Zaman Stanizai is professor of Mythological Studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.
" Multi-culturalism was a welcoming gesture on the part of Western Europeans intended to integrate Eastern Europeans like Angela Merkel after the fall of the Berlin wall. Ironically her derision and ridicule now labels it as a "multi-kulti" failed policy when the beneficiaries are Muslim immigrants."
"From a psychological perspective racism is an identity crisis in which one doesn't fit in his/her own skin and therefore denies, defies, and defines the identity of the other. Under the lens of cultural relativism cultures are often reduced to cults so that others may be banished and punished in the ‘otherness' of the underworld."
"Through cultural diversity Europe could not have achieved the homogeneity it has as a prerequisite for nationalism, i.e. state endorsed racism. The homogeneity of Europe speaks of the European's inability to appreciate ethnic diversity, religious tolerance, and cultural pluralism; in essence their inability to disown the otherness within."
Disowning ‘Otherness' in Norway's Nightmare and Europe's Long Past of Cultural Intolerance
Jul 30, 2011
Any act of terrorism must be condemned unequivocally especially when it victimizes a country with unmatched pacifist tradition like Norway: the host country of the , the host of the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo Peace Accord, an active participant in U.N. peace missions throughout the world, and the home country of Johan Galtung, the father of peace and conflict studies.
This act of terrorism may appear as an anomaly when we consider Norway in isolation, but Europe's New-age counter-culture has manifested itself in strange ways, the vigorous revival of anti-Islamic hatemongering is one of them. An even more dangerous aspect of this development is that it feeds on Islamophobia with the blessings of America's far right conservative crusaders, media moguls, and petty politicians of that same ilk, whose preaching essentially produced Anders Breivik. Thus, the Islamo-fascism that wasn't, crossed path with a Christiano-fascism that is stuck in the dark pages of history.
Anti-Muslim sentiments in the northern Europe had surfaced recently under dubious circumstances. In the Danish newspaper's cartoons controversy anti-Muslim sentiments were trumped by the ideals of the freedom of expression, but Denmark's unusually strong stance in the bombing of Libya seemed suspicious. The notion of possible hidden motives gained credence with the case of Norwegian pilots who were among the most frequent bombers in Libya and Afghanistan and have participated tacitly in Iraq as well. It soon became evident that the campaign against Libya was spearheaded European leaders like Sarkozy and Berlusconi who were pandering to their constituencies of the religious right. (Read more on this in my article‘Silencing the Call of Democracy and Hijacking the Arab Revolution') The right wing parties have been on the rise in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Finland, and Switzerland and yes Norway where they tallied 22 percent of the votes in recent elections. This harkens back to Europe's recent past when other ethnic minorities were considered a threat to European ‘ethnic purity.' But why the recurrence and why now?
Multi-culturalism was a welcoming gesture on the part of Western Europeans intended to integrate Eastern Europeans like Angela Merkel after the fall of the Berlin wall. Ironically her derision and ridicule now labels it as a "multi-kulti" failed policy when the beneficiaries are Muslim immigrants. These sentiments are also represented in Anders Breivik's 1500-page manifesto—ammo, tricks, and tactics—that have "Made in U.S.A" written all over them. The fallacy of an ‘Islamic threat' to ‘Christian Europe' is based on distortion of facts as following questions reveal:
· How do 24.42 million European Muslims who constitute a mere 3.3% of the continent's 735.7 million people threaten Europe? (Data excludes Russian Muslims who mostly live in Asia.)
· How are Norway's 4,856,779 Christians threatened by its 83,684 Muslims who constitute 1.85% of the country's population? (2008 Norwegian Government Statistics)
· How did the Muslim protest against the Danish cartoons make Denmark less democratic and how did the Swiss ban on the building of mosque minarets made Switzerland any more Christian?
· How could Sarrazin's bestselling book considers Turks and Kurds as a "genetic minus" for Germany, and no one hears the echo of "Deutschland uber alles' of the ‘master race'?
· How is a French Muslim's donning of a scarf considered ‘cultural pollution,' but decency notwithstanding, the barely clad body of a non-Muslim woman is not ‘cultural pollution' in the country of ‘liberty, equality, and fraternity'?
· How are ‘Eurabian' Muslims a threat to Europe's security when the European Union's own reports on terrorism show Muslim involvement in 1 out of 294 cases in 2009 and in 4 out of 583 cases in 2010?
These examples speak more of racism as an underlying cause rather than of Islam as a threat. From a psychological perspective racism is an identity crisis in which one doesn't fit in his/her own skin and therefore denies, defies, and defines the identity of the other. Under the lens of cultural relativism cultures are often reduced to cults so that others may be banished and punished in the ‘otherness' of the underworld.
The denial, and at times demonization and vilification, of the identity of the ‘other' as a first sign of intolerance is deeply rooted in European history in particular as it pertains to the Christian-Muslim adversarial competition. An objective analysis in a broader cultural milieu in historical context can help us understand the consistency in this pattern of behavior.
If we consider Greece as the birthplace of European mythical, religious, and political thought, the concept of ‘Greeks and the barbarians' seems to be at the core of the intolerance and exclusion of others. The acceptance of the ‘other' has occasionally been a prerogative conditioned on assimilation: essential or superficial, through coercion or otherwise. Names of ancient Egyptian scholars, for instance, had to be Hellenized for acceptance, a tradition the Romans followed in the Latinization of the names of Muslim and Jewish scholars at later times.
This obsession with assimilation of names continued through out history. European colonizers demanded that their colonized subjects adopt European ‘Christian' names. Upon arrival in the Philippines the Spanish were bent on converting all the Muslim inhabitants of the archipelago. The Portuguese admiral commissioned to carry out this task conveniently assigned all Muslim inhabitants in Mindanao Christians names in from the north to south of the island.
The Russification of Muslim Central Asia was a the top of Czarist agenda where all Muslim names had to have gender marked Russian suffixes as in Islamov, Aliev, and Sultanova. The policy persisted to this day. Non-Muslim minorities have always been exempt from this ‘requirement.'
European settlers in the Americas also demanded of the natives to adopt Christian names and religion as requirement for being accepted, i.e. tolerated. The first action of the slave North America was denying the African slaves their identity, their names, in essence their humanity. Assigning them the master's names implied they were property even if that meant naming a slave ‘king' as in Martin Luther King, Jr. Malcolm rejected the name of his ancestors' slave master and chose to be named X instead. This may also explain the sensitivity to Barack Hussein Obama's name.
The British required inhabitants of Hong Kong to have an ‘English' name in addition to their Chinese names. That colonial legacy resonates in the names of notables like Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe, Joe En Lai, Rafael Correa, and Evo Morales.
Such exclusion through ‘otherness' went beyond name identity, it defined ‘otherness as the Moors, the Turks, the Jews, the Gypsies, the Celtics, and the Sams.... When the Christianization of Europe was achieved, Reformation came in handy and a variance on that took this European assimilative inclusion to the shores of other continents as ‘the white man's burden' resulting in colonialism. ‘Manifest Destiny' became the vehicle for Europeanization resulting in countless genocides in Africa and the Americas. ‘Protestant Ethics' culminated in neo-colonialism.
Meanwhile on the home front, the European warrior culture occasionally force-assimilated diverse communities ethnically, religiously, and linguistically to create nation states. One ideological response to this exploitative insanity was egalitarian Communism whose human face revealed itself as Liberation Theology. This provided an opportunity for the Non-allied South to sit on the sidelines in the ideological tug-of-war between the East and West.
The status quo was interrupted when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. For ten years the Afghans paid with the lives of nearly two million of its citizens, but at the demise of Communism Eastern Europe reaped the profit of freedom as Afghanistan was abandoned in chaos. The fall of Communism also allowed for the final unraveling of European nationalism in the Balkans whose wrath was also unleashed largely on the Muslims. Europe's dark past loomed large in the genocides of Omarska, Srebrenica, and Kosovo and the countless other crimes against humanity that were committed. This, the Norwegian terrorist Breivik believes, should not have been stopped.
The slow disappearance of divisive European nationalism through the formation of European Union demanded a search for a new enemy. Soldier's abroad and scholars at home gave notoriety to an implied notion that ‘you've got to have an enemy.' Consequently, Islam replaced Communism as the new enemy. Within a year after the fall of Communism the West launched its first battle as Saddam Hussein walked right into a Western trap. Before long Muslim states became convenient targets for invasions and ravaging wars that brought Muslim refugees to America and Europe.
The reaction came as the 9/11 tragedy that provided an opportunity for the Empire to strike back with vengeance. Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied with puppet governments that are ranked as the most corrupt in the world. Other Muslim countries like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya are subjected to intermittent bombing and drone attacks. These ravaging wars results in a brain drain of Muslim refugees in the West that upsets the Europeans.
They demanded that other nations adopt their cultural traits and their names and become European-like in their own cultural environs, and they still want them to adopt European names and ways when others come to Europe. The first was imposed as a colonial policy and the later is imposed as measure of integration into European culture. The basic premise of these attempts has been Europe's inability to accept other people and cultures as they are. The fact that Europeans define and determine the terms of cultural acceptability as visitors, colonizers, or guests in other countries and as social and political authority or hosts in their own countries is an indication of their cultural intolerance regardless of the turf.
Through cultural diversity Europe could not have achieved the homogeneity it has as a prerequisite for nationalism, i.e. state endorsed racism. The homogeneity of Europe speaks of the European's inability to appreciate ethnic diversity, religious tolerance, and cultural pluralism; in essence their inability to disown the otherness within. This will bear heavily on the collective unconscious of states and statesmen if they don't heed the warning in the Norwegian tragedy.
In contrast to the Greek model of exclusion, Europe, at least for a time, entertained the Islamic model of inclusion in Spain where the Andalusian society enjoyed an efflorescence of cultural confluence through religious inclusion and ethnic diversity. Had Europe adopted the Andalusian model, it would probably have avoided the dark ages for the most part and would have achieved parity with India whose prosperity the Europeans longed for long after.
The sanctity of life should not be violated in the name of any ideology. We must have learned at least this much from the killing of millions in the last century alone who perished in the name of one or another European ideology—nationalism, communism, capitalism, fascism… employed to justify racial, religious or cultural intolerance.
The tragedy in Norway could be the sign of things to come unless we learn to disown the intolerant shadow side of our humanity. In its aftermath we may not be looking for sleeper cells of European-looking ‘Christian terrorists' as enemies in the midst, but it is certainly time to look within our awakened conscious and reflect. True believers must not be blind to the various shades and hues of Divine manifestations. It isn't only white man who is created in the image of God.
How different would the world have been after 9/11 if we had an American leader with the poise and vision of Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister of Norway, who instead of hysterically giving the order, "Bomb them all," and depriving Americans of their civil liberties through fear mongering, made sure that the people of Norway enjoyed every freedom they enjoyed the day before 7/22. Stoltenberg addressed his nation with the wisdom of a philosopher: "We have memorials in churches and in mosques, in parliament and in the government headquarters, on the streets and in squares … Evil has brought out the best in us. Hatred engenders love."