Had he been a Somali immigrant named Mohammed, it is doubtful that Anders Behring Breivik would have ever gotten as far as he did. It is more than likely, though not certain, that he would’ve been flagged by the Norwegian PST as a security risk a long time ago, stopped from acquiring his tools of murder and promptly deported.
But had Mohammed succeeded against the odds in realising his grisly dream, we would find ourselves living in a very different Scandinavia. We would be grappling with a rising tide of anti-Muslim violence. “Anti-multiculturalist” ideologues would churn out ever more vitriolic blog posts denouncing the immigration policies of their “traitorous” governments; those already voted to power would use their bully pulpits to rally kindred souls across political lines. Populist parties with anti-Islam agendas thinly disguised as “anti-immigration” would grow ever more powerful. The vocabulary of xenophobic hate speech would continue to permeate the national discourse, and no one would dare to challenge those encouraging it, for they would now be the majority.
Mohammed himself would be fair game for speculation and innuendo. His religious beliefs and ideological background would be probed, examined, analysed, mulled over and written about endlessly. Any connection, however tenuous, with radicals in other countries would be exploited to sell newspapers, discredit political opponents and pour scorn over his religion. Every detail of his online existence would be combed for more evidence of his radicalisation; after all, people would say, terrorists don’t grow in a vacuum.
In the end, everyone would agree that Mohammed was crazy — and not just any kind of crazy, but a crazy Muslim. And no one would think he was a loner. These fanatics never are, people would say — there’s always some hate-spewing bigot somewhere egging them on.
And the big question, after all the pondering and analysing and mulling-over, would not be “what made Mohammed a psychopath” but “what kind of a religion makes someone that way”.