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Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Anders Behring Breivik, the Balkans and the new
European far-right
The Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik appears very interested in the Balkans. A lot of
space in his ponderous 1,518-page manifesto is devoted to discussing Balkan themes. This is not
limited merely to praising Radovan Karadzic (for his eorts to rid Serbia of Islam he will always be
remembered as an honourable Crusader and a European war hero), supporting the past Serb
ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks and Albanians, condemning Kosovos independence and demanding
that all Bosniaks and Muslim Albanians be deported from Europe (while the Muslim Turkish
populations of Cyprus and western Anatolia are to be deported to central Anatolia). It involves also
lengthy ruminations on hundreds of years of Ooman and Turkish history, in which Breivik
demonises all aspects of the Ooman heritage.
Some commentators have argued that this psychopathic mass-murderer represents such an
exceptional case that his actual beliefs are irrelevant to understanding his actions. According to
Simon Jenkins (hp://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/26/norway-illiberal-britain-
patronising) in the Guardian, The Norwegian tragedy is just that, a tragedy. It does not signify
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anything and should not be forced to do so. A man so insane he can see nothing wrong in shooting
dead 68 young people in cold blood is so exceptional as to be of interest to criminology and brain
science, but not to politics. As a rule, Jenkins is absolutely wrong about everything, and this is no
exception. Breivik represents the exemplar of an extremely dangerous trend in Western and
European politics, and his interest in the Balkans or rather, in his own mythologised narrative of
Balkan history ows naturally from this.
Breiviks actions are exceptional, but his views are not. His views on Islam and on immigration are
in some important respects typical of the right-wing Islamophobic current, some of
whose prominent members and groups he cites or sympathises with in his manifesto: Geert
Wilders, Robert Spencer, Melanie Phillips, Srdja Triovic, Mark Steyn, the English Defence League
(EDL) and others. He sees immigration, particularly Muslim immigration, coupled with liberal
multiculturalism and political correctness, as a mortal threat to European or Western society. Such
views are often justied by their holders as being pro-Western, whereby the West is
counterposed to Islam, as if the two were binary opposites. In reality, the very opposite is true
modern European civilisation was built upon foundations that were Islamic as well as Christian,
Jewish, pagan and others. The Enlightenment gave rise to a Europe in which the sectarian religious
animosities that characterised the pre-Enlightenment age could be transcended; modern Western
liberal and secular values are founded upon the principle of religious toleration.
Far from being pro-Western; our contemporary right-wing Islamophobes, in seeking to rekindle
the religious divide between Christians and Muslims that characterised pre-Enlightenment Europe,
reject Western values in favour of pre-Western values. During their successful Vienna War of
1683-1699 against the Ooman Empire, Austrian Habsburg forces slaughtered, plundered, expelled
or forcibly converted to Christianity the Muslim population of the Hungarian and Croatian
territories they reconquered, which were forcibly de-Islamised; the Austrians burned the Ooman
Bosnian city of Sarajevo to the ground. The subsequent Ooman Bosnian victory over Habsburg
forces in the Bale of Banja Luka of 1737 saved the Bosnian Muslims from their destruction as a
people that an Austrian conquest of Bosnia would have involved. Yet when the Austrian Habsburgs
did nally succeed in occupying Sarajevo and Bosnia in 1878, they protected the Muslim
population and respected the Islamic religion. Europe, in the interval, had experienced the
Enlightenment. It is the pre-Enlightenment Europe to which todays right-wing Islamophobes look
back nostalgically; something symbolised in the name of the anti-Islamic hate-blog, Gates of
Vienna (hp://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/), named after the Ooman siege of Vienna of 1683 and
cited approvingly by Breivik. Hence Breiviks own obsessive demonising of the Ooman other
and its history, all the way back to the Middle Ages.
The right-wing Islamophobes are the mirror-image of the Islamists they claim to oppose.
Nineteenth-century opponents of liberal secular values frequently became anti-Semites, seeing the
Jews, as they did, as the beneciaries of these values, to which the Jews owed their emancipation.
Todays Muslim opponents of the Enlightenment have inherited Christian anti-Semitism, whereas
the Christian reactionaries have transferred their animosity to a dierent Muslim minority.
Apologists blame individuals like Breivik and groups like the EDL and British National Party
(BNP) on supposedly objective problems of aggressive Islam and immigration that mainstream
politicians are supposedly failing to tackle. Just as apologists for Islamism blame it on supposed
root causes to be found in US imperialism or the behaviour of Israel. Just as earlier apologists for
anti-Semitism blamed anti-Semitism on the Jews. The Islamophobes point to Muslim support for
Islamic extremism as their anti-Semitic predecessors once pointed to Jewish support for
communism. As their Islamist counterparts point to Jewish support for Zionism. And so on.
Such chauvinistic ideologies are not caused by the minority or foreign groups that they target.
Undeniably, popular anti-Semitism before World War II tended to be strongest in countries with
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large, visible Jewish populations, like Poland and Romania, just as popular Islamophobia today is
often strongest in West European cities that have experienced large-scale Muslim immigration, but
this does not mean that the victims of the bigotry are to blame. Muslim immigration does not
automatically give rise to Islamophobia, any more than Zionism automatically gives rise to Muslim
anti-Semitism, or US imperialism gives rise to Islamist terrorism. Right-wing Islamophobia,
Islamism, anti-immigrant racism and modern anti-Semitism are all, in their dierent ways,
expressions of a more general reaction against, and rejection of, modernity and what it implies.
Interestingly, Breivik, who apparently never had a proper girlfriend and lived with his mother until
he was thirty, shares Islamisms extreme misogyny and gender insecurity. His manifesto rails
against the feminisation of European culture and the supposed emasculation of the contemporary
European male, complaining that Muslim immigrants are systematically raping white European
women, but that As a Western man, I would be tempted to say that Western women have to some
extent brought this upon themselves. They have been waging an ideological, psychological and
economic war against European men for several generations now, believing that this would make
you free Western women have been subjected to systematic Marxist indoctrination meant to
turn you into a weapon of mass destruction against your own civilisation, a strategy that has been
remarkably successful. But of course, not all Islamophobes are straightforwardly conservative;
some oppose Muslims and Islam on the grounds that the laer are sexist and homophobic. Such
syntheses of liberalism and illiberalism are nothing new; European fascism and its sympathisers of
the 1920s, 30s and 40s had their liberal roots and tendencies too, however paradoxical that might
sound (readers are recommended to read Julian Jacksons excellent France: The Dark Years,
1940-1944 (hp://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&eld-
keywords=Julian+Jackson+Dark+Years&x=0&y=0), that describes the synthesis of liberal,
conservative Catholic and radical right-wing currents that found expression in the 1940s Vichy
regime in France).
What our contemporary Islamophobes share conservatives and liberals alike is conformism,
xenophobia, fear of change, hostility to diversity, paranoia about minorities and a longing for the
order and certainties of a lost, idealised golden age that, in some cases, may not even be very long
ago. In the Nordic countries, home of the Jante Law, where an apparently model liberalism
frequently masks extreme conformism and insularity, where foreign guests and immigrants
usually nd it very dicult to t in (in a way that they dont in London or New York, for example),
and where virulent anti-immigration parties such as the Danish Peoples Party and Sweden
Democrats have enjoyed success at the polls, this takes its own particular form. Far from needing to
be shielded from greater diversity, my feeling is that the Nordic world would benet from more of
it; that even if Norway has no pressing economic reason to join the EU, immersion and
participation in the common European project would benet it culturally and spiritually. But for all
that, the sickness that created Breivik is a European and global sickness, not just a Nordic sickness.
This brings us back to the Balkans, a region that resembles the Nordic world in the extent of its
often stultifying insularity. For all that Serbia appeared to pursue its own sonderweg during the late
1980s and 1990s, at another level, the Serbian nationalist right and anti-democratic left were
exemplars and pioneers of what became an all-European anti-immigrant and Islamophobic trend.
Serbian nationalist and Communist hardliners railed against the restrictions supposedly placed on
Serbia by membership of a multinational community the Yugoslav federation. They railed against
high Muslim and Albanian birth-rates that were resulting in the Serbs being out-bred, while
lamenting the lower birth-rate among Serbs as symptomatic of national decline. They railed against
the supposed mass immigration of ethnic Albanians from Albania into Kosovo; against the
supposed Kosovo Albanian cultural otherness and refusal to assimilate; against Kosovo Albanians
allegedly raping Serb women while the authorities stood idly by. They lamented the supposed
corruption and decline of their national culture while indulging in medievalist escapism. All these
themes have now been taken up by nationalists in other European countries. For example, in
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Breiviks words, The Muslims in Bosnian Serbia; the so called Bosniaks and Albanians had waged
deliberate demographic warfare (indirect genocide) against Serbs for decades. This type of warfare
is one of the most destructive forms of Jihad and is quite similar to what we are experiencing now
in Western Europe.
Andrew Gilligan, writing in the Telegraph, has claimed (hp://www.telegraph.co.uk
/news/worldnews/europe/norway/8660011/The-British-far-Right-is-nothing-but-a-rabble.html) that
the danger posed by far-right (i.e. white, Christian) terrorists like Breivik is simply not on the same
order of magnitude as that posed by al-Qaeda: Over the last 10 years, nationalist terrorists, even
counting Breivik, have killed about 200 Westerners; al-Qaeda has killed about 4,000 The white
Right should not be ignored by the security authorities but it would be dangerous to divert our
aention from the real threat. But this is wrong: tens of thousands of Muslims were killed by white
Christians in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya in the 1990s. Breivik has praised the killers, both
Radovan Karadzic and Vladimir Putin; the numbers of their victims in Europe dwarf those of al
The danger is that Breivik is the harbinger of a trend. Extremism and chauvinism among the
majority will always ultimately be more dangerous than extremism and chauvinism among
minorities. Right-wing populists such as Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen may not themselves
incite violence, and cannot be equated with a killer like Breivik. But the climate of intolerance they
are promoting threatens to give rise to many more Breiviks. The Islamophobic, anti-immigration
far-right is the no. 1 internal threat in Western Europe to European society and Western values
This article was published today on the website of the Henry Jackson Society
Friday, 29 July 2011 - Posted by Marko Aila Hoare | Anti-Semitism, Balkans, European Union,
Former Yugoslavia, Immigration, Islam, Marko Aila Hoare, Misogyny, Norway, Political
correctness, Red-Brown Alliance, Serbia | Anders Behring Breivik, Andrew Gilligan, Arnaldur
Indridason, BNP, British National Party, Danish Peoples Party, EDL, English Defence League,
Geert Wilders, Henning Mankell, Jante Law, Mark Steyn, Melanie Phillips, Radovan Karadzic,
Robert Spencer, Simon Jenkins, Srdja Triovic, Stieg Larsson, Sweden Democrats
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A blog devoted to political commentary and analysis, with a particular focus on South East
Europe. Born in 1972, I have been studying the history of the former Yugoslavia since 1993, and am
intimately acquainted with, and emotionally aached to, the lands and peoples of Croatia, Bosnia-
Hercegovina and Serbia. In the summer of 1995, I acted as translator for the aid convoy to the
Bosnian town of Tuzla, organised by Workers Aid, a movement of solidarity in support of the
Bosnian people. In 1997-1998 I lived and worked in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina. In 1998-2001 I
lived and worked in Belgrade, Serbia, and was resident there during the Kosovo War of 1999. As a
journalist, I covered the fall of Milosevic in 2000. I worked as a Research Ocer for the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 2001, and participated in the drafting
of the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic.
I received my BA from the University of Cambridge in 1994 and my PhD from Yale University in
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2000. I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the British Academy in 2001-2004, a member of the
Faculty of History of the University of Cambridge in 2001-2006, and am currently an Associate
Professor at Kingston University, London. I live in Surbiton in the UK.
I am the author of four books: The Bosnian Muslims in the Second World War: A History (Hurst
and Oxford University Press, London and New York, 2013), The History of Bosnia: From the
Middle Ages to the Present Day (Saqi, London, 2007), Genocide and Resistance in Hitlers Bosnia:
The Partisans and the Chetniks, 1941-1943 (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006) and How Bosnia
Armed (Saqi, London, 2004). I am currently working on a history of modern Serbia.
Marko Aila Hoare
markohoare AT hotmail DOT com
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