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 (322 Responses)
  1. RM

    Sounds like Christian Talibans with modern day twist....ties with hindu extremist groups (Shiv Sina/RSS) and zionists.

    August 1, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  2. Padre Bill

    I serve him
    Whose name should be spoke
    He sent his son to die for our everlasting sins
    And thee who believe in him
    Shall live forever
    God The Father The son and The Holy Spirit
    Please take me
    I love you
    Amen

    August 1, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Reply
    • Kristina Dudley

      I am the lord your God, though shall worship non other before me.
      What a bite to most of Christianity. There is only one God regardless of aledged relationships. When you pray to a dead man there is no telling who really answers.

      August 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Reply
  3. vdvennen

    Well, its a good view of what is realy true about the attacks in Europe, no reason to be scared of Islam, be scared of your neigbour he is much more of a security risk... Come on people be positieve, I know it hurts to see what has happend, and I feel bad about it to "I even cried when seeing the news" but the only way we can get ride of the hate is by praying the love... This is the message that all religins carry, but we don't listen to that message we listen to our ego.
    Just my opinion, I feel for every victim of any attakc be it terrorist or domestic. Love Light and a beautiful peaceful world to all. Nico (Belgium – Europe)

    August 2, 2011 at 3:22 am | Reply
  4. Mack Hall

    "What is the Knights Templar?"

    I dunno what they is.

    Standard English, please.

    August 2, 2011 at 10:25 am | Reply
  5. Jeje Klingon

    294 terror attacks in 2010 and only 1 done by Islamic terrorists? I wonder where these 294 terror attacks are. Never heard. Have you? Ah maybe they were the local murders commited by some criminals and not the religious-fundamentalists of Islam. Whatta!!! Stop misrepresenting the facts Mr. Zakaria.

    August 3, 2011 at 4:24 am | Reply
  6. Kalel

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
    Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
    Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
    Matthew 5:3-11

    August 3, 2011 at 4:50 am | Reply
    • Brent

      I appreciate what you are trying to do and say, but you have to remember you are talking to doubters and non-believers. A little advice....be more humanistic. In my opinion Jesus was truly the first humanist. Nobody cared more for their fellow man than He, Himself. That point will carry across all faiths (or lack therof).

      August 8, 2011 at 12:23 am | Reply
  7. Rick

    There have been nine crusades throughout history to stop the muslim animals, we are way overdue for a tenth!

    August 3, 2011 at 9:01 am | Reply
  8. 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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  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
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