Common Motives of the White Supremacist and Islamist Terrorists

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by Neil Godfrey

Last night I read through the Christchurch (NZ) terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s ‘manifesto’, The Great Replacement, and was disturbed at how rational so much of it sounded. It did not read like the incoherent ravings of a madman and I suppose that’s what made it particularly disturbing.

I refer to white supremacy throughout the following but for what it’s worth Tarrant describes himself as an “ethno-nationalist” and “eco-fascist”.

Similarity 1 — free the homeland

Bin Laden wanted “crusaders” out of Muslim lands. Islamists fought the Russians in Afghanistan for that reason and then turned on the U.S. for its troop presence in the Arabian peninsula. Other Islamists followed and declared their intent ultimately to see the Western imperialist powers leave Muslim lands withdraw their financial and military support for pro-Western “secular-Muslim” dictators.

Brenton Tarrant makes a similar point his central theme: to declare war on “the invaders” of “European lands”. His consistent term for immigrants is “invaders”. Australia and New Zealand are included in his definition of European. The reason he says he chose New Zealand in the end was to demonstrate that there was no place on earth that “invaders” could go where they would be safe.

It hardly needs to spelled out that there is a significant difference between a people who enter foreign lands to secure control over resources and related strategic interests in the one case and those who enter foreign lands escaping from the ravages of war and breakdowns of civil society in the other. But that’s not how Tarrant sees it.

For the white supremacist the threat is that “white” and “European” people will become an oppressed minority because of the higher birthrate among the “invaders”. And race is a biological reality, he writes. The unarmed “invader” is actually a more serious threat than the armed invader because the unarmed are not opposed and are allowed to “take over” and “replace” the whites by default. If we would shoot armed invaders it is even more imperative to shoot unarmed invaders. Children, too, because they will grow up to become adult oppressors. (That reminds me of the argument used by certain Israelis to justify the killing of Palestinian babies and children.)

Similarity 2 — provoke a violent response

Bin Laden anticipated that the 9/11 attacks would provoke the U.S. into invading Middle Eastern countries in retaliation and that would result eventually in bringing the Muslim-West confrontation to a head with the eventual victory for the former. A violent response would radicalize many more opponents of the West to action and they experienced the ever more brutal revenge of the Western war machine.

The Great Replacement expresses a similar hope: that Muslims will retaliate to his act with similar violence and so bring about even more hatred and active resistance from the “whites” against them, eventually forcing them to leave. Not only on a local level, but even on a world-wide scale the author hopes for a further clear division between Western/European powers and Islamic nations.

(The tract even hopes for an ever more hostile debate over gun ownership in the United States in particular. So much so that eventually it will end in violence with those with the guns winning once and for all.)

Similarity 3 — revenge

Islamist terrorists speak of the Western imperialist nations as “crusaders”. They see a litany of barbarous crimes by Europeans (and their white appendage nations) extending back centuries.

The white supremacists (at least in The Great Replacement) reject the term “Islamophobe” because they do not fear Islam itself. But they do demonize the Muslims by presenting their history as one long bloody river of conquest and murders from the sixth century right up to today.

Does anyone else think here of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and how the Jews were demonized as a race throughout their history and up to the present day?

Similarity 4 — inspire by example

Tarrant says he does not act for fame and glory. He knows his name will not be remembered years from now. But he does express hope that by taking the “necessary” action that he has he will encourage others who feel the same way to follow and do the same.

Certainly some Islamists have acted for fame, but more commonly to set an “inspiring example” of courage to others.

Similarity 5 — belief in violence

Democracy is “mob rule” with the mob controlled by corporate powers, says the white supremacist in The Great Replacement. No great victory was ever won without sacrifice in blood. Violence, war, is the only way.

By contrast, white societies are said to be becoming weak because of their preference for diversity over unity, for their weak-willed acceptance of the dilution of their culture in the face of the foreign “invader”. Survival depends on more whites rising up to literally fight and die, to take on violence to save their culture and race.

Islamist literature exalts violence, too, and glorifies the blood of martyrs. Enough said.

Similarity 6 — vision of a future paradise

Oswald Mosley

If Islamists envisioned a “pure” Islamic society on earth and paradise in heaven, we read in The Great Replacement a vision of a future where white nations (and eventually all humanity) are living in freedom and in harmony with a protected and flourishing green and clean and fruitful environment. It reminds me of the Nazi vision but Tarrant insists he is not a Nazi. Yet he does profess dedication to the vision of the pre-WW2 British fascist Oswald Mosley.

. . .

That’s enough. I just wanted to make a note of the above while still fresh in my mind after reading The Great Replacement. Normally in a more serious analysis I would cite passages from both the work discussed and those I’m comparing it with. Maybe I will do that to add some weight to the points above at a future date.

Tarrant, Brenton. 2019. “The Great Replacement: Towards a New Society.”

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Neil Godfrey

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18 thoughts on “Common Motives of the White Supremacist and Islamist Terrorists”

  1. It seems as if we can’t escape this human tendency to oversimply things in terms of “the Good Guys,” “the Bad Guys,” “the Present Crisis,” and “the Magic Solution That Will Usher In Utopian Paradise.” But when you think about it, these are the same themes in many of our religions and our nationalistic politics. A psycho individual believes this and commits mass murder, the people of a country start believing this and suddenly the US is invading Vietnam to “protect democracy” from “the domino effect” spread of communism or the US invades the Middle East to “defeat the terrorists.” The same rationale is given by rational-sounding national leaders (we are the good guys, they are the bad guys, there is a crisis and we must act in order to bring about truth, justice, and whatever), and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people end up dead.

    Very sad. I hope NZ does pass new gun laws. That would be the only small upside to this.

  2. Humanity are paying the price for not having destroyed Fascism as political ideology and also its failure to transform the economical social relations that as the basis for it.

  3. I think you’re spot on Neil. And others have noticed the same things you have:

    “Both are paranoid, exhibit a toxic blend of superiority and inferiority toward the other, are scornful of less extreme members of their own communities, and are nostalgic for an imagined past of cultural dominance.”

    He lists more similarities too that are interesting to contemplate, such as disdain for modernity and a conspiratorial belief in their own elites’ collusion with “the enemy.” And this:

    “Tarrant oozes victimhood, equating the perceived erosion of privilege with oppression, rather like Islamists in some Muslim-majority countries who regard any concessions to minorities or women as a sign of their own repression. He appropriates the language of occupation, anti-colonialism and the oppressed, despite living in a society founded by European settlers.”

    He also notes their shared, and often kooky, anti-Semitism.


    “White supremacists and radical Islamists sound exactly alike” by Khaled Diab at:


    1. The antisemitism of the far right is something I am still learning about. I saw the chants against Jews at the Charlottesville rally and assumed they were all antisemites. But I see their leading speaker that day, Richard Spencer, admires the ethnic cleansing policies of Zionist Israel.

      Inspired by Israel’s example as an exclusionary ethnic state, he described his political position as “a white Zionist”, as he wants white people “to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves”.[3]

      [3] = T. Staff (Aug 17, 2017). “White nationalist Richard Spencer tells Israelis that Jews are ‘over-represented'”. timesofisrael.com. Archived from the original on August 19, 2018. “Alt-right leader describes himself as a ‘white Zionist’, saying he wants a secure homeland for ‘my people’ like the Jews have in Israel”

      Further, Anders Breivik in his manifesto, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, writes about two types of Jews:

      Were the majority of the German and European Jews disloyal? Yes, at least the so called
      liberal Jews, similar to the liberal Jews today that opposes nationalism/Zionism and
      supports multiculturalism. Jews that support multiculturalism today are as much of a
      threat to Israel and Zionism (Israeli nationalism) as they are to us. So let us fight
      together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural
      Marxists/multiculturalists. Conservative Jews were loyal to Europe and should have been
      rewarded. Instead, he just targeted them all… So, are the current Jews in Europe and US
      disloyal? The multiculturalist (nation-wrecking) Jews ARE while the conservative Jews
      ARE NOT. Aprox. 75% of European/US Jews support multiculturalism while aprox. 50% of
      Israeli Jews does the same. This shows very clearly that we must embrace the remaining
      loyal Jews as brothers rather than repeating the mistake of the NSDAP.

      Tarrant simply says in The Great Replacement,

      A jew living in israel is no enemy of mine, so long as they do not seek
      to subvert or harm my people.

      Most disturbing is the clear alliance between the extreme right in Israel and far right supremacists in Europe and the English speaking world as seen in the following video, especially from minute 51:00 — click on Vimeo below: https://vimeo.com/324402664

      See also https://witchhuntfilm.org/

  4. I looked up the manifesto, and several particularly insane items stood out for me.

    One of Tarrant’s heroes is Skanderbeg, who was an Albanian national hero who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. (Serbs have also claimed him because he was an Orthodox Christian fighting Muslims.)

    Another hero, more disturbingly, is Serbian Radovan Karadzic, the “Butcher of Bosnia,” convicted in 2016 of genocide in Srebrenica, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. White nationalists seem to have adopted him as a hero because some of his victims were Muslim, although these were Muslims of European stock.

    And – he is calling for Istanbul to be restored as Constantinople, and Hagia Sophia to be reclaimed as a Christian cathedral, with the minarets removed. (Hagia Sophia was turned into mosque by the Ottoman Turks, and then into a historical museum by the modern Turkish state, but conservatives in Turkey are now calling for it to be restored as a mosque because of this manifesto.)

    Restoring Constantinople is a theme that shows up periodically in Russian political rhetoric. Putin has threatened Erdogan with ending the job that Tsar Nicholas II left unfinished – the reconquest of Constantinople. Putin was probably joking. But I wonder exactly how much white nationalism owes to Russian trolling.

    1. That vimeo video I linked to above, in the last ten minutes or so, vividly portrays the rise of far right extremists throughout Europe today, and we know that has certainly included Russia.

      1. I have not watched that hour long video, but yes, there is a rise of far right extremists. But there is also a deliberate strategy on the part of Putin to sow discord and division. Russian trolls have egged on both sides of the debates on vaccines, on GMOs, on racial bias. Is there a similar effort to fan the flames of right wing extremism, just to cause trouble? Is Putin any more Christian than Trump?

        I only wonder this because I don’t see any good reason for a White Nationalist from a former British colony to idolize a Serbian war criminal, or to advocate returning Istanbul to Christian rule.

        1. I don’t believe we need any support from Russian authorities to explain those views. White suprmacists, from what I have been able to learn, see themselves as first and foremost as “white European” in race and culture, even those from “a former British colony”. Australia and NZ are considered extensions of Europe, racially and culturually. Their interest in and identification with white Europe (inc UK) is not diluted by being Australian. They have the same historical view of Muslims as invaders who need to be driven back from all lands to where they have migrated and, in former centuries, conquered.

        2. Note also that Tarrant was radicalized while touring Europe. It was the fate of Swedish Ebba Akerlund and his experience of what he would call the “demographic imbalance” in southern French towns that radicalized him – according to his manifesto.

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