Why would the editor of a London pro-Iranian magazine write an article about the forces behind mass killer Anders Breivik, that failed to make any mention of the Islamophobic far Right?
Living Islam, the magazine of an Iranian Shia mosque in London that calls itself the Islamic Centre of England, is the latest publication to peddle the conspiracy theory claiming that Israel and Zionists were behind Anders Breivik’s terrorist massacre in Norway last year. This one, though, comes with a curious political twist regarding its author.
As Breivik’s trial winds to a close, the editorial in the May issue of Living Islam warned that people still do not understand the real meaning of Breivik’s crimes:
A more attentive research in the background of Anders Behring Breivik shows that this individual who the media have tried to associate to Christian fundamentalism is in reality a ultra-Zionist, freemason, Islamophobic who claims to belong to the Templar order of the Rose-Cross.
Our understanding is that the main media has said very little on the masonic-zionist ideology of this isolated “illuminato”.
We have written before on this blog about people who cannot help but blame ‘Zionists’ for everything bad that happens, and sure enough it is Breivik’s alleged ‘Zionism’ that Living Islam‘s editor, Amir de Martino, suggests may have been his prime motivation:
What is also not widely told is that those who were killed in cold blood on the island of Utoya were gathered to voice among other things opposition to the Zionist state of Israel by carrying banners calling for a boycott of the oppressive regime of Israel and an end to Zionism.
Or if not Israel, Martino falls back on that other favourite villain of conspiracy theorists, the USA:
Breivik, who was already near to this Atlantic and Zionist movement, has taken action on the words of the leader of the White House. He has started the war against what he calls; “the new Islamic threat effecting Europe and the rest of the Western world”.
Is it a coincidence that all this has happened in Norway? One of the few western countries with anti-American and anti-New World Order stands. Norway has clearly expressed its opinion in the well known magazine ‘Le Monde Diplomatique’.
They presented the possibility that the government of the United State (sic) could have been the hidden hand behind the attack of 11th September 2001. This was a strong view that pointed the finger at the American government. Could Norway have become the target of a punitive action?
It seems naive to believe that this cold bloodily executed action is act (sic) of a simple fool illuminato without any link to surrounding forces.
As Martino says:
We do not wish to appear obsessed by conspiracy theories but it is sometime very difficult to understand how it is possible that certain details are systematically left out of the picture.
The Islamic Centre of England is closely connected to the Iranian government – its Director, Ayatollah Abdolhossein Moezi, is the personal representative in Britain of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei – so it is not surprising that its in-house magazine should contain the kind of Zionist conspiracy nonsense that the Iranian government and state media regularly peddle.
For example, Moezi himself blamed the inflammatory actions of a handful of crazy Christian Islamophobes in America on:
a conspiracy planned by the agents of international Zionism intent to create tension between Christians and Muslims
But there is a specifically European twist to this particular story. Before becoming the Islamic Centre of England’s Educational Officer, Amir de Martino was plain old Marco de Martino, an Italian neofascist who converted to Islam in 1987. According to this 2007 article in La Stampa (original in Italian, translated by CST):
Marco de Martino was born in Napoli in 1964. At the start of the 1980s he got involved in the Neapolitan far right scene, and the ‘Camp Hobbit’, the gatherings of the young neofascists. In 1985, after graduating from hotel-management school, he left for London with the aim of learning English. Instead he found work in the fashion world and did not go back to Italy. In 1987 he converted to Shiite Islam, took the name of ‘Amir’ and married an Iranian woman. It was a new life for him: he took a degree in Persian and Islamic Studies, obtained a doctorate at the Islamic College for Advanced Studies, and in 1996 he started to collaborate with the Islamic Centre of England, where, in short, he made a career. Today he has one of the key positions at the centre, is the person responsible for interreligious relations, holds conferences, and occasionally also leads Friday prayers.
‘Camp Hobbit’ was a youth camp run by the Italian neofascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) in the early 1980s. Amir was not the first neofascist in his family to convert to Ayatollah Khomeini’s particular brand of revolutionary Islam; as La Stampa explains, his father had done the same three years earlier:
It seems like a life ago. When, instead of the ring with the beloved amber of Muhammad, Marco sported the cross and attended the ‘Camp Hobbit’, the meetings of young ‘missini’ believed in “The Lord of the Rings” and “Mein Kampf”. His father, Luigi Ammar De Martino, a militant in the Neapolitan far right during the 1970s, and door to door Evangelical preacher, is the leader of a Shiite group “Il Puro Islam”, a few tens of Italians who turned in old age from Neofascism to the Quran.
According to the Italy section of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism’s 2002/3 annual report :
The most noteworthy periodical of the Muslim community is Il Puro Islam, published by the Islamist Shi’ite association Ahl-al-Bait of Naples, led by Luigi Ammar De Martino, and made up of former militants of the extreme right, converts to Islam.
Now, many people pass through extremist movements in their youth and leave them as they grow up. And of course, for a fascist to convert to Islam would normally indicate a complete rejection of their former views.
However in 1994 Luigi Ammar – Amir’s father - gave an interview to The Line, a short-lived UK publication closely aligned to a different Shia mosque in London, in which he described his own political background and reasons for conversion (not online). In this interview, Ammar suggests that his particular conversion was actually inspired by one particular idea he picked up on the Italian far right: admiration for the Iranian revolution:
Before I became Muslim I was active in Italian politics to be more precise I was a militant of the Italian extra-parliamentarian right wing. My interest in Islam started with the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
When I came to know of this Islamic Revolution I liked the message which was coming out – it was against Communism and Capitalism and therefore it had the same objectives that I had or at least this was my impression.
before I became a Muslim during the time of political activism I was a Traditionalist, I belonged to that current of thought that sees in the West a decadent phase in the history of humanity … that Western society is a rotten one, that Western man is decadent because he has lost his spirituality and has moved away from God, and that man needs to find God again. I believed likewise…
There are, for example, groups of traditionalists [in Italy] that are great admirers of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. They say that Europe is in decadence and that the salvation of Europe can come from Islam. On many occasions in their publications they have paid tribute to Ayatollah Khomeini and to the Islamic Revolution, and some of the Italian converts come from this background. Naturally like me when they enter Islam they leave their previous political activity.
Long-time observers of the European fascist scene will recognise this as a description of the Third Positionist politics that rose to prominence in several European countries in the 1980s. In Italy it even stretched to terrorism, although there is no suggestion that either Martino was involved in that.
This New York Review of Books article from 1981 lays out in some detail the Italian neofascist scene at the time; the ideology of Third Positionism (including its fascination with Tolkein); and the growing problem of far right terrorism in several European countries.
In Britain, Third Positionism enjoyed the support of the current BNP leader Nick Griffin, but its only significant legacy was the destruction of the National Front though endless sectarian splits. We wrote about British Third Positionism in more depth in a three-part blog, which included Griffin’s fundraising trip to Libya, his failed attempts to build an alliance with Palestinians and black nationalists, and, yes, admiration for the Iranian revolution.
When The Line interviewed Ammar they asked him whether reports of attacks on foreigners in Italy indicated that the far right posed a danger to Muslims, but he was quite dismissive:
Concerning the rise of the right-wing movement and the neo-Nazi threat, we must not get worried by the reports of the Western media.
There is a problem of general discontent towards immigrants in general [...] There is no specific hate for Islam. in fact as far as I know those who have become the target of the nationalist movement are non-Muslim or non-practising Muslims who often are involved in clashes with locals. These are elements who do not practise Islam who have found their way into the Italian crime society.
I don’t see this as a problem for the Muslims nor do I see at the moment a problem coming from the right-wing extremists.
It is curious, to say the least, that Ammar would have sought to play down the well-documented threat posed by the far right to European Muslims in the 1990s, just as it is bizarre that his son, writing in an official publication of the main Iranian mosque in London, would not mention the European far right in his attempt to explain Anders Breivik’s crimes.
As for Amir, according to La Stampa his employer, the Islamic Centre of England, is “controlled” by Ayatollah Khamenei and “financed by Tehran” (although the article does not make it clear whether Amir confirmed this). And what does Amir do there?
Amir organises interntional conventions, such as the one with the Neturei Karta rabbis, the “special guest”, ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist Jews at the conference on the Holocaust of Tehran. Nothing new for the ex-neofascist (“Last time, however, I voted communist”), who ignores the Italian debate on Holocaust denial. “The Shoah has left me sceptical since I was young”.
Another of Amir’s jobs at the Islamic Centre of England is to organise and host visits from school children seeking to learn about Islam. I think there are probably better mosques for schools to visit, than one with close links to the Iranian regime, which employs as its educational officer a former neofascist who is “sceptical” about the Holocaust and who would rather suggest that Anders Breivik was some kind of Zionist agent than address the threat posed by Europe’s current far right.