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TitleEurope should reflect on its double moral standard

Wilders et al. and the Norwegian drama

27 Jul 2011

■ Shervin Nekuee

So the perpetrator of one of the biggest terrorist attacks happening in Europe in the last decades is a blond, Christian-fundamentalist Viking, who just like the Islamophobic European politicians (from Austria to Italy, from Switzerland to Belgium) and just like Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in The Netherlands, has a foul mouth about the danger of Islam. You can watch the video manifest of Breivik at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=093_1311453213. It wasn’t an essay mission, but I managed to listen a couple of times to these twelve minutes and twenty-two seconds of propaganda. It is an explosive cocktail, of which the principal part breathes the same kind of anti-multiculturalism and the same kind of basic theory that Islamophobic political parties are using in numerous European parliaments, although Breivik added some neo-Nazi and Christian-fundamentalist rhetoric to it.

Ever since Luther and the rise of Protestantism, Europe has gone through several periods of radicalism: religious, romantic or ideological radicalism that, unfortunately, each and every time went hand in hand with bloodshed. But the continent managed to survive each of these periods, often by transforming the innovating aspects of these radical waves into progress and refinement of society. The current religious freedom, the discursive democracy and the collaboration between employers and employees and, yes, even the entire welfare state – they are all the result of the ascendance of radical thoughts and movements that shocked society, causing it to be set in motion and be forced to face new challenges.


Anders Breivik

Undeniably, the current revival of national, religious and regional chauvinism is the new radical current in Europe. And, without a doubt, Geert Wilders of The Netherlands can be seen as the most important leader of the European radicals, which is confirmed by the content of Breivik’s video manifest. But neither should we underestimate the Christian-fundamentalist background of the Norwegian.

So will we now witness a massive plea for prohibiting the Bible because this book would lead to genocide, just like we witnessed what happened to Islam and Quran in many European countries after 9/11? Will the resentful sermons of Geert Wilders, who is the most outspoken Islamophobic European politicians, be banned from our television screens, and the writings of his ideologist Bosma from our bookstores? Should we now expect extensive criticism on the Christian religion in our newspapers? Will all Christians in Europe – and especially those from Norway – be called to account for this murderous deed, just like European intellectuals have regularly called Muslims to account for the terrorist deeds of Islamist extremists? And will those who have ‘freed’ themselves from Christianity be promoted to columnist, MP or professor – the reward that European ex-Muslims (like Ayaan Hirsi Ali) got for being prepared to call Islam and the Middle East dangerous and backward? Will from now on every criticism on multicultural society be looked upon as extremism and every person who is against multiculturalism as an ideologue of White Power terrorism?

No, all of this won’t happen, and that is a good thing. Adult democracies know how to make a distinction between the right to deviating ideas and radical expressions on the one hand, and extremist deeds on the other hand. To prevent violence between different social groups, a democracy has to channel the battle of ideas into a civil and balanced debate. This will lead to an isolation of the most extremist and violent stream within radical or deviating ideologies from the (usual) nonviolent supporters they have.

A proof of this is the successful experience Europe has had with left-wing extremism, which was the last extremist wave passing through Europe: the left-wing terrorist organizations from the sixties, seventies and eighties had no chance at success because nor the state nor the media nor society silenced leftist radicalism. Most young radical Marxists had no reason to go underground because they had all freedom to express themselves aboveground.

That is what should also happen with the current Islamophobic nationalism: give them the space and the right to speak and plead about how they think society should work; let them express themselves about their utopia. Or to be more precise: let them fill their websites with their nightmare scenarios, because they have more of those than they have utopian dreams. In short, give radical thinkers the space and by that cut off the path of extremist perpetrators.

The way in which our democracy dealt with Islam and Muslim immigrants after 9/11 is of course rather hypocrite and silly

All this being said, the way in which our democracy dealt with Islam and Muslim immigrants after 9/11 is of course rather hypocrite and silly. How many words have not been spoken in various European media (especially in North and Central Europe) about the essential danger of Islam? The entire Muslim part of the population was being generalized and criminalized, and this is a community that rarely had a leader who could retort. And if there indeed was such a leader, like Dyab Abou Jahjah, the media immediately harassed him as a potential terrorist. And do you remember the recent mudslinging at Tariq Ramadan in Dutch media that lead to his departure from Rotterdam University? It’s about time Europe starts reflecting on its double moral standard, in particular The Netherlands, the country of Geert Wilders.

Incorporating new radical currents into the organized social and political diversity of a democratic society is something else than being taken off guard by radical rhetoric. In The Netherlands, the country where I live, there is no one who dares to answer to Wilders and his sermons of fear. The centre parties, the Christian democrats and the conservatives (who are in a cabinet thanks to Wilders) copy his rhetoric; prime minister Rutte (VVD) wants ‘to give back The Netherlands to the Dutch people’ and vice-premier Verhagen (CDA) even shares the fear for Muslims with those who voted for Wilders.

The PvdA (social democrats), GroenLinks (Greens) and D66 (liberals) remain very silent about how the cabinet fell on its knees for Wilders’ rhetoric; there is no progressive political party that dares to stand up for the multicultural society. It is not a healthy development that the main European political-ideological currents of liberals, social democrats and social democrats either follow the rhetoric of the new radicals of Europe, or are take off guard by them. And in the long run, this is what should worry us even more than the gruesome act of terror of Anders Breivik.

 
Tehran Review
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  1. Alexandra says:

    It is so much easier to blame those who are percieved as outsiders,. But the worst beasts are those that come from deepest inside because they are harder to see, harder to admit to. With such hard economic times ahead, a lot more of these ugly demons will be coming out to play. Here in Portugal too, we now have a very right wing populist in coalition with the new government. Immigrants and criminal activity are associated without challenge. Each in our own places we need to stand up and say no to this politics of hate, and yes to a renewed citizenship beyond the timidity of managerial politics and the politics of fear

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