The monster who slaughtered at least 76 innocent victims in Norway was animated by the same blend of paranoia, xenophobia and alienation that fuels anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. Yes, it could happen here.

One could argue that it already did, in Oklahoma City. The difference is that Timothy McVeigh’s apocalyptic anger was diffuse and nonspecific. Anders Behring Breivik — who has acknowledged detonating a powerful fertilizer bomb in central Oslo and then killing scores of teenagers and young adults on a nearby resort island — was focused like a laser beam on what he saw as the “threat” posed by Islam.

The judge who presided over Breivik’s arraignment Monday said the accused mass murderer “believes that he needed to carry out these acts to save Norway (from) cultural Marxism and Muslim domination.”

In a 1,500-page screed setting out his philosophy, Breivik referred favorably to the work of several well-known anti-Muslim polemicists in the United States — zealots who usually boast of their influence but now, for some reason, seek to deny it.

Breivik quoted Robert Spencer, a writer who runs a website called Jihad Watch, more than 60 times. Spencer is the author of such books as “Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam Is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs,” “Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t” and “The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion.”

On his website, Spencer responded Monday that “the Breivik murders are being used to discredit all resistance to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism.” He sought to draw a parallel: “Charles Manson thought he heard instructions to kill in the Beatles song ‘Helter Skelter’ and committed mass murder. There were no instructions to kill in the song.”

The comparison is absurd, of course. There’s nothing in “Helter Skelter” about Sharon Tate or any of Manson’s other victims; the angriest line is “You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer.” Spencer’s oeuvre, by contrast, is all about how Muslims supposedly threaten all who love peace and freedom.

In his manifesto, Breivik also cites the Atlas Shrugs blog run by Pamela Geller, who was one of the most vitriolic opponents of the proposed Islamic center and mosque in Lower Manhattan. On Sunday, Geller wrote that the “Islamic/leftist machine” is trying to blame the massacre on “those of us who are working diligently to educate the people.”

Who, then, was responsible for Breivik’s rage? “Anders Behring Breivik is responsible for his actions,” Geller wrote. “If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists.”

At least one anti-Muslim blogger had the decency to acknowledge feeling “terrible” about being cited in Breivik’s writings. The anonymous “Baron Bodissey,” who runs a website called Gates of Vienna, wrote that Breivik “is a monster and deserves just as little pity as he gave to his innocent, unarmed victims.”

Unfortunately, the blogger went on to write that Breivik’s “total lack of respect for human life is not, however, something he can have picked up from me, or from any of the other Islam-critical writers I know. … Indeed, the lack of respect for human life is often one of the great shortcomings of Islamic culture that we have consistently pointed out.”

Think about the implications of that last sentence. If Muslims have no respect for human life, then why should anyone respect their lives? Or, for that matter, the lives of the government officials who invite Muslims to live among us? Or the lives of the sons and daughters of such traitorous quislings?

Breivik apparently saw the Muslim presence in Norway and the rest of Europe as a result of immigration and “multiculturalism” — and as a threat to indigenous civilization and culture. It is true that European societies have struggled at assimilation; witness the growth of right-wing, anti-immigrant political parties across the continent. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that Europe’s adjustment to its new diversity will take time and effort.

But the reality here is completely different. Assimilation is something the United States does as well as any country on Earth. Our proven ability to transform immigrants into Americans gives us a competitive advantage at a time when the populations of developed nations are aging rapidly.

One reason the world’s best and brightest still want to come here is that the Constitution protects freedom of worship. No matter what the prejudiced purveyors of anti-Islam vitriol might say, this guarantee covers Muslims just like everybody else.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)

© 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

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