Breeding Breiviks? Europe, US ‘at risk’ of anti-Islam massacre

Counter-Jihad movements that inspired Anders Breivik’s Norway massacre are growing in influence in the US and Europe: a recent report by UK activist group Hope not Hate has mapped their spread, and the links between them.

The document identifies 300 organizations and individuals who use anti-Islam rhetoric to draw in supporters and voters. It highlights the UK as a hotspot for such groups, citing a total of 22 anti-Islamic groups currently operating in the country, naming the Luton-based English Defense League (EDL) as one of the most influential.

The report also looks at the US, highlighting a network of 47 anti-Islamic organizations that spread "negative perceptions of Islam, Muslim minorities and Islamic culture".

Anders Breivik, who massacred 77 people last July on the Norwegian island of Utoya had previously claimed to have links with the Luton organization, praising the radical group in his manifesto and calling it a “blessing.”

At his trial last week, he refuted all such connections. Breivik said in court that Luton, located 50km north of London was a “warzone” that had over 1,000 “Muslim no-go areas”, and that locals wanted to introduce Sharia law in the town.

In response to claims that EDL blog posts were an inspiration to mass-murderer Breivik, chairman of the movement, Paul Weston underlined to RT correspondent Ivor Bennet that there was “no documentary evidence of any so-called right-wing movements saying, go out there and shoot people.”

“They may well be an inspiration to him, but we cannot say nothing simply because there might be some lone psychopath in Europe,” added Weston.

The English Defense League styles itself as “peacefully protesting against Islam” and claims to have over 100,000 supporters throughout the UK. However, research figures estimate their support at around 25,000 members.

“I’m not far-right in any way. None of my views are far-right, Islam is far right… Islam needs to be criticized. It’s responsible for 18, 900 terrorist attacks on September 11th. We’re on about one here, one man,” EDL co-founder Tommy Robinson told RT.

Many worry that the group’s proliferation of anti-Islam sentiment could lead to a Breivik-style massacre in the UK.

A suspected member of the movement was arrested on Friday for assault and possession of “racially inflammatory material” according to Northumbria police.

He had reportedly posted on Facebook that he had a “pipe bomb”, and threatened to strike Asian restaurants in the town of South Shields.

“Give me a gun and I’ll do you all Oslo-style!” He wrote on his Facebook.

In addition five men were taken into custody across the UK last Thursday for the distribution of “written material which may stir up racial hatred."

UK police have linked the arrests with an extremist off-shoot of the English Defense League known as the “North West Infidels.”

Matthew Collins, anti-fascist campaigner for the organization Hope Not Hate told RT that the UK government “must view the EDL as they do the radical Islamist groups,” as they are an “equal threat” to society.

“The problem is they inspire people. They organize people, they fill people’s head up with nonsense. There are people in the EDL who actually think they’re some kind of religious crusaders, and the problem is that often extremist groups can be the trigger for somebody to do something, something quite unpleasant and quite nasty,” he said.

Members of the English Defence League march in Luton, February 5, 2011. (Reuters / Paul Hackett)
Members of the English Defence League march in Luton, February 5, 2011. (Reuters / Paul Hackett)
Reuters / Paul Hackett
Reuters / Paul Hackett
Reuters / Paul Hackett
Reuters / Paul Hackett