I know that most of you are aware of the terrible tragedy Norway has suffered the past days. The editors of New Narratives, along with the rest of you, grieve over the loss of the 76 people who died (so far) as a direct result of the terrorist attacks. Our thoughts are with the deceased and those personally affected.
As a promoter of multiculturalism working in Oslo, the heart of the attacks, I felt it necessary to say a few words concerning the tragic event. The fact that so many people have stood together and shown solidarity in such difficult times gives me hope for a better tomorrow. Although right-wing extremists such as Anders Behring Breivik spew hatred and the belief that the West and Middle-East are at war, Norwegians have chosen to attempt to stand together as a nation. This makes me incredibly proud.
Breivik murdered followers of a political party because he felt it supported multiculturalism to the point that it was destroying a nation. Although most of us will agree that immigration has not been without its challenges, what he claims is far from the truth. It is true that Norway could work on improving its immigration and integration policies. It is also true that Norway could work on accepting cultural differences so it can change and grow as a nation as a result of this. But the most important fact is that we are trying, and will try even harder after the attack to prove Breivik and other right-wing extremists wrong. New Narratives will work to increase its efforts to embrace multiculturalism and distance itself from extremists, and hopes you can help be a part of that change.
What is multiculturalism? Olav Kobbeltveit examines this thought here. He describes it as being two things: integrating and assimilating other cultures into our own, yet celebrating cultural differences and recognizing that we can all learn from each other. “More cultures gives us a richer society,” Kobbeltveit writes. This principle is what we should draw on for inspiration.
Where do we go from here? In an excellent article, Ahmed Moor writes about where the dichotomy really lies. “The combatants are not Islam and the West. Instead, the war is between the normal, sane people of the world and the right-wing zealots who see doom, destruction, hellfire and God’s Will at every turn […] Anders Behring Breivik, Mohammed Atta and Baruch Goldstein are all cut from the same rotten cloth. Anwar Al-Awlaki and Glenn Beck – the peddlers of the faith – all share the same core afflictions,” Moor states.
Aslak Sira Myrhe, the director of the House of Literature in Oslo, has penned a piece for the Guardian about the recent terrorist attacks in Oslo, and how experts and the media were quick to blame “the Other” – Muslims. Challenging state leaders to act, he writes: “When the world believed this to be an act of international Islamist terrorism, state leaders, from Obama to Cameron, all stated that they would stand by Norway in our struggle. Which struggle will that be now? All western leaders have the same problem within their own borders. Will they now wage war on homegrown rightwing extremism? On Islamophobia and racism?”
So in a strange space of grief, regrets, and thoughts of improvement, I ask you all to think of where you stand in all of this. Will you be helping rebuild Norway into a renewed land of peace and democracy, or stand on the side of the hate-mongers?