"Multi-Culturalism Is Dead:" Norway's Lesson To The World


Photo: AP

The bombings/attacks in Norway that occurred Friday, July 22 highlight the demographic challenges that not just Norway – but all of Europe – are being forced to contend with (at an already shaky economic and political time in this young century). Firstly, it’s interesting that most – if not everyone’s – initial thoughts assumed the involvement of Islamic terrorists executing this obviously terrible crime. The Washington Post, citing the Weekly Standard, immediately blamed Islamic Jihadists – if not Al Qaeda, directly – claiming immediately after the attacks, “This is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists.” The WP continued, quoting an “expert, “There has been a lot of talk over the past few months on how we’ve got al-Qaeda on the run and, compared with what it once was, it’s become a rump organisation. But as the attack in Oslo reminds us, there are plenty of al-Qaeda allies still operating. No doubt cutting the head off a snake is important; the problem is, we’re dealing with global nest of snakes.”

 This is alarming for a variety of reasons…and they all point to a violent and unstable 21st century Europe: 

1)  The obvious, racially/religiously insensitive (and, more importantly, dangerous) “jump to conclusions” that a terrorist attack – indeed, ANY terrorist attack – is the doings of “non-moderate” Islamic terrorists is a terrible one. Like the assumption that “most crime is black crime” in the United States, these assumptions only infuriate and antagonize citizens on both sides of the social equation (creating extremists on both ends of the political spectrum).

2) While the Norway attacks were ultimately the work of Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing, Christian (and VERY anti-Muslim) extremist, they serve to highlight the emerging and seemingly unsolvable issue of Islamic assimilation, not just in Norway, but throughout Euro-Asia (indeed, already in the Russian Federation, Muslims make up 15% of the overall population).

3)While the rapid influx of minority populations often stimulate populations (think the United States, particularly throughout the 19th and 20th centuries), such a “shock” to a nation, particularly in such economically-and-politically-precarious times as these,  can also result in MASS xenophobia.  Islam’s already “negative” image around the world, cemented with the 9-11 attacks, continues growing, particularly across Europe, where immigrants find themselves isolated from and judged by native populations.

4) Furthermore, while everyone is focused on Norway’s – and, by extension, Europe’s – Muslim “problem,” this tragedy has exposed the growing threat of right-wing extremism, which is often a political reaction to any country’s changing face.  While Euro-leaders must wrestle with shaping their quickly-evolving societies into ones of peace and democracy (open to immigrants, no matter WHAT their countries of origin or religion), they must simultaneously “crack down” on extremism-as-a-reaction.  Before Europe starts looking like 1940, all over again.

 5) More violence may soon follow – not just in Europe, but around the world, as well – due to both the attacks and the above-listed reasons.  In particular, authorities in not just Norway, but across Europe, have increased security at mosques, noting that public opinion is already flamed “against” Muslim populations.

While these attacks – seemingly the work of a “crazed, lone gunman” (some would say executor – seriously, who the f#ck kills CHILDREN?!?), they serve to highlight the need for European leaders and populations to begin making many overdue and severe changes to their approaches to the growing Muslim populations.  Obviously, instead of isolating and condemning these new citizens, leaders must, to quote my colleague David Johnson, “respond coolly and strategically if and when acts of violence lend public support to ill-thought reactionary policies.”

And finally, an op-ed point: the right-wing extremists, like the one behind the attacks in Norway, are reacting to a very real issue surrounding Muslim immigration. The debates surrounding this reality – is this influx good, bad, or neutral for Europe? – are value-driven ones. The reality is this is a serious demographic issue, one that MUST be dealt with at one point or another in the future.

In short, as we outlined on RTTV this past Sunday (July 24th)  afternoon, the concept of a Euro- multi-culturalism is dead. Does this mean Europe will revert back to its 20th century homogeneity?  No, of course not; in fact, quite the opposite.  Europe – much like the rest of the world – is a roadmap for the future.  The town is becoming the city is becoming the state is becoming the nation is becoming the continent is becoming the world. No longer will the “neighbours who don’t look like us” be outside our family and social and work networks. Instead, the world is becoming one. And the sooner we, the world, start excluding, ignoring, and punishing extremists – regardless of of colour, creed, or nationality – and begin enveloping “peaceful, contributing outsiders” into our communities and states, the sooner our children, neighbours, and nations will be safer. And ready to take on the 21st century as one.

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