For terrorism to be successful, for terrorist movements to gain funds and recruits, and, most importantly, for terrorists to gain sympathy, they must get and hold the public’s attention. This is usually done through the over exaggeration of social problems, both real and imaginary.
Students of terrorism understand that each era of a specific brand of terrorism never really ends; they simply fizzle out and lie dormant until something or someone draws new attention and support to the cause. The recent attacks in Oslo, Norway by the Christian Fundamentalist, Anders Behring Breivik, may be the beginning of the reemergence of radical right-wing terrorism in Europe. There are currently two world events that can be used to garner the attention needed by right-wing terrorist movements: first, the continuing downward spiral of the worlds’ financial markets and second, the continued immigration of Muslims to Western countries.
Immigration is usually instigated by one of two reasons, one, deplorable conditions in the immigrants’ home country, such as lack of security or jobs, force people to seek better opportunities elsewhere, and two, the prospect of better conditions in the target country where immigrants can expect to raise their families in relative security and with the hope of securing employment. Europe, with its more liberal attitudes and rapid growth post-World War II, has been the traditional destination for Muslims, particularly those from French-speaking North Africa and Turkey. Additionally, for immigrants with little or no money, Europe is a better option due simply to its proximity to the Middle East.
The recent attacks in Norway by Breivik were an attempt to incite an anti-Muslim crusade across Europe. In a manifesto allegedly authored and posted on the Internet by Breivik, he raged about Muslim immigration to Europe and swore to take revenge on native Europeans whom he accused of fostering, or at least ignoring, the Muslim immigration. There would be only one of two reasons why Breivik thought he could get away with such a heinous act: first, he thought he could make it seem the attacks were carried out by a violent Islamist terrorist group, also known as a “false-flag” operation, or second, he felt there was enough anti-Muslim sentiment in Norway specifically, and probably Europe in general, that he would be seen as a hero. Based on the available information, the fact that he allowed himself to be arrested, it would seem the latter was what he had planned. And, if right-wing terrorism is on the rise, specifically targeting Muslim communities, will violent Islamists retaliate in an attempt at one-upmanship and in an effort to gain more of the media’s attention and thus more support for their cause?
Breivik did not believe he could simply incite additional violence against Muslims without reason. In 2008 the Pew Research Center issued a report, “Unfavorable Views of Jews and Muslims on the Increase in Europe,” which outlined the sharp increase in anti-Muslim views in Europe since 2005. Combining a rise in anti-Muslim feelings, failing financial markets, and continued immigration by Muslims to European countries, one can see how the stage is set for violent right-wingers like Breivik to execute violent attacks for their cause with the idea that they would have widespread support. This type of activity and expectation of sympathy is reminiscent of the overt attacks carried out by the Ku Klux Klan in the South during the 1960s who felt confident they could not be prosecuted for their attacks against blacks due to the widespread support they had in their communities at the time.
After his arrest, Breivik claimed there were other right-wing cells preparing to carry out additional attacks. He may have said this simply to reassure himself that he is not alone, or, he could be telling the truth. If his claim is true, and if additional attacks come to fruition, will they incite, instead of more anti-Muslim attacks, new attacks by radical Islamist terrorists?
Norway, and Europe in general, is not the only Western nation experiencing a rise in anti-Muslim attitudes. The group ACT! For America, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, claims all Muslims are in reality jihadists bent on usurping our Constitution and instituting Islamic law, Shari`ah. The group, comprised of Christian and Jewish Fundamentalists from all socio-economic levels, believe Islam and Muslims are enemies of America and that any Muslim adhering to Shari`ah should be considered a terrorist and traitor. The effect of this group, and others like it, will first, convince the less educated Americans that all Muslims are bad, and two, force Muslims to unite into tighter conclaves, thus making them wary of legitimate law enforcement inquiries into the workings and activities of the real radical Islamists and it will foster an “us against them” mentality in the radical Islamist community, potentially creating violent Islamists where none existed before.
As the world’s financial markets decline more and more every day, more and more young people are put out of work. High unemployment and disenfranchisement are two of the key root causes behind terrorism in Muslim countries; these two critical factors can also be root causes behind right-wing and radical Islamist terrorism in places such as Europe and even the U.S. Add to those two crucial root causes the rise in right-wing, anti-Muslim rhetoric and possibly attacks on Muslim communities and one can see how a new era of terrorism can evolve.