[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News, with readers' comments]
A silly motto has developed in the West in the past decade. “Not all Muslims are terrorists, of course,” people would utter it, smilingly, only to add; “but all terrorists are Muslims.” Yet now, the monstrous violence committed by Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed more than 70 of his innocent countrymen, clearly debunks that rhetoric.
Of course, the first thing I would say in the face of this horror is to offer my condolences to the families of the victims and share the sorrow of the Norwegian people. But we should also take political lessons from this tragedy, for it is the product of not just the psychopathology of a man, but also the pathological ideas that inspired him.
The road to 2083
To see these ideas, one just has to skim Breivik’s 1,500-page-long manifesto titled, “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.” It is all about the “Islamic colonization and Islamisation of Western Europe,” and how European multiculturalists are treacherously helping that imagined assault.
But the book is not just the brainwork of Breivik; it is more of a compilation of articles written by popular writers such as Robert Spencer, Bat Ye’or, and Andrew Bostom – names with which I am familiar, for I have debated all of them.
Spencer is the author of books such as “The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion,” and the editor of the website Jihad Watch. I remember warning him, “if you watch something, you have to look through a fair lens in order to see it right.” But his lens has not been fair at all, for all he does is to cherry-pick the disturbing facts within the Muslim civilization, in order to portray Islam in the worst possible way.
I, personally, have been targeted by Robert Spencer as well, for he accused me for “joining the jihad against ‘infidels,” by simply condemning Israel’s lethal raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. (He also joyfully quoted my column neighbor Burak Bekdil, when the latter depicted me as a comrade in “Islamists’ global ambition to play the modern day Muslim Trojan Horse at the gates of western civilization.”) Similarly Ye’or accused me of “deception,” simply for saying that al-Qaeda does not really represent Islam. The third writer in question, Bostom, called me “disingenuous,” when I said Islam’s medieval political notions, such as the division between “House of War” and “House of Islam,” is not valid for today and can be reformed.
Now, the problem with all such openly anti-Islamic writers is that they have a bizarre passion to see the intolerant and violent Muslims as the representatives of “real Islam.” This mistake, first of all, makes every Muslim believer a suspect. Secondly, it invalidates every regime in Muslim societies except secularist dictatorships. Breivik, however, seems to have lost hope even in that agenda, for he regrets that the “harsh reforms” Atatürk imposed in Turkey failed, as Islam proved “extremely resilient.” He also seems to regret the end of the old Turkey, in which the “secular elites… backed by the military” were undemocratically dominant.
Jihad and Crusade
It is Breivik’s story, however, and not his analyses, that should matter for us. First, it must be a wake up call for the anti-Islamic propagandists, and likeminded politicians in Europe and United States, showing them that the hate they pump against Islam can have horrible consequences.
Secondly, Breivik’s story, and its similarity with those Muslim terrorists such as Mohammed Atta, the 9/11 mastermind, should give us some insight. Both men killed in the name of their religion, although they were not really that pious. Because for both of them, religion was a matter of identity rather than faith, an identity that was supposedly under attack. Consequently, one got inspired by the medieval notions of jihad, whereas the other one got inspired by the medieval notions of crusade.
Of course, Christianity is not responsible for Breivik’s crime, as Islam was not for Atta’s. It is rather the fanaticism on both sides that we should question.