A British ex-convict promoting anti-Muslim views has admitted online contacts with Norway’s mass killer Anders Behring Breivik and said he could have been Mr. Breivik’s inspiration in becoming an Islamophobe.
“But what he did was pure evil,” said Paul Ray, leader of a revived Knights Templar movement. “What he has done does not equate to anything I am involved in.”
Mr. Ray, 35, was interviewed by the Times of London at his home in Malta.
In a previous telephone interview with the Associated Press, he denied he had ever been in contact with Mr. Breivik.
But he told the Times: “I am being implicated as his mentor. I definitely could have been his inspiration. It looks like that. He has given me a platform and a profile. But what he did was pure evil. I could never use what he has done to further my own beliefs.”
He said Mr. Breivik, through their online contacts, had attempted to enlist him as a Facebook friend but he had rejected the request because he “didn’t like the look of him.”
Stephen Lennon, head of the far right English Defense League, had earlier identified Mr. Ray as Paul Sonato, who he said was kicked out of the EDL several years ago. Paul Ray, he said, was the name he adopted after he was arrested for stirring racial hatred in Britain and moved to Malta in 2008.
In his 1,500-page manifesto, Mr. Breivik referred to an Englishman he named as Richard as having been his inspiration in becoming a Knight Templar. That name derives from a medieval order of Crusaders who fought in the Holy Land.
“Richard” was apparently a reference to Richard the Lionheart of Crusader fame.
Mr. Breivik has claimed his actions a week ago in killing 76 people—eight by a car bomb in central Oslo, 68 by shooting teenagers at an island youth camp—was undertaken with the help of fellow Knights Templar.
Norwegian authorities have said they are convinced he acted alone, but European Union counter-terrorism officials meeting in Brussels have warned of possible copycat attacks.
Finnish police on Thursday arrested an 18-year-old man who allegedly ordered 22 pounds of fertilizer from Poland to make explosives. He was reported to have told police he wanted to make fireworks. Mr. Breivik used fertilizer to make his car bomb.
The Times said Mr. Ray has links with neo-Nazis opposed to what they call the Islamization of Europe. It said he was a close friend of Nick Greger, a tattooed German neo-Nazi, who was jailed for two years in 2002 after telling authorities he intended to blow up cars belonging to leftwingers with a pipe bomb.
Mr. Greger was a supporter of Charles Taylor, the former ruler of Liberia, who is on trial in The Hague for war crimes against his own people. Mr. Breivik has said he once visited Liberia to get guidance from a fugitive Serbian war criminal wanted for atrocities against Muslims in the former Yugoslavia.
Mr. Ray said he met Mr. Greger on Malta. They appear together in a video wearing Knights Templar T-shirts and visiting crusader landmarks on the islands.
In his interview with the Times, Mr. Ray said: “I wish the police would come and talk to me because I’ve got nothing to hide. But I would rather go to Norway. Knights Templar has been tainted and I am stating the case for the defense.”
The Times quoted Mr. Ray as saying that God spoke to him in the late 1990s when he was facing his seventh prison term.
“That’s what changed my life,” he said. “It was a very powerful spiritual experience when God revealed himself to me. He spoke to me.”
The Times said he had served terms for affray, drug dealing and burglary, surrounded by a growing Muslim prison population, and came out to embark on his anti-Muslim campaign.
He said he worships at a Pentecostal church on Malta and spoke of his love of preaching.
“We see the threat from Muslims wanting to kill us and people are looking to Templarism as a thing to protect us,” he said. “Here on Malta there are Christians who support me. Pastors know me.”
He has a Knights Templar cross and a Star of David tattooed on his right forearm.
The Times published a photograph of him holding an AK47 rifle on the Palestinian West Bank.
In London, the anti-Fascist organization Searchlight said it had found more postings on anti-Muslim and far-right forums believed to have come from Mr. Breivik.
In one, he recommended groups he hoped could deal with “60 million Muslims in western and eastern Europe” and predicted Britain or Denmark would be the first Western countries to face civil war “due to Muslim immigration.”
(Ray Moseley is a London-based former chief European correspondent of the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.)