After the heinous terrorist attack in Norway on the 22nd of July, an attack carried out by an ethnic Norwegian with the name Anders Breivik who deeply hates Muslims and the Labour government that allowed Muslims to reside in Norway, one troubling question has still to be asked and thoroughly debated. What would the political future of Norway look like in the coming years? In what direction will the Norwegian politics evolve and what challenges it will be facing? Will Anders Breivik’s apocalyptic prognosis come true, as he hopes and believes, or will we together chart a new direction and future for our children?
Anders Breivik was fully aware of the immediate negative reaction that his atrocity was going to solicit. Nonetheless, he believes that future generations will redeem him and his actions. He thinks that committing a massacre was a small price to pay for ensuring a future of Norway, and consequently of Europe, that is free of Muslims. This is a highly unlikely scenario to happen, but it smells of sulfur. Surely the supporters of Breivik’s ideas do not envision or see themselves doing what Breivik has heartlessly done. Nonetheless, there are other forms through which his ideas can be implemented and which can prove far more efficient where violence is not direct but mediated through, for example, the law. Breivik’s apocalyptic vision can be translated into different modes of actions and he will have won in whatever a benign form his vision is translated. He will have lost only when his vision is totally abandoned.
Under the present circumstances it is an ethical and political imperative to avoid all hasty generalizations and unfounded conclusions or to find supporting links where there is none. It is crucial that all facile and superficial connections be shunned wayside, and thus avoid repeating the rhetoric which the European far right has been for decades fueling with regard to terrorist acts committed by Muslims. The European far right has been successful in creating and promoting a discourse about Muslims which presents them as inherently dangerous – in every Muslims there is a potential terrorist – and Islam as inherently violent while the Koran is often ridiculously compared to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. There is little benefit to be gained from providing accurate statistical data that unambiguously show that an absolute majority of Muslims detest terrorism as much as their fellow non-Muslims. If they were interested in such data and information they would have easily gained access to and subsequently corrected their beliefs.
The fact of the matter is that the far right is simply not interested in facts. What matters to them is the perception that they create and nourish of non-Western immigrants and Muslims. As is already well known this perception is not rosy. Muslims, viewed as a homogenous bloc with no internal differences and struggles, present an imminent danger to the societies in which they live. The perceived danger is not economical or political, though these are not to be excluded, but cultural. Despite their proclaimed hatred of multiculturalism it is obvious that far right has more use of it than the most ardent multiculturalists: it is a kind of negative Master signifier whose function is to legitimize all kinds of racist and islamophobic attacks. Multiculturalism is so intensely hated and fought against because, in their imagination, the culture they so dearly love is wounded and fragile to the point of doing away with itself. Muslims are perceived as a threat to an imaginary cohesion that their culture is supposed to enjoy. In a perverted sense the right wing discourse is inadvertently presenting the Muslim culture, whatever that is, as superior to their own: for what culture is that which so intensely fears the doing away of itself, of being colonized by Muslims who live as minorities in all European countries? Viewing the matter objectively it is clear that Muslims have neither the resources nor the willingness to take over or dominate European cultures. If the egg falls on a stone, it is the egg that will break, not the stone. The European far right must obviously perceive its culture in the form of an egg and the Muslim culture in the form of rock. Only in a fantasy world would such a scenario be plausible. In the real world in which we live there is not the slightest shred of evidence to suggest the plausibility of such a scenario.
The picture that the European far right paints of Muslims is thus fanciful and imaginary. Crucially, however, the far right is deeply opposed to the foundations of European cultures. To put it differently, what they detest is their “own” culture, the culture of enlightenment and openness. The far right, as a reactionary ideological movement that it is, wants to do away with the best that the European enlightenment has to offer. In fighting Muslims they are fighting the universal elements of their “own” culture: openness, tolerance, solidarity, inclusiveness, etc. Muslims are merely a pretext to camouflage their own disdain for the universal aspects of their cultures. Incidentally, it is becoming all too obvious that the far right has no viable political platform or sound ideological vision for the world that has come to exist as a result of movement of people and the capital. The vision of a free of Muslims Europe is a fascist vision. Because of its inherent deadlocks, of its inability to provide a viable political solution to the challenges that are thrown its way far right’s reactionary discourse is shown to be politically impotent. Its rise all over Europe is a mere bubble, though potentially lethal.
In view of this scenario, the longer the far right bubble lasts the greater its damage on the culture they so dearly want to protect will be. In the last instance, the real victim of the far right’s venomous anti-Muslim propaganda will not be Muslims, but Europe itself. It is time that we realize the threat we are faced with and actively seek to reinstate the universal values that are inclusive of the other, irrespective of their differences. It is the far right ideology not Muslims who present a real threat to the enlightenment culture. The culture of emancipation and enlightenment has only one enemy who, despite their religious or ethnic differences, shares a common world outlook in their hatred of emancipation, be that political, sexual or religious.
The far right discourse will continue to form the public opinion about major issues, the Muslims immigration being one of the central ones. The fact that they perceive the situation as leading nowhere unless their societies and the mainstream political elite is shaken by violence shows that they are politically bankrupt and sooner or later, like the Lehman Brothers, will collapse.