22. juli-senteret

The terrorist’s use of symbols and history

Anders Behring Breivik decorated both himself and his compendium with symbols and references to historical events. The use of symbolism shows different sides to his ideology. The front page on the more than 1,500 page-long document he sent to selected recipients on 22 July 2011 is illustrated with a red cross on a white background. The Maltese cross decorated the self-made uniform he wore and an ornament he wore around his neck.

The Maltese cross can be traced back to the historical Knights Templar order, established at the beginning of the 12th century, after Jerusalem was overtaken by the Christian crusaders. The area around the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was the order’s first headquarters, from which it also got its name. The Templars considered it their duty to protect the holy city of Jerusalem.

The compendium is decorated with images of the sword-bearing knights, wearing armour and capes with the red cross on their chest. Breivik believed a similar fight is taking place in contemporary Europe, and he uses the cross to promote hero-worshipping of people who killed Muslims in the name of Christian values.


Knights Templar

Breivik claims to be a member of an international organisation called Knights Templar (Tempelridderordenen in Norwegian). The existence of such an organisation, or his membership of it, has not been confirmed. Breivik describes the organisation as a Christian military order fighting to liberate the West from Islamic oppression.

In the compendium, he writes that he wants to become the ‘perfect knight’. To achieve this ambition, he must save Europe from multiculturalism. Breivik is not the only person to have claimed religious motives for hideous doings.

The Templars and the symbolism surrounding them are not limited to extremist forums. Best-selling novels by Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) and Jan Guillou (The Knight Templar) are examples of how the interest in these stories is reflected in popular culture.


Gates of Vienna

An historical reference often used in extreme right-wing communities is the Battle of Vienna in 1683, in which the Ottomans were driven out by German-Polish forces after laying siege to the city for two months.

The battle meant a significant loss for the Ottoman Empire and is used as a symbol in these extreme circles of Europe’s battle against Islam.  The extreme right-wing blog ‘Gates of Vienna’ was an important arena where, among others, Fjordman, one of Breivik’s inspirations, posted Islamophobic content.  The year in the title of Breivik’s compendium ‘2083’ points toward a new Battle of Vienna, 400 years later.



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