If you are an immigrant in Europe, especially a Muslim one, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
“At first, people thought Muslims were behind this,” said a Pakistani taxi driver in Oslo when the news of the bomb attack and the murderous shooting rampage initially hit the news. But soon it became clear that the man behind the mayhem was tall and blond. The 32 year-old right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik wanted to spark a revolution against immigration, Muslims, and “multicultural Marxists.”
Oklahoma, Deja Vu
The Oslo attacks are eerily reminiscent of the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing which killed 168 people. News organisations quickly reported investigators were looking for several Middle Eastern men. But within 48 hours they arrested the very all-American Timothy McVeigh. A discovery that led to much media mea culpas about a rush to judgment.
What a difference 15 years, a 9/11, a London subway bombing and a Madrid train explosion makes.
No Muslim immigrant bought the fertiliser to make the bombs. No Muslim immigrant pulled the trigger. But the Oslo massacre will still put, not just Breivik, but also immigrants in the dock.
There is already enough hysteria against immigrants in Europe coming all the way from the top down to the man on the street. “Multiculturalism is a failure,” French President Nicholas Sarkozy has declared. The right-wing Progress Party in Norway and Pim Fortuyn’s LPF in the Netherlands rose to power by bashing immigrants.
Yet no political party, no matter how anti-immigrant, will acknowledge Breivik — this thing of darkness — as theirs. They will instead want to steer the conversation back to the “failures of multiculturalism” that have driven an all-Norwegian man to such desperate measures.
Yes, there is a failure of multiculturalism here but it’s not the kind Sarkozy is talking about.
And it’s revealed in one striking difference. If a Muslim extremist had committed these horrendous acts, the whole community would have had to answer for that act. It would be an act of “Islamic terrorism” and would lead to even more strident calls to reform the entire immigrant system.
Breivik wanted to recreate a group like the Knights Templar who protected Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land in medieval times. But his acts will not be called “Christian terrorism.” Breivik will remain an individual, a rotten apple. We will remember his name just as we remember the names of Timothy McVeigh and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski.
How many remember the name Shahzad Tanweer? He was one of the men behind the 7/7 London subway bombings. Those men were just lumped together as jihadists. Their identity is always defined by their community: Muslim, immigrant, or son of immigrants.
Clash of civilisations?
This is not to say immigration has not brought with it a clash of values in Europe. The big fear is that multiculturalism has become all about tolerating the intolerant. And there is enough intolerance to go around on all sides. The fights over hijabs, female circumcision, honour killings , same-sex marriage, and women’s rights are not trivial.
Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was killed by a Moroccan immigrant incensed about his controversial film about women and Islam. The murder shook the Netherlands. Just before his death van Gogh had finished a film loosely based on the assassination of openly gay politician, and one-time Communist, Pim Fortuyn who rose to power by denouncing Islam as a “backward culture” and immigration as a threat that would unravel the liberal Dutch society. Fortuyn was assassinated by Volkert van der Graaf who said he murdered him to prevent him from making Muslims scapegoats in his bid for political power.
Many liberals who support immigrants’ rights have to contend with the tough truth that many of these same immigrants do not share the same liberal values that they have. They won’t be fighting the good fight when it comes to other issues liberals hold dear, for example, same-sex marriage.
Not yet. Perhaps never. But certainly not as long as they find themselves always in the crosshairs of suspicion in their adopted homeland. Europe complains its immigrants do not integrate quickly into European society but it also makes it extremely difficult for the children of immigrants to become citizens. So Italy and France have whole generations, born and raised in those countries, who are still not Italian or French. They are changing the culture — and being changed by it — but don’t have a real place in this new Europe.
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