The crisis of multiculturalism in Europe

Friday, August 5th, 2011


Towheed Feroze


If one seeks the definition of restraint in the face of outrageous injustice then perhaps Norway is the best example. Despite the death of 77 people by a right wing extremist, the country has been valiantly composed in expressing its horror. Hypothetically speaking, imagine such a crime being committed in any Asian city. Would the perpetrator be photographed going to court sporting a self satisfying smirk and a red sweater? It would not be an exaggeration to say that in most Muslim countries there would be instant demand for the killer to be punished, preferably through the imposition of a death sentence, but in Norway, we see court proceedings are underway with patience and, reportedly there will even be a psychological analysis of the person charged with the murder to ascertain the state of him mind – i.e. if he is mentally stable or not. Let us assume that those tests confirm that Anders Behring Breivik is mentally unhinged and committed the mass murder, not in a sane state but in a condition where his thoughts were controlled by delusions and illusions. In such a scenario it would not be surprising if he is permitted to live and admitted to a mental asylum. So, when admission to a special home is a probable eventuality then Europe must brace itself for more right wing radicals taking up weapons to carry out mass killings.


Most Neo Nazis, harbouring extreme dislike for foreigners and Muslims, will possibly pass a mental test until they have committed an atrocity but once such a person is given a weapon and goes on a killing spree it would also be easy to save him/her form the death sentence citing a highly imbalanced state of mind. There lies the main conundrum in dealing with right wing extremists or extremists from all backgrounds and faiths. Without a weapon such people are looked at as a sort of a cult group with violent tendencies and militant views but after an incident their sudden aggressive outbursts are put into the category of a mad person. If Breivic, after the killing of 77 people, has provoked questions on the rise of a non-Islamic form of radicalism then it has to be said that the world was turning a blind eye for a long time. Right wing radicals have been on the rise in several European states for quite some time and their operations often go far beyond chanting xenophobic slogans and carrying out the occasional attack on Asians.


Recently, the grave of infamous Nazi Rudolf Hess was flattened and his remains taken away because the site was becoming a yearly pilgrimage for right wing extreme groups. A laudable step but how will the European authorities fight against lone crusaders like Breivic coming from a country where social cohesion and peaceful cohabitation have always been the dominating existential traits? The fact that Breivic lived and developed his gruesome plan in an apparently calm and peace loving country shows how deceiving outward atmospheres can be.


Obviously the finding from this is: extreme views can be formed and ideas enforced irrespective of the place.


Breivic’s trial is ongoing and the government in Norway is trying to understand the mind of the man and what prompted him to go to such an extreme length but in addition to these knee jerk reactions, there must be efforts to address the problem of right wing extremism not just as a minor social aberration but as a rising threat which, as the Norway incident has shown, faces not only migrant communities in Europe but also liberal minded Caucasians.


Perpetrating the philosophy of Nazism as a fashionable cult began in the early 70’s and initially the move, often led by veterans from WW2, was a superficial glorification of the mystique of Hitler’s war machine and not the inherent ideology of hate. That came later on when wearing WW2 uniforms and other battle accessories became a minor act while aggression towards migrants became a key requirement. Things also got worse after 9/11, 7/7 in London and Madrid train bombings when the west seemed to be on a war path with Islam. Western moderates clarified their stance saying that the enemy was not Islam but those who perverted the religion’s moderate ways and exploited them to culture a feeling of hate among the young; but a lot of others mixed up and obscured extremism with everything liberal that stood and stands for Islam. They targeted all Muslim migrants and eventually a chasm developed. After arrest Breivic has openly admitted to being an Islamophobic but his actions and the profiles of those whom he murdered say that anyone who believes in multiculturalism is his enemy. The same sort of mindset is also held by Islamist radicals who unequivocally denounce integration and believe only in the enforcing of a set of restrictive laws. Sadly, the victims are always people who have a moderate outlook on life.


Perhaps the fundamental reason for all this lies in a failure to integrate and adopt a mutually respectable stance. In the name of freedom of speech sacrilegious cartoons are allowed to print and on the other hand in a frenzy to adhere to each and every law set down or interpreted by religion, integration is shunned. If there is compromise on both sides: one deciding not to humiliate the religion of the other and in return the other making an effort to mix in a different society then much of the hatred will subside. Mind you, radicalism and extremism both became full blown problems when the notion of multiculturalism failed.

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