Breivik and Al-Qaeda

In his summary of a massive manifesto written by Anders Breivik, the alleged terrorist who carried out Friday’s horrible attacks in Norway, Blake Hounshell observes that although Breivik wants to purge Europe of Islam, he also deeply admires al-Qaeda.  Indeed, Breivik is inspired by the organization’s quest for cultural purity in the Middle East and wishes to do the same in Europe using similar means: “Just like Jihadi warriors are the plum tree of the Ummah, we will be the plum tree for Europe and for Christianity.”  This symmetry is also noted by Spencer Ackerman, who provides a very useful rundown of the intellectual parallels between Breivik and al-Qaeda.

Breivik admires few other terrorist groups, listing al-Qaeda as one of only two successful terrorist organizations. The reason for al-Qaeda’s success, he argues, is that it made other Islamists look moderate in comparison, making it easier for them to culturally gobble up non-Muslims:

Al-Qaeda’s relatively unknown but most important achievement is the fact that they have made moderate Islamist organisations more approachable by expanded [sic] the radical political axis. This legitimised several Islamist groups and therefore changed the very definition of “extreme Islam”. Several Islamic political entities that used to seem radical now seem moderate. As such, they work in tandem with the so called moderate Muslim organisations. They all have the same goal, conquering everything non-Muslim.

Although it is true that al-Qaeda has made some unsavory Islamist groups seem mild in comparison, it is not true that they share the same agenda. (I have an article coming out in a few weeks that explains what I mean, so I won’t steal my own thunder here.) It is also not quite true that al-Qaeda wants to remove religious minorities from Muslim-majority countries; they want them firmly under Islamic rule. Still, al-Qaeda does seek cultural purity in the Muslim world and Breivik sees it as a model for what he hopes to inspire others to do in Europe.

Strikingly, Breivik countenances working with al-Qaeda or other Muslim organizations and states that violently oppose European and American hegemony “if we feel that conventional approaches are fruitless or if the intelligence agencies/system protectors working for the Western European regimes successfully manage to neutralise our long term efforts to liberate our countries.”  Under such circumstances, he recommends working with these organizations or states to acquire weapons of mass destruction to deploy in “European capitals and other high priority locations.”  (In addition to al-Qaeda, he mentions al-Shabab and Iran as possible candidates.)

Breivik acknowledges two problems with this approach.  First, how do organizations or states with profoundly diverging interests agree to give Breivik’s colleagues high-end weaponry for an attack against a high-end target in Europe?  Breivik’s answer is that their interests are not that different.  He and his fellow travelers do not wish to destroy Islam but “simply to isolate it primarily outside Europe.”  He also supports the establishment of a caliphate as long as it does not encroach on Europe.  Since the primary interest of Muslim groups and states violently opposed to European and American hegemony is the end of that hegemony in Muslim-majority countries, Breivik believes carrying out a cooperative WMD attack in Europe would go a long way toward accomplishing both sides’ goals.

The second problem Breivik acknowledges is the lack of trust between his colleagues and Muslim organizations or states.  This trust can be established, Brevik asserts, by performing a “great sacrifice.”  He suggests one of the following options to his colleagues: “surgically remove his penis and testicles and/or execute a fixed number of civilian children.”  Such a great sacrifice should be sufficient to convince one’s Muslim interlocutors that he is serious and not a spy.  (Or that he is completely insane.)

Breivik admits that collaboration of this sort is unlikely but he believes that if things get desperate enough for his colleagues, they will be willing to entertain such a measure.  Both sides need each other.  European patriots, he argues, would have an easier time deploying WMD in Europe than Muslim organizations or states would.  Conversely, European patriots do not have the safe havens necessary to construct such weapons whereas Muslim organizations and states do.

I have not seen evidence that would lead me to believe that al-Qaeda or al-Shabab could ideologically accept working with someone like Breivik, although stranger things have happened. The more pragmatic Iran may be open to it in theory since it would give them plausible deniability. But in practice they likely have their own agents in Europe who could carry out such an attack, which is itself extremely unlikely unless there is an attack on Iran.  Nevertheless, it is chilling that someone as dangerous and heartless as Breivik–a WMD himself–entertained the notion of becoming a proxy for others and that he has urged his radical readership to do likewise–a readership that doubtless now numbers in the thousands, as Breivik had hoped.

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10 Responses

    1. It is not only radical rightists like De Benoist and other members of the nouvelle droite, but also various left-leaning fascist groups, the Eurasianists (like Dugin), and the esoteric traditionalists who have adopted pro-Islamist and pro-jihadist views and, in some cases, advocated operational collaboration with al-Qa’ida. So too have left-wing extremists like Carlos the Jackal (a longtime convert to Islam) and factions of the New Red Brigades.

  1. Why the heck would Iran want to deploy WMDs in Europe? More fear mongering, Mr. McCants you are full of it.

    And why not mention this?

    “Obtaining WMD’s from Russian, Serbian or Israeli Nationalists – a realistic WMD

    “Obtaining WMD’s from Christian Nationalists in the Middle East – a realistic
    WMD scenario”

  2. You are correct in suggesting al Qaeda as an inspiration for Breivik, but to say he deeply admires them is an overstatement and serves to deflect the issue. He is inspired by them because, like him, they are on the extreme right-wing of the political spectrum – they just fight for different cultural causes that are indeed at odds with each other. They are not communists, marxists, or secular-socialists, whom would be on the left; they are fascists, extreme-nationalists, or cultural- supremacists. Their goals are the same – cultural/ethnic dominance of a region – albeit for divergent groups of people whom would eventually need to rectify with each other (most likely violently) if either group was to achieve its goals.

    Therefore is should not surprise anybody that Breivik noted the utility of al Qaeda’s ideology, the success of their tactics, or a potential willingness to work with them to achieve his European goals. There are plenty of examples throughout history of fascist/extreme-nationalist organizations teaming up with groups they would otherwise find undesirable in order to achieve a tactical advantage. This does not mean that one right-wing group ever accepted, pretended to accept, or “deeply admired” the ideology of the other group they were working with. Breivik, like the Nazis, and less like the fanaticism of many Islamic terror outfits, seems to be a pragmatist – willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve his goals. This is the scariest part. He does not appear to be clinically insane in his writings but instead a quite sane and pragmatic idealist. The perfect killer.

    Yes, Breivik seems to have found inspiration in al Qaeda, but that’s only because they are the contemporary example of “best-in-class” right-wing terrorism. Why wouldn’t he want to get some help in his uphill battle from the guys who are doing it right? Al Qaeda: Experts in mass killings and xenophobia. And don’t willingly overlook that he also mentioned his empathy for “Christian” Serbia’s plight, “All they (the Serbs) wanted was to drive out Islam by deporting the Albanian Muslims back to Albania.”

    The point is that Breivik, al Qaeda, the Nazis, the Taliban – are all examples of what is wrong with right-wing extremism particularly and political extremism of any kind generally. Let’s just hope us pragmatists in the middle can keep our heads on a swivel. And while it’s likely the scenario would play out the other way around, you better believe that if Breivik came to al Qaeda bearing gifts – nuclear or biologically weapons for example – they would gladly accept his offer of partnership.

  3. “I have not seen evidence that would lead me to believe that al-Qaeda or al-Shabab could ideologically accept working with someone like Breivik, although stranger things have happened.”

    The Ribbentrop-Molotov pact comes to mind.

  4. And don’t willingly overlook that he also mentioned his empathy for “Christian” Serbia’s plight, “All they (the Serbs) wanted was to drive out Islam by deporting the Albanian Muslims back to Albania.”

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  6. Funny isn’t, all the woolly, luvie dovey, warm hearted liberals who usually believe that murderers, robbers etc. have committed crimes due to the effects of unhappy childhoods, growing up in a racist atmosphere or just not being able to afford an i-phone, should be given a chance and helped back into a usefu lrole in society, have forgotten all their basic instincts. Because this chap did this terrible deed against their fellow know it all liberals, all their bile comes out. Where is their consideration for the circumstances of his life that may have affected his mentality. They don’t want to know. Stange how know it all liberals forget their cast in stone priciples when it’s their brothers and sisters who cop it.

  7. I can’t believe the rubbish spouted on this message board. The psychiatrists have concluded that he is clinically insane. They are medical experts and that is their judgement having studied him over a period of months. Doctors do not label people as suffering from severe mental illness unless they display all the classic signs.

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