Geopolitics

How Terror In Norway Risks Igniting Showdown Over Multiculturalism

Even before Norway's Anders Behring Breivik singled out multiculturalism as an existential threat to the West, both political leaders and ordinary citizens were taking up the cause. To avoid more violence, it is worth understanding just what we a

(Pug50)
(Pug50)
Stéphan Brussard

GENEVA - What is to blame for the shooting and bomb attack in Norway? Psychology or multiculturalism? Is Anders Behring Breivik a monster who acted alone, or was he influenced by a specific societal context -- or both? The bomb attack and the shooting carried out last Friday by the 32 year-old Norwegian raise questions about the deeper causes of this tragedy that killed 76 people.

Before the attack, Breivik talks about a "cultural and Marxist rape of Europe" in a video put on line. In this video, he describes multiculturalism as an "anti-European ideology of hatred aimed at deconstructing" culture, traditions, identities and European Christianity or even the European nation-states. To him, it is impossible today to stop the multicultural alliance (elites, media and politics) in a democratic way, requiring instead a conservative revolution that would once again banish Islam from Europe.

Matteo Gianni, a Professor at the University of Geneva and a specialist in multiculturalism, notes that the negative views on multiculturalism are hardly unique to the alleged Oslo terrorist. The far right has been using this rhetoric of threat, invasion and even anti-white racism. "Samuel Huntington (author of The Clash of Civilizations) had already developed the issue. Today, the anti-Muslim position is at the core of this rhetoric," says Gianni. "This was illustrated by the referendum on the minaret in Switzerland. It has become the trademark of the populist parties, and the traditional right-wing parties had even started to use this rhetoric, even if at heart they do not agree with it."

Jean-Yves Camus, a far-right specialist at the International and Strategic Relations Institute says that Breivik's obsession is "Eurabia," the Neo-Conservative idea that Europe has become a vassal for Islam.

Over the past few months, major political leaders have attacked multiculturalism. "Multikulti" has been a failure" said the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany and a former member of the executive board of the Bundesbank (Germany's central bank) drove the point home by writing a book called "Germany is heading for a fall."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron raised the issue as well. In March 2007, prominent French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut said to Israel's Haaretz newspaper: "Jewish people only have a future in France if France remains a nation. The Jewish community has no future in a multicultural state because anti-Jewish groups might be more powerful."

What do these critics rely on? Prof. Gianni thinks the use of these words gets confused. From a sociological point of you, to talk about multiculturalism is to describe the social state of a society. It is an inevitable sociological consequence in any open democratic system. Thirty years ago, for example, Norway was still a relatively homogeneous state. Globalization has transformed the country. The number of immigrants has doubled since the mid 1990's. Today there are 500,000 immigrants in Norway, representing 10% of the population.

From a political point of view, multiculturalism illustrates the measures set up to to enable members of a multicultural state to live in harmony. Sociologically speaking, France is a multicultural state but politically speaking it is not, whereas Canada and the Netherlands are.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says multiculturalism is a "failure," though Germany has never actually introduced specific policies to promote it. The German government gave priority to an assimilation process and to restrictive naturalization, and has just given the right to have multiple citizenship. "We might have gone too far in the process of integrating foreign cultures, and maybe we haven't placed enough emphasis on adapting minorities to the country's culture" says Jean-Yves Camus.

Not an act of charity

"Anders Behring Breivik's position seems coherent, but it is completely unstructured," adds Gianni. He thinks multiculturalism could endanger democracy and Europe's cultural identity. However, to give rights to foreigners is not a charitable act; it is just part of the fundamental rights that are integral to democratic societies. To negate multiculturalism is to negate democracy.

This does not mean we can't debate how far a country can go in accepting differences. Camus does not want a causality link between the debate on multiculturalism and Breivik's terrorist act.

Could multiculturalism be the Trojan horse of Islamism? Pierre-André Taguieff, director of the French scientific research center (CNRS) is the one who came up with this concept. "The idea of using multiculturalism as a Trojan horse can be found in some Islamist circles that believe that the jihad (holy war) would fail in Europe; and therefore, one has to follow a cultural strategy to modify the European system of representations and beliefs before going through the political phase that would lead to seizing power."

In this criticism of multiculturalism, Taguieff sees an outlet for people to "express their distress about globalization, which is seen as a blind and destructive process, a sort of machine that grinds down nations."

Therefore, people tend to "culturalize everything" says Gianni. If the unemployment rate and the crime rate are going up, it's all multiculturalism's fault. "One does not have to think that all the problems related to immigration are problems of a cultural nature," he says. "They can be problems of education nature."

In his 1,500 page manifesto, Anders Behring Breivik links multiculturalism to "cultural" Marxism. Would it then be up to a left-wing concept to explain why the killer of Oslo and Utoeya, described as a conservative Christian man, attacked the Norwegian Workers' Youth League (AUF)? Pierre-André Taguieff says no. "Multiculturalism can be defended by radical left-wing advocates as well as right-wing liberals who see cultural diversity as a path to deepening the democratic system."

Read the original article in French

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Green

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.


"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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