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Norway shockwaves pinpoint multiculturalism debate

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Norway shockwaves pinpoint multiculturalism debate


The shockwaves from the massacre in Norway have released a flood of questions. One of the first is about the links between Anders Behring Breivik and the extreme right in Europe.

The police say they had nothing on the killer, that he had no record, that he had done nothing to arouse suspicion.

But the international anti-fascist organisation, Searchlight, says there is evidence that Breivik had links with far right groups in England and Scandinavia.

“He was in contact with people. He did follow certain groups,” says Nick Lowles from Searchlight Magazine. “He was on a Swedish Nazi forum, he’s been in contact with EDL (the English Defence League) here and with the Defence League in Norway. To say ‘it’s almost impossible to know these people beforehand’… I just generally can’t believe that’s the case.”

The Oslo killer’s identity has embarrassed nationalist parties outside Norway, such as the Flemish Vlaams Belang. Tanguy Veys represents the group in the Belgian parliament. Like many others, he received Breivik’s manifesto by email.

“I had never had contact with him or with people like him or organizations, it was the first time that he mailed to me,” says the MP. “So I looked to it, his manifesto, and I saw what his intentions were but of course, too late. I’m a politician of Vlaams Belang, right-conservative, and we have also a strong point of view about Islam. But we have never spoken about violence, about taking rights in your own hands.”

The same message is put forward by Geert Wilders, the Dutch far right politician whose Freedom Party speaks out against Islam.

Recently acquitted of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims, Wilders did not want to reply to questions from euronews. But he is again at the centre of the debate in the Netherlands.

Bart-Jan Spruyt is a columnist for the Dutch current affairs magazine, Elsevier:

“Wilders has to explain why he has created this whole apocalyptic atmosphere, like: ‘it’s war, politics doesn’t mean anything because it has no solutions, it’s five minutes from Doomsday, we have to act now’ – this is a kind of war scenario between good and evil, and it’s what was in the head of that guy, this Mr Breivik. I think Wilders has to distance himself from this, from that image that he’s created. He has to say: politics is important,” Spruyt argues.

The multiculturalism debate has been a thorn in the side of mainstream European parties.

Many have acknowledged problems, saying for example that immigrants should learn their host countries’ languages.

But last October the German Chancellor became the first to talk of failure.

“We are a country which at the beginning of the 1960s brought guest workers to Germany,” Angela Merkel told youth members of her CDU party at a meeting in Potsdam. “And now they live with us, and we lied to ourselves for a while, saying that they wouldn’t stay and one day they would be gone. That’s not the reality. Of course, the multicultural approach… that we live here side by side and we’re happy about each other… this approach has failed, utterly failed.”

Such comments, which expose a deep malaise in European society, bring a rebuke from Selçuk Gültaşlı, Brussels correspondent for the conservative Turkish newspaper, Zaman.

“To prevent far right parties from making progress, parties of the centre-right poach their message. Which is very dangerous,” he told euronews.

“As long as centre-right parties continue to poach this message… the ideas, thoughts and reflections – which should really be isolated and marginalised – will gain ground to eventually become ‘normal’ for one and all.

“The debate concerning multiculturalism was launched by Mrs Merkel who said that it had been an utter failure. In the aftermath Sarkozy and Cameron also said the same thing. Obviously when one says that debates on multiculturalism have failed, the group of people who come to mind first and foremost are Muslims,” says Gültaşlı.

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