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Saturday, August 6, 2011

TERROR ON NORWAY: The germs of madness!

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Tabish Khair, The Hindu / August 6, 2011.

Beyond belief: Norwegians mourn their dead.
Beyond belief: Norwegians mourn their dead - AFP.

It is easy to dismiss Anders Behring Breivik as a monster. But he, like monsters everywhere, is a product of his society, of the unspoken xenophobia that stalks Europe today. It is not multiculturalism but the contradiction at the heart of a welfare society like Europe that is responsible for such tragedies, says Tabish Khair.

Anders Behring Breivik might be mad, as his lawyer claims. If so, then a significant minority of Europeans share the germs of his madness.

I first heard of the Norway attacks some hours after they took place, on my way to the Hong Kong book fair on July 22. TV screens in Copenhagen and Helsinki, where I had to change flights, reported the tragedy. The details were unclear then; I was rushing to catch my flights. Oh no, I recall thinking, another crazy Islamist! I shuddered at the thought of the deaths and suffering as well as the usual rhetoric against immigrants, Muslims and multiculturalism that I could imagine sprouting in many European quarters.

By the time I reached Hong Kong on the 23rd, the details were clearer. There had been a car bomb explosion outside the executive government offices of Oslo in the afternoon, killing and critically wounding about 20 people. The second attack had occurred less than two hours later at a camp organised by the youth wing of the Norwegian Labour Party (AP) on the peaceful island of Ut√łya. A gunman, disguised as a policeman, had opened cold and sustained fire at the participants, killing about 70 attendees, including personal friends of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and a stepbrother of Norway's crown princess. The Norwegian Police soon arrested Breivik, a 32-year-old man, and charged him with both attacks.

Relief is not the right word in the light of such a senseless tragedy, and yet — coming from where I did — I felt something like relief at the fact that Breivik was a light-haired, light-eyed, white Norwegian nationalist who apparently considered himself a ‘Christian'. As such, I was a bit surprised — writers Junot Diaz and Ravi Shankar shared my surprise — when accusing fingers continued to be raised at immigrants and multiculturalism in the West.

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