Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Terror Attacks in Oslo: Anders Behring Breivik on the Middle East and Islam

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 24 July 2011 15:07

[The subject is on the margins of the topics covered here at Iraq and Gulf Analysis, but in response to requests for commentary on the 22 July Oslo terrorist attacks, a few notes on the internet writings of the alleged suspect in the case are presented below as far as they relate to the Middle East and the Islamic world more generally.]

In his postings on the website, Anders Behring Breivik comes across as an articulate and intellectual commenter. However, his writings also reveal an extreme leitmotif of an alleged grand conspiracy between most of the political establishments in Europe (often referred to as ”Marxists”, but also as “multi-culturalists”) and Muslims that are aiming to change Europe in the name of multi-culturalism. In their most pitched versions, Breivik’s postings merge these two concepts and refer to “multiculturalists” as the “facilitators of the jihadists”. It is clear from at least some of his comments that in the Norwegian context, Breivik sees the ruling Labour party (which was targeted in the Utoya attacks) as an important vector of that dreadful “multi-culturalism”.

Central to Breivik’s analysis is the concept of “dhimmitude”, which he has apparently picked up from one of his main inspirations, the Norwegian blogger Fjordland, who is a long-standing critic of Islam and political Islam. Fjordland in turn borrowed the concept from Israeli writer Bet Yaor. Dhimmitude is a reference to the status of non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire, where they were protected but also lived as second-class citizens without the same rights as Muslims. Breivik uses this concept to make sense of his own teenage experiences in Oslo’s East End, where immigrants dominate several neighbourhoods and are increasing their demographic share. In Breivik’s view, this involves a process of growing “dhimmitude” or second-class citizenship for the remaining inhabitants of non-immigrant background.  People in these areas, according to Breivik, must increasingly conform to Islamic ways of life and norms rather than to Norwegian law.

Another distinguishing feature in Breivik’s writings is his rather implausible attempts to establish parallels from Middle Eastern to European history. In a typical example from, Breivik at least three times tries to create such a parallel between the demographic development in Lebanon in the twentieth century and coming trends in Europe. Supposedly, according to Behring, Lebanon had 80% Christians in 1911, before a process of collaboration set in:

“We all know, by the way, what happened to the Christians of Lebanon. Lebanon was once a Christian country (80% in 1911). When the Muslims became a majority in 1970 (an increase of 40% in only 60 years) they declared war. The reason for the demographic growth [of the Muslims] was the appeasement policy of the Marxists (they allowed demographic warfare). The Marxists had anticipated that they would obtain a special dhimmi status, which of course failed to materialise. Today, there are less than 25% Christians in Lebanon and even the Christian Marxists live in difficult circumstances. Do you really believe that you [leftists, “Marxists”] will obtain special dhimmi status in Western Europe some decades down the line when ALL historical examples indicate that Christian Marxists have been back-stabbed time and again?”

Of course, Breivik’s estimate of “80% Christians” in Lebanon in 1911 is as problematic as its identification on a map one decade before it came into existence as a country. Or as those growth figures of the Muslims – truly remarkable as Breivik says, but might that have something to do with underestimates of Muslims in early accounts, different growth rates and emigration patterns rather than with “demographic warfare” as Breivik alleges? And who are those omnipotent Christian Marxists of Lebanon anyway?  But Breivik keeps going back to his Lebanon argument again and again (and its main source: Mark K. Tomass, whose 1997 journal article on the subject has not been quoted a lot by others), also when posting on mainstream websites like that of the Norwegian newspaper VG using a shorter form of his name.

Nor does Breivik shy away from commenting on Sunni-Shiite issues and the geopolitical tug-of-war in the region:

“I have never understood why the West focuses so disproportionately on Iran compared to Saudi Arabia, which after all is the most powerful and most dangerous Muslim great power. True, we should bomb those suspect installations [in Iran] but other than that we need to focus far more on Saudi Arabia. Could this have to do with the fact that Iran is not a big oil exporter?

Shiites make up a relatively small proportion of all Muslims and exercise no influence whatsoever on Sunnis. To be honest, I’d say we undermine our own interests by attacking the sole existing, relatively weak alternative to Sunni Islam. If Iran falls, the position of the Wahhabis will be strengthened quite significantly since they will have no competition. We should not forget that Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim countries want to crush Iran. It is not Iran that is behind some 300 to 500 Wahhabi centres across Europe, and they finance only two out of 30 Jihad fronts worldwide.”

In other words, Breivik is somewhat clueless about the Middle East, but not more clueless than, say, an average US politician. Many of the sources he quotes copiously, including Daniel Pipes, are well-respected in the US public debate about the region, and the idea of Shiism as “the good Islam” and a potential ally for the United States circulated among many think tankers in the early days of the Iraq War. Like many respectable politicians, Breivik voices support for Christian separatism projects worldwide, including southern Sudan. He expresses sympathy with Lou Dobbs with reference to the way in which he was forced to leave the CNN. Also, contrary to what many newspaper reports claim, he explicitly criticises Nazism, both for its genocidal actions as well as its state-centred economic theories.

Rather, it is in his postings on Norwegian affairs that Breivik’s one-sided, black and white and extreme master narrative becomes most evident. He complains, “100 Norwegians have been killed in racist/Jihadi murders during the past 15 years without getting attention, but a single murder committed by a Norwegian racist prompted a vigil of 50,000 participants and the establishment of a commemorative fund”. To most Norwegians other than Breivik, it is difficult to see the “jihadi” motive in those murders, which may well have no other aspect in common that they were committed by people with an immigrant background. But with his conspiracy theory, Breivik sees a jihadi plot and externally imposes a motive of jihadism in every action by immigrants and their supposed native collaborators. Similarly, in a pun which perhaps should have made alarm clocks go off, Breivik describes former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland as “murderer of the Norwegian people”.

By the time Breivik posted his last comment on in late October 2010, he still seemed focused on a practical action plan for furthering his political views. Some of his posts feature calls to like-minded people for winning control over newspapers and NGOs as part of a long-term strategy.  Some of his sources of inspiration, such as Fjordland, have previously been explicitly anti-terrorist, and he himself highlights the Tea Party movement in the United States as a hopeful model to follow for European right-wingers (to some of whom he appears to have established links).  However, Breivik’s take on Middle Eastern issues at are strikingly similar to a far more radical English-language manifesto, “2083: A European Declaration of Independence”, that was released on the day of the Oslo bombings and has since been attributed to him, although parts of it are clearly lifted from other sources. The document repeats many of the themes of Breivik’s postings at, including a paranoid fear of the Mediterranean initiatives of the EU as a door-opener for an Islamic conquest of Europe. There is also more detailed commentary on the Middle East, with quotes supportive of the idea of a Christian federal region in Iraq as well as the Syrian Baathist, Allawite-led regime, because of its protection of Christians! But the action plan in this second document is far more chilling and foreshadows the violence that was unleashed in Oslo on 22 July.

Whether today’s alleged mass murder already coexisted with the armchair generalist who wrote far-fetched but moderately eloquent postings on in October 2010 or whether Breivik was subject to a subsequent  process of radicalisation that concluded with his violent attempt at declaring “European independence” remains to be seen.

18 Responses to “The Terror Attacks in Oslo: Anders Behring Breivik on the Middle East and Islam”

  1. Thaqalain said

    Once you said you don’t want to write much about Persian Gulf countries other then Iraq. The way you brought his views on your site is to justify and continue accusing Muslims for the main cause of his onslaught.

    In Canadian TVs, within hours of explosion some biased jouros commented about the role of militancy in Islam. Why do they associate militancy with religions. If that’s right, isn’t it best time to we should label terrorism with fundamental militant type Christianity and Crusades. In fact it’s that ideology which is ruling over Warmonger Presidents and their UN tool to stamp invasions.

    I believe you wrote the article being native or belong to the same region and having some emotions, soft corner for the accused shooter indirectly blaming it all on ISLAM.

    Whatever was its aim, whoever done it, we should openly condemn manslaughter. I see it as GOD’s wrath on Norwegians whose forces, Warfare (as currently under use in Libya, PAKAFG),UN & NATO tool to bulldoze mud cosntructed towns, so-called PEACE Prize to War Mongers.
    Your yellow journalism never got the time to condemn NATO & Washington Air Strikes in which thousands of innocent citizens died.

  2. Rasool Nafisi said

    The most clear sign of his dimwittedness is his choice of targets who were mostly a bunch of kids vacationing on an island. If he is mad at Muslims, why should he kill Norwegians?

  3. Salah said

    Reidar Visser

    I feel sorry for those families of the innocents who lost their live by someone who is not believes normally and value the humans on earth.

    I would like to o concagralate you for this very informative and well said analysis

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Thaqalain, this post was drafted at a time when only the comments by the suspect to were known in the public domain, i.e. shortly before his manifesto became widely circulated. I thought Norwegian is a suficciently small language that it might be useful to translate some of his writings into English. His comments on are actually still useful in that they are so distinctive that it is possible to trace his own input to his larger manifesto, much of which otherwise consists of cut and paste from other writers.

    Rasool, one guess would be that in the logic of someone who is fiercely anti-multiculturalism, it is the “collaborators” with the Muslims (his words) that are the weak link, the most dangerous and the most objectionable. He had a background as a frustrated member of a right-wing party, and the Labour youth movement (AUF) may perhaps have come across to him as an obvious enemy given that many of them are people of his own age who may well become powerful within the next decade or so and hence constitute a meaningful target for someone with his

    PS Thaqalain, I’m surprised you’re able to detect any sympathy for the alleged perpetrator in my post! I’m sure he would consider me a “collaborator” with the multi-culturalists as well.

  5. Santana said


    My deepest condolences to the families of these innocent kids, Norway is such a GREAT and Peaceful country I am amazed at what happened !…………..and thanks for posting – It is great info !

  6. Salah said


    What you think as you are from that part of the world, is’t somehow his memories and attitude about islam historically rooted to the Battle of Vienna 1683?

    Is that event people in that region remembered as bad side of Islam from their point-view about their nations aslo?

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, to be honest I don’t think the average Norwegian has ever heard about the battle of Vienna. There is the usual mix of various kinds of scepticism towards Islam in Norway just like in many other Western countries. But the point I’m trying to make in the post is that many of the views articulated by Behring Breivik in his internet postings in 2009-2010 are not exceptionally extreme as such, even if for example his take on Lebanon is somewhat idiosyncratic. You can find the same kind of generalisation in so many internet forums. Indeed, we have it sometimes in our discussions on this blog, when even well-informed commenters sometimes say things like “the Shiites want”, “the Sunnis believe”, etc. Generalisations of this kind in turn lead to the crude dichotomies of the kind employed by Behring Breivik, but that does not mean everyone who talks in such terms is a potential mass murderer. One must probably look for additional sources and symptoms of the extreme radicalism in this case.

  8. Thaqalain said

    Reid (FYI & Analysis)
    Oslo attacker feared ‘Pakistanisation’ of Europe

    Posted By Zachary Latif on July 25, 2011


    Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed more than 90 people in two attacks in Oslo, was mortally terrified of the idea of several ‘mini Pakistans’ appearing all over the map of Europe.

    His ire against Pakistanis and Muslims seems to have at least partial origin in personal experience. He speaks at length about his childhood best friend, a Pakistani Muslim immigrant to Norway who, despite having lived several years in Europe still appeared to resent Norway and Norwegian society. “Not because he was jealous… but because it represented the exact opposite of Islamic ways,” Breivik conjectures.

    In a 1,600-page manifesto titled ‘2083: A European Declaration of Independence’, Breivik laid out a stark picture of the future of Europe, citing poor human rights in Pakistan as the fate of the continent. Norwegian authorities confirmed on Sunday that the manifesto was written by Breivik.

    In his doomsday scenario for Europe, Breivik predicts that several ‘mini-Pakistans’ would be created all over Europe by 2083, one in each country due to ‘Lebanon-style’ conflicts. “It could be similar to the division of India after World War II, with the creation of one or several Islamic ‘Pakistan’ enclaves,” he says.

    While Breivik’s rhetoric against Muslim immigration into Europe is not unusual, he cites many names that might be familiar to Pakistanis, including Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, as well as prominent human rights activist Hina Jilani and Dawn columnist Irfan Hussain.

    He seems to believe that Iqbal, in particular, was sympathetic to communism and views multiculturalism as a Marxist concept. He quotes Iqbal as saying “Islam equals communism plus Allah.”

    Breivik also claims that Pakistan is systematically annihilating all non-Muslim communities. He claimed that Hindu girls are being forced to convert to Islam in Sindh. In this context he even quotes Hina Jilani as saying: “Have you ever heard of an Indian Muslim girl being forced to embrace Hinduism? It’s Muslims winning by intimidation.”

    He goes on to describe the situation for Christians in Pakistan as being no better, citing Father Emmanuel Asi of the Theological Institute for Laity in Lahore as saying in 2007 that Pakistani Christians are frequently denied equal rights.

    Jamaat-e-Islami founder Abul Ala Maududi is also quoted in the manifesto, though in a manner that would imply that the stated objective of an Islamic state is to kill or subdue all non-Muslims around the world.

    Breivik seems to be a fan of Daily Times columnist Razi Azmi, whom he calls “one of the more sensible columnists of Pakistan”. He mentions one of Azmi’s pieces where the columnist asks whether it was possible to imagine a Muslim converting to Christianity or Hinduism or Buddhism in a Muslim country, using it to support his view of Islam as an intolerant religion.

    He also cites Dawn’s Irfan Hussain’s column criticising Hizb u-Tahrir’s vision of a caliphate.

    His ire against Pakistanis and Muslims seems to have at least partial origin in personal experience. He speaks at length about his childhood best friend, a Pakistani Muslim immigrant to Norway who, despite having lived several years in Europe still appeared to resent Norway and Norwegian society. “Not because he was jealous… but because it represented the exact opposite of Islamic ways,” Breivik conjectures.

    The inability of Muslim immigrants to assimilate into European society seems to bother him, which he blames on Muslim parents not allowing their children to adopt European ways. He also asks why Muslim girls are considered ‘off-limits’ to everyone, including Muslim boys, and why Muslim men view ethnic Norwegian women as ‘whores’.

    He also seems to believe that the Muslims in Europe who collect government benefits view it as a form of jizya, a medieval Islamic tax charged on non-Muslim minorities.

    He rails against multiculturalism, which he blames for making immigration too easy for Muslims in Europe. “When the veil of multiculturalism disappears, it will be Pakistanis who live in London, Turks who live in Berlin, Algerians who live in Paris and Moroccans who live in Amsterdam. And then the show begins,” he says.

    That show, he says, is a dramatic demographic shift that he calls the ‘Pakistanisation of Europe’.

    Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2011.

  9. Salah said


    Thank you for your replay much appreciated and in full I agreed.

    There is one point I would like say, some like to make this case some how and some what blames to Islamists/Islam and all sort of these things.

    In case of Behring Breivik, this man live in a free world, a democratic system were rules of law well respected also the level of life far more in other islamic or Arab world. there are levels of frustrations, hopelessness, poverty living under dictator regimes and all sort of things that created an environment to bread and recruit more and more, as in Palestinians or Lebanon’s with Israelis its more complex that what Behring Breivik case.

  10. M said

    My condolonces to your Reider and to the rest of my Norwegian friends I have been educated and taught by over the yearsd-including this blogsite.

    I am saddened indeed to hear and know that Norway will not be the same, a country frequently depicted by UNDP as the best place to live in. To any curious and engaged mind in the world affairs, this attack is hardly surprising as radicalization often leads to counter-radicalization – Iraq is a case in point. No sympathy to mass murderes but as the Norewegian government and other concerned analysts attempt to sort through this tragedy, a careful attempt should be made to avoid reactive politics(US)while new policies are likely to be set forth aimed at balancing immigaration liberal polices with the sentiments of the native inhabitants of the land.

  11. My heart goes to the victims’ families, this is so awful because it is so unexpected.
    Breivik may come across as “an articulate and intellectual commenter” in a cognitive sense but motivationally he seems so uni-dimensional; rationalizing history in terms of his own irrational fear and having the same shortfall as the people he criticizes most: The Marxists.
    I believe all political evil is based on misplaced fear and this is no exception. Many Muslims are not willing immigrants and to see threatening purposeful invasion defies logic.
    His statement about 80% christian in Lebanon probably refers to Mount Lebanon before joining northern and southern parts to form present day Lebanon.

  12. observor said

    Despite this tragedy, I doubt that there is much we can do to beat extremism. After all, we know that “thought” cannot be banned. The best we can do is to marginalize extremist thoughts and belittle them to the general population (case in point, KKK in the US). Germany outlawed the Nazi party – but did that end Nazi thought. I think not.

    It seems that we have to live with periodic tragedies, such as this one, if we are to continue to live in a free society. It maybe an inevitable tax that we have to collectively pay to maintain “happiness” for the majority – you can tell that I belong to the Utilitrian school of justice.

    All we can do is to hope that the families of the victims will have the patience to endure adn regain their happiness – it will be hard. How can you forget your child?

  13. Jason said

    Observor, you are correct. This especially applies to the right of responsible individual citizens to own firearms. On the one hand it is necessary to maintain the ultimate civil right: freedom from tyranny via a check and balance for the citizenry versus govt-controlled special police and standing armies, and true dignity of the individual. But it comes at a terrible cost when a deranged person does something such as this.

  14. bks said

    It’s hard to come up with firm numbers, Jason, but it can be argued that Iraqi citizens were better armed under Saddam Hussein[1] than they are now. What lesson do you draw from that?



  15. observor said

    Bks, – A bit off topic…

    The article you sited is old not to say anything faulty conclusions. The army at the time of Saddam Hussien had tanks, armored vehicles and even helicopters that he could fly in the center part of the country (no fly zones were in the south and north). Today, Iraq has no army. It has soldiers, but there are no tanks, no air cover not to say anything about capable professional officers. I am not an expert in armed forces, but I would argue that the chances of the Iraqi army “winning” against a well-armed and organized militia are minimal at best. Recall that in 2009, Maliki almost lost in basra if it were not for the army and regular forces being supported by US and coalition forces and air cover.

    So in this instance a well-armed militia is in fact a good way to prevent a dictatorship (that was the reason for the 2nd amendment to the US constitution in the first place – no?). However, once the Iraqi army gets the heavy armor and tanks, it is going to be hard (not impossible) to prevent an army takeover (yet again). Be that as it may, I would have a hard time arguing for Iraqi people having the right to hold RPG’s and Mortars ? if Iraq is ever going to become stable, it will need to develop a rule of law attitude and a professional army that is dedicated to protecting the borders, not the green zone!!. We are a long way off from that day, if it will ever come.

    Frankly, I would argue for the extension of SOFA from that prospective. If it is in the interest of the US to assure the survival of the nascent democracy in Iraq, then we would need to keep enough soldiers here and pre positioned equipment so that those who may be thinking of using arms in Iraq (outside and inside) would think twice before doing something stupid. But if we want to return Iraq to the 60’s then it is time to leave. The oil will keep on being produced – have no fear. The government needs the money and the world needs the oil.

  16. Kermanshahi said

    He’s not less clueless than an average US politician, but that is not a very big achievement, since average US politician knows less than average US citizen. It’s because most of them are simply scaremongers hired by large corporations to protect their interests by shouting around lies. You don’t need a brain, or knowledge of any facts at all for such job.

  17. Wladimir said

    Great post. Didn’t know his ideas about Shiites yet. Iranian media ignores Breivik’s comments on the threat of Saudi Arabia.

  18. Munim said

    Brilliant posting so promptly after the tragedy.

    Breivik’s making sense of his teenage experiences with immigrants deserves some reflection.

    I think the demographic fears are potent, and quite universal. That is the worry of indigenous European population that newcomers with alien culture, in this case Islamic, will dominate in countries in three or four generations because of much higher birth rate in a welfare state. This worry is voiced in a variety of ways, including subtly by highly respected liberal people in the West. It is a worry that needs respect too.

    A reasoned response to this worry is based on historical analogy, not easy to emote or put into a slogan for the public. And it is also a far analogy.

    The demographic fear is a version of the worry of affluent classes within any nation that the lower classes will swamp them through fertility. They fear that violent class struggles would either destroy civility or lower IQ would cause progressive decline in culture. Since one class needs the other for peaceful labour, the enlightened solution historically took the form of degrees of social democracy. Meritocracy ensures co-opting the more ‘fitting’ or adapted from the lower classes, and the cultural reproduction replaces the biological one (‘memes’ replace genes, in Richard Dawkins’ terms). Education and democracy are the great vehicles for society to reproduce itself and evolve peacefully.

    But how does that apply to immigrants? A trickle of young guest workers are possible to absorb, needed for manual labour and other uses. But masses tend to create parallel societies. But they do not need to come to Europe, except by mutual consent. Most of them had little choice.

    Had the policies in the third world not been of neglect, exploitation and support for tyrants, these societies would not have been forcing youngsters to flee. Why should nurses, teachers and even doctors leave their homelands to work in cafe or minicab?

    Had social democratic principles been extended to relationships with the third world nations we would not have such fears. Even now, if the West manages to switch to treat nations even-handedly, with modicum of support, and peace returns to nations, a huge proportion of refugees, old and new, would be glad to go back home, even without the welfare comforts. Children may find that difficult, but now they are citizens of the world.

    How to explain all of this to the public?

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