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 (323 Responses)
  1. Steve

    It would be interesting to know the relation of the terrorist to the Masons. The current Order of DeMolay is a group based upon the principles of the Templars which is sponsored by the Masons and often is a stepping stone to joining the Masons.

    July 31, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • idb

      Extremists cannot become a member of the Masonic order.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Reply
      • Cody

        Some people just can't accept reality.

        July 31, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • meemee

      The Order of de Molay is the Masons equivelent to The Boy Scouts and is for young boys, who might or might not later enter FM as an adult. For girls there is Job's Daughters. Don't make it sound like something it isn't.

      July 31, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Reply
    • meemee

      In addition, De Molay was invented by an American Mason in the 1930s. My father was a Mason, but I only recall being asked once if I was interested in joining De Molay. I wasn't and that was the end of it.

      July 31, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  2. The Nephilim

    The Templars never protected anyone – the original knights were carefully chosen and well connected – they had a very specific mission and that was to excavate below the Temple Mount – research the names of the original Templars and much will become clear.

    July 31, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • Jay

      Nephilim: You need to read your history so you won't embarass yourself by making such ignorant comments. The Knights Templar were organized for the very purpose of protecting pilgrims in the Holy Land soon after the First Crusade (by Hugues de Payens and Godfrey de Saint-Omer). Many thousands of pilgrims died enroute to (or on the journey back from ) Jerusalem, murdered by bandits, prior to the origin of the Knights Templar.
      Meemee: Thank you for your many thoughtful and intelligent posts.

      August 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  3. Don

    I am both stunned and appalled at the oxymoronic irony of the phrase "christian military".

    July 31, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Reply
    • John

      Well said.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Reply
    • meemee

      I'm amazed that this is new enough to you to amaze you. The only difference of Christianity and other religions is that it claims to not do what it has always done. I know liberal Christians who are in Ecuador right now, converting natives to their form of Christianity, hoping to get them into the U.S. so that they can vote Democratic.

      July 31, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Reply
  4. arale norimaki

    On Friday 13th, October 1307 many Templars were arrested, and killed.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  5. Padre Bill

    I am a Christian
    I believe Jesus is the son of God
    I believe in Holy Trinity The Father The son and The holy Spirit
    What is the Knights Templar, they were chosen by the Pope
    The Pope is The Father's chosen represenative and Voice here on earh

    July 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Reply
    • PYSCHO

      *slow claps*

      July 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Reply
    • John

      The Knights were NOT chosen by the pope. Rather, they blackmailed the papacy with the knowledge they uncovered under the Temple. Coupled with their banking prowess, it was the pope Innocent III who was installed by Phillippe of France to do his bidding untilt he Knights were summoned to Paris and massacred for the debt Phillippe owed them he could not repay.

      It worked out nicely for the Vatican to have the truth expunged for a time, but that day is quickly drawing to an end.

      It was 'aboput' John the baptists, not Jesus and the Knights knew it.

      Someday you will, too.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Reply
      • John

        No time like today.

        July 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
      • meemee

        You are full of conspiracy theory distortions. The Knights Templar were sanctioned by the Pope and answered only to him. At the time of the suppression of the Templars, the Holy See had long been set in Avignon, France, not The Vatican. There is no proof that he was blackmailed, but rather rewarded for recovering some Holy Relics which also seemed to make them instantly wealthy. Remember, there were only nine of them for the first ten years when all they were doing was excavating under the Temple.

        July 31, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
      • meemee

        And... The Templars in France were arrested, some tried, few burned, and many eventually released. Some had advance warning and the entire Templar fleet escaped with much Templar treasure from the harbor at St. Rochelle. There destination is uncertain, but this is one reason while many researchers think that the treasure on Oak Island is a Templar treasure. Also, the Templar naval jack was the Skull and Crossbones. The skull and crossbones was a symbol of eternal life. There are two legendary myths of explanation for it origin. One I can recall now is the story of a Templar who sinned in lusting after a woman of high standing. She died of some tragedy and his passion compelled him to excavate her grave to lie with her body. All he found was her skull and two crossed thighbones, accompanied by the voice of God who told him to not denigrate such a holy woman's remains. He redoubled his own piety and took the symbol as a reminder, connoting the warning of God on any who would blaspheme.

        July 31, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
      • Padre Bill

        Please John
        Enlighten us
        Today you can have the privilege of the world knowing the truth
        I have had the honest feeling of letting the world know where I stand
        In His Name

        August 1, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • meemee

      Great. In just a few sentences, you illustrate the complete Christian delusion and conceit.

      July 31, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Reply
    • I'm Telling

      Hate to tell you but the pope doesn't have the stamp of God.

      He's the vicar of the devil. You are in total darkness to believe such a lie.

      You have no love for the truth that you will be dammed.

      The sins of the Catholic Church have reached into heaven. The pope is the main false Christ, decieving practicly all of Christianity.

      August 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Reply
      • Brent

        Let me ask you this this: Who was the first pope and who appointed him? It was St. Peter and it was Jesus Christ himself who said, "On this rock I will build my church." How could they get the idea of a Pope so wrong considering it JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF who appointed him?

        August 7, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  6. Daniel Chang

    '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.'
    I seriously doubt this number. I just see no reason that it will level out at that time.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Reply
    • I'm Telling

      @ BRENT and other Catholics in total darkness

      Mat.16:18 You are Peter ( little pepple) upon this Rock ( Christ refering to himself) I will build my church.

      The Bible thru and thruout, refers to Christ as the rock. If you would only dig a little.

      Verse 23 of Mt. 16 Christ calls Peter Satan. In 1 Peter , Peter calls Christ the Chief corner stone.
      You probably still don't get it. The pope is the counterfeit Christ. or anti Christ.. Your totally deceived. You'll find out for sure at the 2nd resurection, and thats sad. It really is. You trust a false system over the Word of God.

      I was deceived myself. The Lord brought me to a 7th Day Adventist Church and I learned the truth.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Reply
  7. Friend

    Every group now a days say they have a good cause but most prove evil is portrayed as good. Only ones that are not corrupt usually are the ones not influenced by the world such as monks sitting on top a mountain. It's a hard job to walk in this corrupt world without being tempted. Most are sheeps in disguise. Show yourself evil one! I can smell you.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  8. Bribarian

    There's no good reason for the invasion of Europe by islam and muslims. It's better someone stops them now before it's too late.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Reply
    • Ferenc Szabo

      Well, one great reason would be the food (at least from the Middle Eastern Muslims). Dunno much about the cuisine of other ones. Halal is yummier than Kosher food.

      July 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  9. HumanNature

    In war, anything can happen. Good people can become killers over night no matter what beliefs they hold.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Reply
    • Salvation Army

      what do you do when a monster is coming to kill you....you shoot the monster.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Reply
  10. Salvation Army

    read the bible war in heaven...angels and demons battle..........revelations....knights templars=militant wing.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  11. SMos

    DA VINCI CODE!!! Dan Brown nailed it! only tom hanks can save us now!!

    July 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Reply
  12. Ezio Auditore

    No Assassin's Creed mention but those trashy movies get a mention? I am disappointed.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Reply
    • Desmond Miles

      I must say, I'm disappointed that we're not getting coverage in everything that has to do with Templars.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  13. jwatts

    I do not agree with killing but we should re-enact the Knights due to the the world allowing muslims to to persecute Christians. Due to materialism and the corruption in the world trying to lead all the persons to Hell.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  14. Bobby Joe

    We need the assassins.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  15. The Truth

    Mr Fareed is a member of the bilderberg group which is an secretive elite group that has a goal of establishing a new world order. His views will always be biased in favour of the the groups goals. His description of the knights templar is very weak. He does not mention that is was formed by the VATICAN and it evolved into FREEMASONRY.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Reply
    • spoo

      the connection between the templars and the masons is just a myth

      July 31, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Reply
      • John


        It is not.

        July 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
      • Cody


        It is.

        July 31, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
      • John


        July 31, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • NamCbtVet

      More conspiratorial hog wash.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  16. MEDIC


    July 31, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  17. idb

    This man is so biased and wrong that it is not even funny. The order of the Knights Templar still exists and is part of the Masonic order. They are comparable to Scottish right and the Shriners. They busy themselves with researching Masonic science and by helping the poor. There is nothing secret about it. You have to be a Master Mason to become a member. There is nothing extremist about it either. Each meeting starts with the oath of allegiance and if you want to become a Mason you have to declare that you will accept the government and will do nothing to undermine it.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Reply
    • John

      The Freemasons are from ancient Egypt, Jesus was a Freemason and it is their rites he was performing whenever you see a "naked young man" with a linen cloth and nothing more in the New Testament.

      "Scottish rite"? By the time Scotland came of age, Freemasonry was millennia old.

      Scotland is the key to the Grail.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Reply
      • Hiram

        How long have you traveled?

        July 31, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
      • Cody

        Hiram. I've traveled since I was raised.

        July 31, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
      • John

        For some time, Hiram.

        And you?

        I supect just as long.

        July 31, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
      • Brent

        "Jesus was freemason." That is probably the stupidest comment I have ever seen in my life! You are a complete joke for posting that! There is actually no conceivable way that Jesus was a Freemason. The organization didn't begin (by ANY estimate) until AT LEAST 1300 years after his death...and probably many more! Your ignorance is almost comical!

        August 8, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  18. Amy

    well, there is a problem in Europe, but make no mistake, European people are very tolerant until some group comes to their countries and instead of integrating start forming little "ghettos" , don't want to learn their language and want to cultivate barbaric laws. This will never pass in Europe. Either integrate, embrace European traditions and ways of living or do not move to Europe. It is like inviting guests to your house and those guest try to take your house. This is never going to happen in Europe. People are mad and I am not surprised...there are some huge cultural differences between the West and the Middle East that I doubt will disappear.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  19. susie q

    if it's religion...cnn hates it......islam excepted of course

    July 31, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  20. Ras Gregory

    Good job Fareed(the strongest Ive ever seen you)

    Now, next you gotta ask questions to our president about Libyan war..

    You possibly could end the crisis

    July 31, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  21. Sam

    Why is this man not being called a terrotist frankly in the media? Would someone please explain it for me?

    July 31, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Reply
    • Ferenc Szabo

      That's because that word doesn't exist. He's called a "terrorist" often enough. The label doesn't change what he did. He's been called a "Christian Fundamentalist Terrorist", partly because his rants stem from a misplaced notion of Christian superiority and the ousting of the "infidel" (non-Christians). Some folks object to this term, because they offer the roundabout logic which says that a true Christian, one who exactly follows the teachings of Jesus, wouldn't murder anybody. Thus, the same logic must apply to any self-identified Muslim Terrorist, since murder also goes against the teachings of Muhammed.

      Religion is illogical and unprovable... that's true, but the majority are simply misled and not actually harmful. But when the unbalanced are misled to a way of violent thinking that almost nobody can conceive of, it's natural that religious folks would want to disassociate themselves from it.

      So maybe some people in the Christian world will understand why so may Muslims also want to disassociate themselves from that tiny minority of so-called "Muslim Terrorists". Osama Bin Laden is every bit "not really a peace-loving Muslim" as much as Breivik is also "not really a peace-loving Christian".

      And even though the total number of murders done in the name of Islam are tiny compared to the total number of murders done in the name of Christianity, they're both full of crap.

      July 31, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  22. Ras Gregory

    America blindsided

    July 31, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  23. spoo

    kight templars had never run with any bit of good luck. the mexican army is beating the hell out of the mexican own templars

    July 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Reply
  24. jeanfor

    Typical negative article about the Catholic Church and the Knight Templar. They were monks, some were knights, not all. They gave everything away when they joined the order. Their job was to protect Christians going to the Holy Land. They did not kill for the pleasure of killing like some might say. Of course, protestants gave the crusades a bad name as well as the knights. The order was rich, but not individual Templar. They establish the banking system.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • John

      Do not join the Templars with the Catholic church of Pauline misogyny.

      They were and remain mutually exclusive.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Reply
    • Robrob

      The article is "negative" only if you are looking to be offended. Look up: self fulfilling prophecy. Read without prejudiced it seems an even handed and not particularly negative historical recapitulation.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  25. Evan

    That sick murdering MF is a joke, unworthy to clean Knights Templar toilets (if they had toilets) let alone compare himself to anything remotely resembling nobility.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  26. Dave

    What I can't understand is why a discussion of the Knights Templar and the Norweigan crazy man is allowed to become a monologue by Fareed Zakaria about how RELATIVELY harmless Islamist terrorism is in Europe, or how FEW Muslims are sneaking in to Europe and fulfilling the Dawa of Settlement (taking over the world through population/demographics as their multiple attempts at armed takeover have failed). Strange, is Mr. Zakararia HIMSELF a Muslim, trying to make Islamicists less threatening to our eyes? If so, WHY?

    July 31, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Reply
    • Robrob

      You seem quite confused and/or offended by facts. Why?

      July 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Reply
  27. Evan

    Were the Knights Templar a bunch of pathetic cowards who mass slaughtered the youth of their enemies? Not according to credible historical sources. Bringing youth into the equation is an act of cowardice when one doesn't have the balls to fight adults. What a legacy that Norwegian buffoon left, hardly worthy of mention with Knights Templar in the same breath.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Reply
    • John


      July 31, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  28. Dragon

    They fought for the church believing at the time that what the church said was true. They had won a lot of battles which had gained them fame. However near the end under bad leadership lost a series of battles in the last crusades which also lessened their stature and purpose. The Knights Templar hid items from the holy land to protect those items. They also were master builders and built a lot of those fancy churches you see in Europe from medieval times. They developed a banking system and France was in deep in debt with them. When France asked for another loan to help fight the English the Knights Templar's said no. Then the French King Phillip IV betrayed them because he didn't want to pay them back and was paranoid of there growing strength economically and militarily. On Friday, 13 October 1307, hundreds of Knights Templar in France were simultaneously arrested and then some were tortured to the point were bones would fall out of there skin and had limbs ripped off so they would confess in order to discredit them and get the Pope to arrest them in other countries. He burned the top grandmaster at the stake and he cursed Phillip IV and the Pope that they would die in 1 year. And oddly enough both the Pope at the time and Phillip IV died one year later and his house had ended with no heir. Many of the remaining Templar became Teutonic knights and other various directions. The real order does exist today but its more hidden and has nothing to do with the Norway guy or the drug cartel.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  29. K.

    Who were the Knights Templars in 4 paragraphs? Temple of Solomon is "legendary?" I do not believe that the Templars would recognize themselves from Zakaria decryption; certainly they would not describe themselves that way. How can you describe a Roman Catholic religious order, without mentioning the Roman Catholic faith? For readers interested in the real history of the Templars there are some very good non-fiction books available; however, it you want a greater understanding into their motivation, how they thought, what they believed - you need to look at the Order of Cistercians. The Templars live on - not in neo-orders, or in popular fiction - but in the Cistercians of the Strict Observance: "....communal life wholly ordered to contemplation.... we joyfully embrace an ascetic discipline which fosters conversion of life to the pattern of Christ's life of prayer, sacrifice, and loving service to our neighbor..."

    July 31, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Reply
    • I'm Telling

      I almost threw up reading this baloeny. The freemasons are the new Templars. A secret society ,controlled by the jesuits. Most members aren't aware that the leaders or insiders, hold fast to a Luciferien doctrine.

      The new world order is coming. Satan is setting up his kingdom using his human agents. The illuminatti. Headed by the boss. The pope

      August 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  30. Bonita

    The sin nature of men and boys is the problem. They love the membership of secret societies – it's quite universal. More legendary, the better. And they LOVE fighting and destroying and having dominance. It's in their blood. Men must be properly educated by the Bible that every hidden thing will be exposed and everyone will be judged by God at the end.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Reply
    • meemee

      You sound like a feminazi with an adgenda yourself. If you are trying to be Biblical about sin, then it is on females. According to the Bible (which I do not personally believe in), women are the cause of calamity on earth. Women have their own "secret societies" in the gossip networks they always create. Women are far crueler than men, psychologically. Men prefer a public display for judgement, like one on one combat, as in the earliest Western practice of trial by combat, while women plot and poison. That is history. Also history is the demonstration that if women are not disciplined in the same manner you claim men require, they run wild, copulate with beasts and destroy society. Just about what is going on in The West today, it seems, greatly helped along by Feminism.

      July 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Reply
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