Al Qaeda had nothing to do with last Friday's terror attacks in Norway that left 76 dead, despite the initial inclination of most of the mass media. Yet even if the network founded by Osama bin Laden was in no way involved, its founding ideas were very much the inspiration of the atrocity - albeit in reverse.
Video by Anders Behring Breivik by newsview
Bin Laden announced his intentions in a 1998 manifesto urging the world's Muslims to rally behind a global "jihad against Crusaders and Jews" to expunge their presence and influence from the lands of Islam. Anders Breivik published his own manifesto on the day of his Norwegian terror spree, and its essence is the mirror image of Al Qaeda's: it calls for a Crusade - Breivik even refers to himself and as a Templar Knight - to drive all Muslims out of Europe in order to save its Christian identity. He even expresses admiration for Al Qaeda's discipline and willingness to sacrifice; qualities he says are essential for his own "Templar elite".
A self-styled Crusade, then, but with a key difference: unlike the original version that sought to conquer the Holy Land for Christendom and massacred Jews as well as Muslims, Breivik - like bin Laden - puts Crusaders and Jews on the same side. As a ferocious supporter of Israel, he wants the Holy Land in Jewish hands as a frontline bastion of the war against Islam. Indeed, he calls for the expulsion of all Muslims not only from Europe, but also from "the West Bank and Gaza".
Breivik doesn't like all Jews, of course; he only likes Zionists, who he sees as an essential ally in his global struggle. And he laments the fact that by his calculation, only about 50 per cent of Israelis and about 25 per cent of Americans Jews fit the bill. The rest are agents of a pernicious "multiculturalism" weakening the West from within - the same "crime" that he punished by attacking targets he associated with Norway's ruling party.
"Jews that support multiculturalism today are as much of a threat to Israel and Zionism as they are to us," Breivik writes. "So let us fight together with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists."
Some of Israel's more liberal supporters branded Breivik's enthusiasm for Zionism a sham, but some of Israel's staunchest supporters in the US - and some of those in its right-wing government - largely agree that Islam is a mortal threat to the West and that multiculturalism is the road to perdition. Some pro-Israeli commentators are cited repeatedly in the manifesto, such as Pam Geller, the Islamophobic demagogue who last year led the charge to stop the Park51 community centre and mosque from being built near the site of the World Trade Center bombing. Geller has made common cause against Islam with such far-right European groups as the English Defence League and Dutch anti-immigration champion Geert Wilders - groups also admired by Breivik.
As Israel's own political median shifts steadily to the right, it finds itself keeping company with more mainstream far-right elements in western countries. Wilders is a frequent visitor, while the former Fox News commentator Glen Beck — dismissed as a muddle-headed extremist in the American mainstream (he said this week that the Labor Party camp attacked by Breivik "sounds a little like the Hitler Youth") was given a hero's welcome in the Knesset just two weeks ago.
All such groups loudly condemned Breivik's killing spree as a vicious act of insanity, but some were also concerned not to lose the baby with the bathwater. The Jerusalem Post, a mainstream pro-government Israeli newspaper, wrote in an editorial: "The fact that this terrible tragedy was perpetrated by a right-wing extremist [should not] detract attention from the underlying problems faced not only by Norway, but by many western European nations ... While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism's failure must not be delegitimatised or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right."
In other words, Breivik's terrorism should not be allowed to "delegitimise" their own Islamophobia.
The ironies abound, of course. Breivik, in his manifesto, calls for armed struggle precisely because he believes that anti-immigrant nationalist parties will never prevail through the electoral system - "the democratical [sic] struggle through dialogue has been lost", he writes. Al Qaeda shares this aversion to democratic politics to advance its cause, all too aware of its own marginal status in the Muslim world.
The very reason that the majority of American Jews embrace multiculturalism is because they are products of it: only the victory of multiculturalism over anti-Semitism made the United States safe for Jews. And it's not hard to see that the xenophobic antipathy once directed at Jews in Europe and the United States is today directed at Muslims. Today's Islamophobia associates Islam with terrorism; 20th century anti-Semitism typically associated Jews with communism.
And the reason there's a taboo in the European mainstream on advocating open hostility to immigrants is precisely because the Holocaust taught the continent a brutal lesson in the horrific consequences that can flow from demonising the "other".
Still, the mainstream political climate has become increasingly tolerant of militant Islamophobia, as the Park 51 episode demonstrated. Muslim communities in many parts of America have become targets of growing publicly expressed hatred. And the US Congress is told idiotic tales by self-appointed "experts" on a stealth campaign to impose Sharia law on America.
After September 11, the Muslim world was challenged to confront not only extremist terror groups, but also the intolerant Salafist theology whose demonisation of those it deemed infidel or apostate rationalises violence against them. Now, the western world finds itself forced to consider the potential consequences of the mainstream Islamophobia that Breivik believes he has simply taken to its logical conclusion. Breivik and bin Laden are not polar opposites as much as they are simply two sides of the "clash of cultures" coin.