July 31st, 2011
02:00 PM ET

What is the Knights Templar?

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

The group has come to everyone's attention because of Anders Behring Breivik's killing spree in Norway, now just over a week ago. He claimed in his rambling manifesto to represent a modern-day "Knights Templar".

But who are they?

The name might ring a bell, especially if you've seen The DaVinci Code or National Treasure or one of any number of recent films. But these are, of course, all fictional. What are the facts?

The Knights Templar were a Christian military order founded in the early 12th century. Its members were said to be elite warriors who wore distinctive white mantles with a red cross. They made their reputation by winning a series of battles in the Crusades.

Ironically, the Knights' first headquarters were in a mosque - the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem - because they believed it was built on top of the ruins of Solomon's Temple. Their name, templar, comes from that legendary temple.

The Knights' main job was said to be protecting Christian pilgrims from Muslims (amongst others). To this day, the site of the mosque and the temple mount remains one of the most heavily disputed place on earth.

The order of the Knights Templar was dissolved in 1312, but its legacy lives on. Rumors still swirl that the group exists in total secrecy and guards the Holy Grail.

From what sounds like fiction, back to fact: We know that Brevik saw himself as a Knight Templar.

But get this: Halfway across the world from Norway, a new drug gang has recently arisen in Mexico. They call themselves quite simply "The Knights Templar".

And they claim to live by a religious code, a copy of which the Associated Press recently obtained. It says the drug-dealing knights will "defend the values of society...against materialism, injustice and tyranny" and that its members will be "honorable", "noble", "courteous" and "honest".

So they are "honest" drug dealers, selling marijuana, cocaine and whatever else in the name of God?

Anders Breivik's fascination with the Knights is less bizarre - in fact, he's part of a larger movement. People like Breivik are trying to resurrect the idea of a modern-day Crusade, a real clash of civilizations against what they see as an Islamic invasion of Europe.

In fact, Muslims make up only about 3 % of Europe's population and are likely to rise to between 5% and 8% by 2025 and level out at that point. But that doesn't change the reality of the anger, hatred and violence.

Ironically, in Breivik's nostalgic view of the medieval world, the Knights Templar resembles nothing so much as al Qaeda, a terrorist organization that is fundamentally opposed to the modern world.

We still don't know if Breivik's boast that there are more lone knights like him waiting to act is true. But if his depiction of the knight as a self-sacrificing assassin on a larger holy mission sounds familiar, it's because it too is mirrored in Islamist terror. That's exactly what a suicide bomber is: A lone fighter, often acting in the so-called interests of a larger movement and willing to kill innocents to draw attention to the cause.

While we have all focused on the dangers of radical Islam and of Muslim terror, the attack in Norway should remind us that there is actually a pretty large problem of other sources of terrorism in the West.

The European Union's 2010 Terrorism Situation and Trend Report has some fascinating findings. It showed that of the 294 terror attacks committed in Europe in 2009, only one was conducted by Islamists. That's a third of one percent.

The most recent statistics show there were 249 terror attacks in Europe in 2010. Only three of those attacks were carried out by Islamist terrorists. Again, that's about one percent. Most of the attacks were by separatist groups or anarchists.

So perhaps that's the lesson we can learn from the events in Norway. Islamic radicalism is a real problem and Islamic terrorism a real threat. But if we ignore other kinds of threats we're likely to be blindsided by another Gabby Giffords shooting or another Virginia Tech massacre.

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soundoff (314 Responses)
  1. Saiful Islam

    If out of 294 terror attacks committed in Europe in 2009, only one was by Islamist; and in 2010, it was three out of 249. Then why the media kept us blindfolded only to show muslims in every act of terror?

    August 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Reply
    • Brent

      You cannot deny that Islamic fundamentalists are the #1 threat to the world today. First of all, I highly doubt those statistics are accurate, but even if the terrorism statistics are true, worldwide, the majority of attacks, etc. is done by Muslims. I am not attacking the religion but let's face facts: there is an EXTREMELY violent faction in Islam that needs to be dealt with. Only a fundamental change in the Islamic world will do that so please stop defending these people.

      August 8, 2011 at 12:46 am | Reply
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  3. THIERRY

    The group has come to everyone's attention because of Anders Behring Breivik's killing spree in Norway, now just over a week ago. He claimed in his rambling manifesto to represent a modern-day "Knights Templar". But who are they? The name might ring a bell, especially if you've seen The DaVinci Code or National Treasure or one of any number of recent films. But these are, of course, all fictional. What are the facts? The Knights Templar were a Christian military order founded in the early 12th century. Its members were said to be elite warriors who wore distinctive white mantles with a red cross. They made their reputation by winning a series of battles in the Crusades. Ironically, the Knights' first headquarters were in a mosque – the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem – because they believed it was built on top of the ruins of Solomon's Temple. Their name, templar, comes from that legendary temple. The Knights' main job was said to be protecting Christian pilgrims from Muslims (amongst others). To this day, the site of the mosque and the temple mount remains one of the most heavily disputed place on earth. The order of the Knights Templar was dissolved in 1312, but its legacy lives on. Rumors still swirl that the group exists in total secrecy and guards the Holy Grail. From what sounds like fiction, back to fact: We know that Brevik saw himself as a Knight Templar. But get this: Halfway across the world from Norway, a new drug gang has recently arisen in Mexico. They call themselves quite simply "The Knights Templar". And they claim to live by a religious code, a copy of which the Associated Press recently obtained. It says the drug-dealing knights will "defend the values of society...against materialism, injustice and tyranny" and that its members will be "honorable", "noble", "courteous" and "honest". So they are "honest" drug dealers, selling marijuana, cocaine and whatever else in the name of God? Anders Breivik's fascination with the Knights is less bizarre – in fact, he's part of a larger movement. People like Breivik are trying to resurrect the idea of a modern-day Crusade, a real clash of civilizations against what they see as an Islamic invasion of Europe. In fact, Muslims make up only about 3 % of Europe's population and are likely to rise to between 5% and 8% by 2025 and level out at that point. But that doesn't change the reality of the anger, hatred and violence. Ironically, in Breivik's nostalgic view of the medieval world, the Knights Templar resembles nothing so much as al Qaeda, a terrorist organization that is fundamentally opposed to the modern world. We still don't know if Breivik's boast that there are more lone knights like him waiting to act is true. But if his depiction of the knight as a self-sacrificing assassin on a larger holy mission sounds familiar, it's because it too is mirrored in Islamist terror. That's exactly what a suicide bomber is: A lone fighter, often acting in the so-called interests of a larger movement and willing to kill innocents to draw attention to the cause. While we have all focused on the dangers of radical Islam and of Muslim terror, the attack in Norway should remind us that there is actually a pretty large problem of other sources of terrorism in the West. The European Union's 2010 Terrorism Situation and Trend Report has some fascinating findings. It showed that of the 294 terror attacks committed in Europe in 2009, only one was conducted by Islamists. That's a third of one percent. The most recent statistics show there were 249 terror attacks in Europe in 2010. Only three of those attacks were carried out by Islamist terrorists. Again, that's about one percent. Most of the attacks were by separatist groups or anarchists. So perhaps that's the lesson we can learn from the events in Norway. Islamic radicalism is a real problem and Islamic terrorism a real threat. But if we ignore other kinds of threats we're likely to be blindsided by another Gabby Giffords shooting or another Virginia Tech massacre.
    There are people who write crap because they have never lived in France! For example: "if all the Arabs leave France, the plants could no longer produirent, France will lose money ah ah ah I laugh: for france currently is poor because the government gives money to those who will not work. Apartments free (this is called public housing and OPAL). Or house for large families. money for the education of kids. they are lazy. we have not waited until they invade us to prosper France! At the time of Napoleon of France was rich and he had not a single Arab! Strange! Like in America before invade spanish...

    September 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Reply
  4. THIERRY

    The best for understand the french history and the knight templar is this :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_Templar
    God bless America I hope America don't follow the France...We must to be more smart for the future of America and that our grand grand fathers must to be proud of us,

    September 16, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Reply
  5. THIERRY

    There are people who write crap because they have never lived in France! For example: "if all the Arabs leave France, the plants could no longer BUILD, France will lose money ah ah ah I laugh: for france currently is poor because the government gives money to those who will not work. Apartments free (this is called public housing and OPAL). Or house for large families. money for the education of kids. they are lazy. we have not waited until they invade us to prosper France! At the time of Napoleon of France was rich and he had not a single Arab! Strange! Like in America before invade spanish...

    September 18, 2011 at 12:34 am | Reply
  6. ZakariaTwistsTruth

    Enough, Mr. Zakaria.
    I've noted for the record the fabricated time and dates attached to many news articles.
    For the record.
    You leave my ancestry to me and my family and we'll leave yours to yours.
    Thanks.

    March 3, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
  7. электрические котлы аристон

    obviously like your website however you need to test the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very troublesome to inform the truth however I will definitely come back again.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:17 am | Reply
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    May 6, 2012 at 2:55 am | Reply
  9. Carrinw Quintenv

    It’s really a cool and useful piece of information. I am glad that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  10. Kar Fenn

    I like the article, but wonder just how stupid some people can get, is it really sanity to suggest what took place in
    Norwy has anything to do with knights templars, I fail to see why the ramblings and atctivities of a mad man, should
    be used to damage the name of order from the 11th century because he decided to go on a mass murder spree, it is
    of course accepted the BNP and groups like them are using the symbolisim of the Knights Templar, however they
    use anything in order to gain a few votes, I might say that those of you who condem the templars now would certainly
    not have done so, during the time of the crusades, cowardly to attack history in that way, especially after what the
    templars did for europe at that time. May I suggest if you intend to attack the templars do so in a logical way backed
    up by evidence, don't use the crimes of some sick poor individual and the sorrow of their relatives to do so, stop being
    such a pathectic stupid lot, you make yourselves look if you have the I.Q's of chimps.

    September 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  11. Michael Blount

    I disagree, but I will say I am sorry this nut killed those poor children using the TEMPLER name . If you do your research the templers even though fought the Muslims they both grew to understand and respect each other.
    I pray for the died this evel demon of Satan killed. As far as the Mex drug dealers I think they use to much of what they sell and watch to many movies. And think they are something they are not. To put it Blountly I think his article is BS!
    Thank You
    May who ever you pray to bless you
    Go In Peace
    Michael

    December 4, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Reply
  12. Lord Ravinder Kumar Sharma(THE ROYAL CROWN/RA/REXMUNDI/THEMASTER/THEDRUID)

    Solomon Post
    This is final connection
    I Send you all my love and blessings
    Namoh brahmin devay
    Om shanti om

    March 5, 2013 at 9:46 am | Reply
  13. Yo daddy

    I see some of you get your History lessons from video games or print. believing if it's printed it must be true.

    June 4, 2013 at 2:50 am | Reply
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