seen in isolation from other far right parties.”
And for Breivik, now remanded in custody, it may have been to Britain in particular that he looked for inspiration and sympathy. His 1,500-page manifesto, published online shortly before the weekend’s atrocities, suggests close ties to a country where support for an ugly strain in far right politics has been rising steadily, rattling the authorities. After a meeting in London on Monday, the U.K. National Security Council said the security services and police should look again at how it monitored the activities of the far right.
The concern is easily understood. In Britain, as well as other European countries, extreme groups with a new confrontational style seem to be gathering support among activists frustrated by the failure of the mainstream parties of the far right which have followed conventional tactics, pursuing success through the ballot box. “There is a sense among some on the far right that these parties have not delivered on [halting] immigration and multiculturalism,” says Goodwin.
In his Internet message, Breivik makes plain that he has visited Britain, mentioning his recruitment into the shadowy European Military Order and Criminal Tribunal of the Knights Templar at their inaugural meeting in London in 2002. The little-known international group takes its names from the crusading medieval order of Knights Templar and is apparently dedicated to expelling Islam from Europe. His account of the meeting in his “European Declaration of Independence” also refers to an encounter with his mentor, an Englishman identified as “Richard.” The document, written in flawless English, is signed Andrew Barwick, an anglicized version of his name.
Just as worrying, Breivik appears to have made contact with the English Defence League, a group that first emerged two years ago to champion openly the anti-Islamic cause in Britain. The EDL has denied any official contact with Breivik and he appears to have lost confidence in the league. While applauding their “noble intentions” in his manifesto, he rejected their nonviolent strategy as “dangerously naïve.”
That won’t satisfy campaigners in Britain who claim the government has neglected a steady rise in support for the far right while concentrating on the threat of al Qaeda terrorism.
“The far right in this country inspired this dreadful man,” says Matthew Collins, author of an upcoming autobiographical account of his own years as a far right extremist, who now works for the anti-racist magazine Searchlight. “Extremism breeds extremism. We have said for a long time that the EDL is the flipside of al Qaeda. The EDL has been a beacon of light for people across Europe and America.” A beacon seemingly spotted by Anders Breivik.