Shootings at Norway Youth Camp

“This comment has violated our Terms and Conditions, and has been removed.”

That explanatory note appeared again and again in the “comment” section under one of the initial news stories I read on line about the shocking mass murder in Norway. Whoever monitors and censors such on line comments for the Globe and Mail had their hands full that day. I’d say at least half had been deemed unsuitable for publication, for reasons we’ll never know for sure. But perhaps many among those that were published give us some idea of the content of those that were published, only worse:

“The Liberal media are always apologizing for the crimes perpetrated by followers of Islam, as I’ve outlined here!! It’s absolutely disgusting!”

“You must be living under a rock to NOT know that Islam is responsible for another terrorist attack on innocent, civilized society!” “Lot of good pandering to Hezbollah and Hamas did you, eh Sven? Islam has not one redeeming feature. It is inferior to even Europe in the Dark Ages. Islam is the plague.”

“What’s your guess – gas leak or Muslims?”

“You can read this one with your eyes closed. Someone prayed to Allah, and set off a detonator.”

That’s just a sampling. I could easily fill this space with comments from people (readers of a news source generally regarded as one of Canada’s more intelligent) who made the assumption Muslim extremist/terrorists, and by inference Muslims in general, were to blame for the bombing in Oslo and the shootings soon after at a youth camp on an island near Norway’s capital city that killed (at last count) 76 people.

The anti-Muslim vitriol continued even after subsequent news stories revealed the bomber-shooter was a native Norwegian man, as blonde, blue-eyed and Nordic looking as they come, a 32-year-old man with extreme anti-Muslim views. Anders Behring Breivik justified his admitted mass-murder of his fellow Norwegians, many of them children, as an act of cultural self-defence also designed to draw attention to the need for a prolonged war to prevent the “Islamization” of Europe.

You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to conclude this man is obviously crazy, a psychopath who, in the photos I’ve seen of him in police vehicles on his way to and from court, appears to be smugly enjoying all the attention he’s getting, while otherwise showing not a hint of  remorse for what he’s done. Numerous reports have quoted Norwegian police and other officials, even his own defence lawyer, saying he has confessed to setting the bomb and pulling the trigger that killed so many. But he does not regard what he did as a crime. He considers it as an act of war.

Like another psychopathic madman, Hitler, who committed the worst crimes again humanity in modern history, Breivik has written a book. It’s a 1,600-page rant full of hatred against Muslims, much like Hitler’s Mein Kampf was full of hatred of Jews. His plans to rid Europe of them ultimately led to the organized mass-murder of six million.

Just as Hitler played to the underlying but pervasive anti-semitism of his day, so Breivik has apparently found a vehicle for the expression of his madness in the growing backlash in Europe against immigrants, especially from Muslim countries. Right-wing parties that want to put an end to Muslim immigration, and the “Islamization” of Europe, like Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom in the Netherlands, are gaining a surprising amount of popular support. Such extremist movements are bound to attract people like Breivik who, for their own sick reasons, could take matters to the ultimate, terrible extreme.

Unfortunately, we live in a world of worsening extremism. There are Muslim who harbour hateful, intolerant attitudes toward western civilization, who see nothing good in what we are, and worse. Muslim extremism found its ultimate, terrible expression of such feelings in the 9-11 attacks on the U.S. when 3,000 people died. It still attracts a seemingly endless supply of crazy people prepared to kill themselves and as many others as possible for reasons that are hard to fathom.

Clearly, a lot of people in the world are in need of psychological help. It may be the most underestimated, unrecognized, most dangerous epidemic of our times. What’s it about? Why is it happening? We need to find out and fast, and then do something about it, before we have many more sick people like Anders Behring Breivik doing terrible things in the name of some extremist doctrine.

Meanwhile, those of us who do not consider ourselves extremists should do some soul-searching. How many of us jumped to the conclusion the mass-murders in Norway were an act of Muslim extremism? Isn’t that called prejudice?

The population of the world is growing at a phenomenal rate, but the “global village” is getting smaller all the time. Whether we like it or not it is a “multicultural” village. We’d better learn to live together on some basis other than hatred and intolerance or we’re doomed.

In the meantime, be careful what you say, and write. Let’s not feed the extremist monster.

Originally published in The Sun Times in 2011.

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