The tragic attacks in Oslo, Norway by Anders Behring Breivik on Friday floodlit an increasingly popular exclusionist trend that is growing in Western European politics.
Breivik, as demonstrated by his actions and expounded by his manifesto "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," insists that the way to "save" European culture is by outlawing Islam and removing all Communist and multicultural elements from society.
On Friday, Breivik launched two murderous attacks in and around Oslo.
At around 3:30 in the afternoon, Breivik detonated a car bomb outside of government headquarters in Oslo, killing seven people and injuring dozens more. Shortly after the bombing, while police were evacuating the city center, Breivik opened fire on an island summer camp outside the city. He was wearing a police uniform when he attacked teenagers at a Labor Party-sponsored diplomatic retreat.
He was apprehended by counter-terrorism police on Utoeya Island, but not before he shot and killed scores of people.
Breivik believes he was leading the "Western European Resistance," which would use armed force to retake Europe from the hands of "cultural Marxists" and minorities.
Europe, often seen from the puritanical eyes of the United States as a bastion of progress, has a deep history with xenophobic extremists. A number of countries have prominent far-right political parties that campaign on closing borders and keeping out Muslims, Africans and other immigrants.
Perhaps the most famous anti-immigration party in recent years is Geert Wilders' Freedom Party in The Netherlands. Wilders' party made outlawing the immigration of Muslims into The Netherlands its chief rallying point.
The Freedom Party, which in its earlier years was compared to a cult, currently holds 10 of 75 seats in the Dutch senate, 24 of 150 seats in the House of Representatives, five seats in the European Parliament and 69 of 566 provincial government posts. In just six years, it has become the fifth largest party in the Dutch parliament and the third largest opposition party.
Wilders was recently acquitted of hatred and discrimination charges by a Dutch court, after he made a number of public, inflammatory remarks, including a comparison between the Koran and Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf."
There is also the British National Party (BNP), which has 13 local government seats in the UK and two seats in the European Parliament. Until 2010, the BNP only allowed "indigenous British" to participate in the party.
Italy has the Tricolor Flame and the National Social Front, Austria's Freedom Party is afraid of Islamization, and Germany's Die Freiheit, which holds one of about 2,000 local government seats, has made criticizing Islam its top priority.
Additionally, neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist groups still exist, mainly in Germany and Italy, but also elsewhere on the continent, especially in Russia.
The prevalence of far-right politics in Europe doesn't mean that violent extremism is common or endorsed. The fact that such parties can gain traction means, in part, that free speech and open democracy is thriving.
But, the fact that many of these parties rely on politicizing fear and inclusion is a saddening trend. Breivik is an example of how a fear of extremes can quickly lead to extremism.
"Imagine if law enforcement would visit me the next days. They would probably get the wrong idea and think I was a terrorist, lol," Breivik said, referring to his cache of bomb-making material.
Breivik's manifesto is often eloquent and well-researched. He claims that political correctness is challenging the freedoms that Europe should be enjoying. He quotes Thomas Jefferson and Immanuel Kant. But his invective takes a radical turn, and the man who once criticized the British Nationalist Party for being racist turns to violence and segregation as a solution to the problems he sees in Norway.
"All Muslims are to be immediately deported to their country of origin. Each family (family head) will receive 25 000 Euro providing they accept the deportation terms. Anyone who violently resists deportation will be executed," he writes in "2083."
For Breivik, excluding Muslims was not enough. He demanded the "destruction of heritage," including the leveling of all mosques and the forced conversion of Muslims remaining in Europe.
As of Jan. 1, 2011, there were a little more than 600,000 immigrants or children of immigrants in Norway, according to Statistics Norway. This accounts for about 12 percent of the total population, and the number is rising every year.
Oslo, not surprisingly, has the highest percentage of immigrants of any city in the country. Almost 30 percent of the population is immigrants or first generation Norwegians.
"Greater Oslo has a population of 1.4 million, making it the fastest growing city in Europe because of increased immigration," Reuters reported Friday.
While two-thirds of Norway's immigrant population comes from Europe, the country is seeing a growth in immigrants from the East. In 2011, the third and fourth biggest migrant populations came from Pakistan and Iraq, respectively.
The recent rise in immigrants from the Middle East and Central Asia has to do with Norway's open refugee policy. The Scandinavian nation, which is home to the Nobel Peace Prize, is open to victims of unstable nations and the persecuted.
"You are entitled to protection [asylum] if you are in danger of being killed, tortured or exposed to other forms of grave abuse if you return to your country of origin," the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration states.
While there are more and more immigrants from the Middle East, as well as nations like Sri Lanka, Somalia and Turkey, only two percent of the population of Norway is Muslim. Lutherans make up 88 percent of the population. However, European immigrants tend to stay in Norway for shorter periods of time than do Muslim immigrants.
In any case, this hardly seems like a "Muslim takeover" of Norway, although there is certainly a larger Islamic presence in Europe today than there was a few years ago.
Whatever the social and political conditions of Norway and Western Europe, Breivik's actions took xenophobia to an extreme that defies logic. As with other mass murderers such as Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski and the jihadists that Breivik, Wilders and the like are so afraid of, an extreme few use and embrace radicalism as an outlet for their own troubles and violent tendencies.
One must allow the far-right to have a voice, just like one must allow ethnic minorities and immigrants to have a voice. An attempt to attack or condemn a group solely upon the actions of a few is unfair, and as the world saw on Friday, dangerous.
Breivik's actions, even when backed by a rambling 1,500-page manifesto, are inconceivable. Even looking at the rise of immigration coinciding with rise of anti-immigration groups in Europe, only a small part of the picture is fathomable.