Norwegian home-grown xenophobic terrorist Anders Breivik, we’ve recently learned, did not kill as many people as first feared last Friday, when the total of dead from Olso and Utøya threatened to reach a hundred. The current death toll stands at over 70, although searchers in boats and a mini-submarine are still trawling through the cold waters of the Tyrifjorden surrounding the island of Utøya. The Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg has pledged to reveal the names of all the dead soon, and the government will pay for their funerals.
The youngest killed, Sharidyn Svebakk-Bohn, had turned 14 years old just a few days before she was murdered in cold blood.
In his rambling manifesto, much of it plagiarized, Breivik is clear that he wants to start a war of sixty years. Why he thinks any modern war would last until 2071 is obscure. If he lives, Breivik will be 92 that year. One can only assume he envisioned himself being rolled out in a wheelchair as the Grand Old Man of the war, his vision of a Norway sans Islam – in fact, lacking anyone different from Breivik – complete.
His cartoonishly long manifesto also deals with other matters on Breivik’s mind and in his history, and one of those bears such an extraordinary resemblance to the thinking of traditional male Muslims that it’s worth examining.
Anders Breivik is the only child of his parents’ short marriage. His father Jens, a career diplomat and support of the Labor Party, now retired in rural France, had three children from a former marriage; when he divorced Anders’s mother Wenche the year after their nuptials, he quickly wed the woman he left her for and soon went to France, after which Anders saw him very seldom and not at all for the past 16 years. Wenche had entered her marriage with Jens as the mother of a young daughter (Elisabeth) from a previous relationship – after Jens left, both Anders and his half-sister lived in Oslo with their mother. A photo of the three of them at the California wedding of Elisabeth shows a handsome family group.
Whether one agrees with modern Scandinavian culture or not, sexual activity outside marriage is very common there. As long as an adult or older teenager is not hurting anyone else, and taking precautions against disease and pregnancy, Norwegian respect for the individual holds that one’s sex life is one’s own.
Not so the male Muslim mind, for whom sexuality outside marriage is forbidden – for women. A divorced Muslim woman who attempts a loving sexual relationship can expect to be criticized, abused, even killed by the men in her family, including her sons. An unmarried young woman, even one in love, must be chastised, even murdered in what are ridiculously titled “honor killings” . . . again, by her male relatives. Control over female sexuality is viewed as a right that adheres to any man in the Muslim family. A woman who takes control of her own body simply does not possess the right to do so, yet rather than reason, Muslim men all over the world (even in the US) use violence to stop her.
Reading the manifesto’s chilling descriptions of Breivik’s scorn, even hatred, for his mother and half-sister, it’s hard to escape the similarities between his thought processes and those of a traditional Muslim man. Breivik criticized both Elisabeth and Wenche for their sexual lives, claiming Elisabeth had “too many” lovers, and that Wenche remarried a man with strong sexual appetites.
Nowhere does he discuss going to them, expressing concern that they were hurting themselves, perhaps choosing the wrong partners. Nowhere is there love expressed, or the suggestions of a man who cares about his female relatives. In fact, Breivik has been described as being a “mummy’s boy”. He himself lamented his “matriarchal” upbringing, though he also despised the stepfather who for a short time joined the family.
What Breivik truly bewailed was female power. What he loathed – this man with no girlfriends – was female control over one’s own body. What he planned to do days before his terror attacks was hire two prostitutes (two!) and drink champagne, in a pre-celebration that would have demonstrated only more disdain for women.
While Breivik did not murder his mother or half-sister among the dozens of female lives he ended, it’s hard to see any distinction in the attitudes he held about them and those held by a traditional Muslim man. Female power is to be restrained. Control over female bodies belongs to male relatives, even to a son. Men have the right to criticize and scorn women’s relationships, instead of the responsibility to bring their concerns lovingly, peacefully, to the women themselves.
Breivik may hate Muslim men. What he sees, however, is simply a reflection of his own darkness.