Breivik’s Religious Pluralist Vision: A COEXIST Bumper Sticker Without the Crescent

“But under no circumstances shall we attack or annex territory belonging to our fellow Christian brothers and sisters, or our Buddhist or Hindu allies.”
—“2083: A European Declaration of Independence”

Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto reveals his vision for a coalition of the world’s right-wing movements in opposition to Islam. This coalition is based upon Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilization” theory that Breivik pairs with Orientalist and Islamaphobic representations of Islam from academics like Bernard Lewis and popular bloggers like Pamela Geller. While it may be right to label Breivik a Christian terrorist and a Christian nationalist, such labels miss the utopian future Berivik describes in his manifesto; a utopia where the right wings of the world’s religions defend one another against Islam and Marxism.

One example of Breivik’s conservative ecumenism is the inclusion in his manifesto of an essay from Shrinandan Vyas titled “Hindu Kush, the largest Genocides in the history of man.” The article argues that the Muslim invasion of present-day Afghanistan beginning in 1000 CE constituted a genocide of Hindus living there. A number of Vyas’ articles circulate on conservative Hindu websites and forums claiming various Hindu genocides at the hands of Muslims in different historical periods. For Breivik, Vyas provides an example of Muslim violence and imperial expansion. Breivik returns to South Asia again and again for examples of Muslim violence such as the Hindu Kush article to portray right wing anti-Islam Hindus as allies in the fight against Islam.

Under the heading “Modern Jihad” Breivik writes, “Islam has systematically murdered more than 300 million individuals,” going so far as to divide that number up: “3/4 Hindu/Buddhist, Animist/Pagan 1/4 Christian/Jewish/Zoroastrian.” So, while it’s true that he borrows a lot of imagery and language from the Christian crusades, such a list of world religions indicates that Breivik also thought in terms of modern religious diversity. It wasn’t merely Christendom versus Islam, it was a world of peaceful religions defending themselves against violent Muslims. Combining the clash of civilizations thesis with historical narratives of Islam’s violence against the world’s religions, Breivik saw the globe as one giant RISK board game where everyone was trying to defend themselves from the encroaching Islamic empire.

Breivik had a solution to the clash of civilizations, one that began with the violent attacks in Oslo. The full vision of his solution was a new utopian world order, free of Marxism, multiculturalism, and Islam, where the rest of the world’s religions and civilizations could tolerate one another.

Breivik believed his actions would usher in a long war that would end with the deportation of Muslims and the eradication of Marxists in Europe. But his vision was bigger than just Europe. He saw a world where every civilization and religious identity was united against the two. In a list of “Future Military Service Medals,” for his new Europe, Breivik describes the “Multi-Cultural Force Medal” that would be awarded “for military cooperation with nationalist Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and/or atheist forces (non-European) on Hindu, Buddhist or Jewish territory. These efforts must be directed against Jihadi or cultural Marxist forces, personnel or interests.”

Under “Actions which are considered counter-productive” he lists “random racist violence against people of colour (non-Muslims)… be especially aware of the peaceful faiths—Jews, Buddhists, Hindus etc as they are considered allies against the Global Islamic Ummah.” While Breivik wants to ban race-mixing and limit the number of non-Europeans in his future Europe, he is quite happy to offer assistance “to our Buddhist and Hindu brothers if they request our help against Jihadi attacks or campaigns.” In the end, as long as everyone stays within their own ethno-religious territory, all is well. Fences make good neighbors in the wake of the clash of civilizations.

Breivik hoped conservatives around the world would join his cause. “Everyone, absolutely everyone will have the opportunity to show their loyalty to our cause, including European Jews, non-European Christians or Hindu/Buddhist Asians,” he writes. “I personally hope that we can count on our conservative Hindu, Buddhist and Christian allies from all minority groups.” Indeed, after the final phase of Breivik’s war plan, “All individuals of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish or otherwise ‘friendly faiths/ideologies will be regarded as friends/allies/brothers and sisters of all Europeans and may not be subject to the same assimilation demands now or in the future.” The end result for Breivik is a bizarre religious pluralism without a Muslim menace. It’s a COEXIST bumper sticker without the crescent.

A global right wing coalition is a figment of Breivik’s imagination. I don’t expect to see the BJP and the AFA working together anytime soon. But the clash of civilizations thesis, directly or indirectly, lies at the heart of most of the conservative groups Breivik imagined would join his cause. That thesis and its attendant Orientalist images of Islam are what Pat Buchanan and Bryan Fisher share with Breivik, though perhaps only he could imagine the connections that, in his mind, would unite Hindutva, American conservatives and neoconservatives, and European nationalists in a war against Islam. Only Breivik could imagine a post-clash world where each region of the globe was dominated by its own brand of conservative nationalism and peace was assured through mutual recognition of national purity. At least I hope it was only him.