CNN) -- The threat of domestic terrorist attacks in the United States similar to last week's fatal bombing and assault in Norway is significant and growing, analysts said Monday.The greatest threat of large-scale attacks come from individuals and small groups of extremists who subscribe to radical Islamic or far right-wing ideologies, said Gary LaFree, director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START.While extremist animal rights and environmental groups also pose threats, those groups either have not tended to seek to kill or have only targeted individuals, according to researchers.But extremist right-wingers -- from Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to a neo-Nazi accused of trying to bomb a Martin Luther King Day parade this year -- have shown a willingness to target the public, LaFree said.Such groups are among the fastest-growing extremist organizations in the country, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February. Right wing anti-government groups grew by 60% in 2010 over the previous year, the center reported, attributing much of the growth to militia groups.The group also reported a smaller increase in the number of anti-immigrant vigilante groups, SPLC reported.
The suspect in the Oslo, Norway, bombings published papers on the Internet stressing "unity over diversity" and calling for a violent response to a policy of multiculturalism that he said was destroying European society.
Despite the rise of anti-government militia groups and the sovereign citizen movement -- whose adherents say they are not subject to U.S. law or taxation -- highly organized white supremacist groups have suffered setbacks in recent years with some of the movement's leaders imprisoned and others stripped of their resources by civil lawsuits, said Gary Ackerman, research director at START.But as McVeigh and Terry Nichols showed in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City -- in which 168 people died -- it doesn't take a large group to pull off a devastating attack.
Most adherents to extremist ideologies are harmless, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino."Most of them are not going to do anything but bore their relatives and friends with ridiculous papers and treatises," he said.But a divisive political climate, often coupled with personal disappointments and a personality receptive to extreme views, can help turn believers into dangerous actors willing to use violence to further their ideological beliefs, Levin said, adding that he believes the greatest threat is not from large organized groups but rather individuals or small cells.The sense that society is falling apart because of foreign influence is often a lure to people who become members of extremist groups, no matter where those groups fall on the political or religious spectrum, Levin said."The notion that the political bonds that used to hold us together are falling apart will cause people to opt out," he said.But the threat from Islamic terrorism tends to get the lion's share of media coverage, not to mention law enforcement attention, Ackerman of START said.Ackerman said nationally, law enforcement has been focused since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001 on the threat of Islamic terrorism, even as the threat from domestic anti-government groups has been growing."Some people believe we have taken our eye off the ball when it comes to domestic right-wing extremists," he said.And some efforts to combat the problem have been controversial. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security was forced to apologize in 2009 after a report surfaced warning law enforcement of the possibility that veterans returning from combat were susceptible to being radicalized by right-wing groups.State police also seem more focused on the Islamic threat, Ackerman said.State police agencies polled by START researchers in 2008 overwhelmingly reported the presence of potentially dangerous extremist groups across the political spectrum, with nearly 90% saying neo-Nazi, skinhead, militia groups and other right-wing groups were present in their state. About two-thirds reported radical Islamic groups.But they tended to rank Islamic terrorists as the greatest concern ahead of right-wing groups in terms of the threat posed, LaFree said."I think there's a little bit of perceptual bias there," he said.
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In the immediate aftermath of 1995’s Oklahoma City bombing, much of the news media rushed to suggest that a Muslim, or at least a Middle Eastern connection, was behind the attack.News reports on television and in print featured Middle East terrorism experts claiming the Oklahoma City attack echoed a World Trade Center bombing two years earlier and that it contained parallels to recent Mideast attacks.The FBI picked up Ibrahim Ahmad, a Jordanian American, for questioning in an initial dragnet.
Of course, it turned out that the attacker was homegrown and named Timothy McVeigh, not a Muslim.
Sixteen years later, not much has changed.The tragic events that took place in Norway on Friday provoked initial accusations against Muslims worldwide. Of course, that proved to be the farthest thing from the truth.Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed bomber and shooter in this horrendous act, was not motivated by the teachings of Islam, but by the teachings of those who oppose Islam.A 1,500-page manifesto that appears to be written by Breivik is an anti-Islamic tirade
It calls for a European civil war to overthrow governments, end multiculturalism and execute "cultural Marxists." The manifesto includes a link to a video asserting that the majority of Europe's population will be Muslim by 2050 "unless we manage to defeat the ruling Multiculturalist Alliance."The author of the document identifies himself as Breivik, but CNN could not independently verify that he wrote the document, and Norwegian authorities would not confirm that the man in their custody wrote the manifesto, saying it was part of their investigationOpposition to booming Muslim immigration to Europe, exacerbated by high birth rates in the Muslim community, has become a mainstay of Europe's burgeoning far-right, helping right-wing parties gain seats in parliaments across the continent.But those right-wing movements are mostly secular. Europe's hard right does not have deep ties to Christianity in the way that the United States' conservative movement is entwined with evangelical Christianity and other theologically conservative religious movements.
Recently adopted European laws aimed at curbing Islam's public visibility, including France's new burqa ban and Switzerland ban on minarets - towers that a part of mosques - were secular causes, not ones championed by Christian interests. Many Christian groups oppose such bans."The bulk of the anti-Muslim sentiment is not against Muslims as such, but is a secular rejection of how some Muslims allegedly want to place Islam at the center of society," Buck said. "It is more anti-religious than anti-Muslim."Breivik's apparent manifesto, by contrast, cites biblical verses to justify violence for political ends."Clearly, this is not a pacifist God we serve," it says. "It's God who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, His people are commanded to fight with the best weapons available to them at that time.""The biggest threat to Europe is the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist political doctrine of 'extreme egalitarian emotionalism,'" the manifesto goes on. "This type of political stance involves destroying Christendom, the Church, our European cultures and identities and opening up our borders to Islamic colonization."The video that's linked to in the manifesto also includes some religious language: "Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution, for we will soon dine in the Kingdom of Heaven."Experts on religion in Europe said those faith-infused views are likely peculiar to the suspected gunman and do not appear reflect wider religious movements, even as they echoes grievances of Europe's right-wing political groups."He was a flaky extremist who might as well have claimed to be fighting for the honor of Hogwarts as for the cause of Christ," said Philip Jenkins, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies global religion and politics, describing the suspected Norway attacker. "He did not represent a religious movement. ... People should not follow that Christian fundamentalist red herring."At the same time, Breivik told investigators during interviews that he belongs to an international order, The Knights Templar, according to Norwegian newspaper VG, which cited unnamed sources.He described the organization as an armed Christian order, fighting to rid the West of Islamic suppression, the newspaper said. He also told investigators he had been in contact with like-minded individuals and said he counts himself as a representative of this order, it said.For many in Norway, the potential implications of the suspected killer's religion are still settling in.This is the first time we've heard of Christianity/religion as a driving force behind right-wing extremism," Buck said. "The mainstream right-wing movements in the Nordic countries (very small and disorganized groups in Norway) would generally point to the Old Norse beliefs, if anything.""Norwegian, Nordic and European society," he said, "were totally unprepared for a violent attack from someone who calls himself Christian."cnn