Jumping the gun

I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Though it’s awkward to say, a small part of me is glad that the terrorist attack in Norway wasn’t by Islamic extremists. Of course, I wish it didn’t happen at all, but the unfortunate event emphasised that extremism isn’t limited to one religious subgroup; in fact religion is not even prerequisite. I hope those that died are remembered because of what terrorism by any name did to them and not Christian fundamentalism.

Like many, I was a bit disappointed by what London journalist Charlie Brooker calls “fact-free conjecture” rather than reporting. It’s fine for the average person to have assumed before details emerged that Islamic extremists were behind the attacks given that they are behind most recent terror events and there was a plausible narrative for them to do so, but for the press to jump the gun is to stamp the blame on a community who have enough fingers pointed at them.

Some humorous commentaries have emerged that the Christian community should issue a statement to condemn Anders Behring Breivik, and while funny, it highlights that asking the same of any other community is absurd; to my mind, Little Britain’s statements by Norman Fry/Senator White come to mind. Brevik doesn’t represent all Christians, and even if you could by some means find a definitive representative, even they wouldn’t represent everyone as all people process their beliefs with some variation. Had Breivik identified as atheist the same applies.

Like I once mentioned in a post a long time ago, I don’t think religion is a pretty strong target for blame here. Most people who practice their religion just get on with their lives and use it as some sort of framework for living; whether it is correct doesn’t matter in this scenario as long as it is processed with humanity. Extremism attracts those where there is poverty, lack of education, or perhaps even just mental illness.

It’s a valid argument to claim that Christian terrorism is rarer, but sometimes one raised bump may signify something cancerous, and it has been mooted that there is something deeper brewing in Norway, albeit small. This is highlighted by the fact that people such as the famous late writer Stieg Larsson were motivated to counter the actions of Scandinavian far right groups. In some ways, his findings probably apply to why some people are attracted to Islamic extremism.

Some people blame multiculturalism, but I think part of the problem is lack of integration. You can place one community largely in one area and another somewhere else, and if they don’t mix for one reason or another there will be an unhealthy brewing of stereotypes. Stereotyping does play a part in our basic survival, but in this circumstance it can become amplified and dysfunctional. A good lesson from Hollywood was that in American History X. I’m pretty sure that if a neo-nazi were forced to share a cell with a black inmate he would have to bow down to making friends with him for his own sanity. He would be forced to dismantle his misconceptions because he is forced to reside day in, day out with a man who only has a different colour than him. He is forced to reside with a fellow human being.

If there is indeed a growing problem of religious and racial intolerance, it is multi-factorial. We need to ask ‘what’ are the problems, not ‘who’ are the problems. We know there are economic concerns worldwide and sometimes for some it is unfortunate that in absence of any clear single thing to blame, the outsider becomes an attractive punching bag. We saw this happen with great tragedy in the last century on an immense scale.

I’m impressed, however, that the response of Norway’s government was considered. The country strongly values democracy above the iron fist, and didn’t resort to the unhelpful cowboy language of George Bush Jr. in the previous decade. Acting like the aggressor makes you no better than the culprit. The argument that PM Stoltenberg would’ve cracked down harder had the terrorist been Muslim is baseless too. I’m sure he realises that stigmatising a community, be it ‘indigenous’ or foreign just pits that one against the other and makes things worse. Bush Jr’s ‘good guys and bad guys’ view clearly is out of fashion. I don’t believe that Bush wanted to create enemies, but the administration at the time didn’t do much to avoid it.

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