July 25th, 2011
11:49 AM ET

Norway attacks and multiculturalism

"If Islamic people do something bad, you think, 'Oh, it's Muslims.' But if a white Protestant does something bad, you just think he's mad. That's something we need to think about."
- Sigrid Skeie Tjensvoll, Norwegian citizen

Anders Behring Breivik, 32, the suspect in the worst attack in Norway since World War II, acknowledged carrying out the attacks and claims to have worked with two other cells, a judge said Monday.

Breivik defended the attacks as necessary to combat the "colonization" of Norway by Muslims, Judge Kim Heger said. He accused the Labour Party, the target of the mass shooting, of "treason" for promoting multiculturalism, the judge said.

Here are some views on the debate on multiculturalism in Europe:

Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, Research Director at the Swedish National Defence College, writes:
"In many ways, globalization and scores of other interlocking conditions created the 'perfect right-wing extremist monster.' The role of Internet; the role of role-playing games like World of Warcraft; extremist websites propagating the theory of Euroabia – the colonization and Islamization of Europe – all coalesce, blend into and roll-into-one cut-and-paste conspiratorial outlook that explain how Breivik viewed the world, how he defined his enemies, the fantasy world he sought to re-create in the real world and his narcissistic view of his role in his own actions, the 'resistance struggle' and legacy he would leave behind."

From The Council on Foreign Relations: The American blogs that influenced Breivik provide a window into a strange scene: pro-Western, exceedingly pro-American and friendly to Israel – but extremely anti-Muslim, aggressively Christian and openly hostile to everything which is liberal, leftist, multi-cultural or internationalist, writes Der Spiegel's Frank Patalong.

The most recent election results for nationalist and anti-Islam parties have shown how poisoned the thinking in Europe already is, writes Deutsche Welle's Felix Steiner.

The debate over "multiculturalism"
Reuters reports: British Prime Minister David Cameron, Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy have all declared in recent months that multiculturalism has failed, in speeches that were otherwise careful to highlight the contribution of immigrants.

But critics say such statements at best do little to offer solutions to tackle the economic and societal pressures that stem from increasing immigration and globalization, and do even less to harness the benefits of a multi-ethnic society.

At worst, they say such comments risk victimizing often vulnerable immigrant communities and souring race relations.

"What has clearly emerged from recent speeches and ensuing public national debates on multiculturalism is a sense of confusion, malaise and often contradictory messages," said Sara Silvestri, lecturer in religion and international politics at London's City University.

"So we look for easy answers presented as simple choices e.g., moderate vs. radical Islam, multiculturalism vs. assimilation ... Yet such simplistic naming and categorising further divides people and provokes animosities," she added.

The online radicalization of the far-right
Thomas Hylland Eriksen is an anthropologist at the department of social anthropology, University of Oslo. He writes in the Guardian:

There is a reason why the Norwegian police have not been overly concerned with rightwing extremism in recent years. It is plainly not very visible. An estimated 40 Norwegians currently belong to self-proclaimed extreme rightwing groups.

However, anyone familiar with the darker waters of the blogosphere would for years have been aware of the existence of a vibrant cyberscene characterised by unmitigated hatred of the new Europe, aggressive denunciations of the "corrupted, multiculturalist power elites" and pejorative generalisations about immigrants, targeting Muslims in particular.

Contributors to these websites, blogs and chat groups cannot merely be labelled "rightwing". One member of the Norwegian "Forum Against Islamisation" was also a member of the Socialist Left party. Others see themselves as the true heirs of social democratic values, or as the last carriers of the torch of the Enlightenment. Many talk about gender equality, some about social injustices and class. Others hold more conventional rightwing views, ranging from downright racism to paranoid conspiracy theories about Muslims plotting to take political control of western Europe. Some are online daily; others drop in once a month. They constitute loose networks and cannot easily be counted.

Resurgent far-right in Europe
** "While the main terrorist threat to democratic societies around the world still comes from Islamist extremists, the horrific events in Norway are a reminder that white far-right extremism is also a major and possibly growing threat," said James Brandon, research head at London's Quilliam think-tank.

** "If the twin attacks in Norway fail to trigger an honest discussion of the issue, exposing often scare-mongering arguments used by the extreme right, this may marginalize the radical groups and worsen the situation, which in turn could bring more similar attacks in the future," said Lilit Gevorgyan, Europe analyst at the IHS Global Insight think-tank. "This is not just an issue in Norway. Across Scandinavia and also in Western and Eastern Europe, you have a lot of people who are very frustrated by the lack of open debate," she added.

CNN's Tim Lister reports:
The far right in Europe has enjoyed a renaissance over the past 30 years, driven by resentment of the growing powers of the European Union and by rejection of the "multiculturalism" that has accompanied rapid immigration from the developing world.

Political parties opposing immigration and integration have done well in elections in recent years - and beyond them, neo-fascist and "national socialist" groups have become well-established across the continent, including in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Scandinavia, Hungary and the United Kingdom.

Most of those belonging to such groups would not contemplate the sort of carnage that occurred in Norway on Friday, but they would probably sympathize with what appears to have been the manifesto of the alleged assailant, Anders Behring Breivik.

Breivik's manifesto
"The order is to serve as an armed Indigenous Rights Organization and as a Crusader Movement (anti-Jihad movement)," reads a manifesto, appearing to have been written by Breivik. Chunks of the document are cut and pasted from other far-right, anti-Islam documents on the Internet. (More on the manifesto and highlights)

Breivik says he is not against immigrants who integrate and reserves a lot of his fury for a liberal European political establishment he views as promoting Europe's destruction.

He hints at a wider conspiracy in the document, saying that the Knights Templar, a medieval order of crusading warrior monks, had been reconstituted in London in 2002.

Breivik attacks the "Islamic colonization and Islamization of Western Europe" and the "rise of cultural Marxism multi-culturalism".

Parts of the document use the same wording as the 35,000-word anti-technology manifesto written by "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and published in the Washington Post in 1995.

In one passage, the document published online last week uses the same wording as the Unabomber's manifesto, but substitutes the phrase "cultural Marxist" where Kaczynski used the word "leftist," and uses the word "Muslims" where Kaczynski used the phrase "black people."

The McVeigh comparison
A clean-cut young man buys tons of fertilizer, which he uses to create a massive explosive. He puts it into a box truck, brings it into the middle of the city, and then sets off a massive, and deadly, explosion. This happened in 1995, when Timothy McVeigh unleashed terror in Oklahoma City. And it happened again Friday in Oslo, Norway, when police say a 32-year-old man carried out twin terror attacks in that Nordic nation.

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