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Who are the Knights Templar? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik has claimed allegiance to the Knights Templar, which he described as a secret society created to carry out a crusade against Islam in Europe. Several unrelated organizations claim the name but not the goal that Breivik has described.

The original Knights Templar was a Christian military order founded in the early 12th century whose members, wearing white mantles with a red cross, became one of the most formidable fighting forces of the Crusades. It was dissolved in 1312.

The group’s mythology has been boosted by books like Dan Brown’s best-selling novel “The Da Vinci Code,” which depicted the knights as a cultish society linked to the Vatican and concealing church secrets, including the location of the Holy Grail.

Other groups claiming ties to the Knights Templar include:

— A man named Paul Ray based in Malta claims to lead a group called the Ancient Order of the Templar Knights, which shares Breivik’s anti-Islam, anti-multicultural ideology, but Ray says he had nothing to do with Breivik.

— The Knights Templar — full name, The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta — is an order of Freemasonry that describes itself as a philanthropic organization.

— The Militia Templi Christi pauperum Militum Ordo (Militia of the Temple Order of the Poor Knights of Christ) is a Roman Catholic lay order founded in Italy by Count Marcello A. Cristofani della Magione in 1979. It has affiliates in 10 other countries.

— The Grand Commandery of Knights Templar, based in London, says it promotes historical research, spirituality, meditation and chivalry. One of its projects is encouraging random acts of kindness.

— Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem), based in Englewood, Florida, describes itself as a Christian humanitarian organization with 5,000 members worldwide. It is recognized as a non-governmental organization by the United Nations. It has affiliates in 14 countries, including Norway.

— The Rosslyn Templars are dedicated to research on Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, the elaborately decorated building that figured in the film of “The Da Vinci Code.”

— The Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, or the Order of Holy Wisdom, is based in York, England.