Does Multiculturalism Breed Intolerance?

The majority of Norwegians let Breivik know he wasn’t brave, just weak. Why?

He gunned down 79 Norwegians – all helpless, all innocent, all harmless and full of LIFE and fun. To my mind his reason for doing it was warped. He only wanted people of his own kind to be in his country and no one different. So he killed people of his own kind. This is the reasoning of a terrorist if ever there was reasoning from one. Kill my own kind to save the world from the different others.

The end, that of letting the world know his point of view, justified the means. The means were his plotting for over a year and then putting his plan to kill some wonderful human beings into action. He snuffed out their young lives, destroyed their families by causing them unbearable anguish and then stood vulgarly in court facing the victims’ families trying to seek his moment of justification, fame and glory.

He said he was against the policy of multiculturalism and for letting “Muslims into Norway”. If we can force the government to break down multiculturalism by killing just 70 people, that will preserve our values and prevent war in future. He felt the victims were being indoctrinated for multiculturalism by their leaders – the Labour party. Most of the victims were the youth wing of the Labour party.

What a worm; what a warped mind; what a disgraceful, sick, miserable creature to believe he had the right to kill other human beings to get his message across.

Here’s what the Huffington post had to say. When Breivik addressed the court, he lashed out at everything he finds wrong with the world, from the Labor Party’s immigration policies, to non-ethnic Norwegians representing the country in the Eurovision Song Contest and the sexually liberated lifestyle of the characters “Carrie” and “Samantha” in “Sex and the City.” These are the ideals that are presented to our sisters and daughters today,” he said. “They should be censored and removed from our society.”

Ask whoever was left to grieve over the loss of family members at his hands and they would repulse and reject his calling them his “sisters and daughters” with all their hearts. He was their killer and as one victim’s mum put it, she hoped she would never have to see his face again and that he would just disappear from Norwegian society into jail forever.

Which brings me to what Breivik didn’t like – multiculturalism. There are so many in the world who subscribe to the view that their own culture is the only one to live by. Most of them might despise others who are different but on the whole, they are peaceful and abhor violence.

Let us talk about India. We have hardcore Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Tamilians, Christians, Parsis and in fact, hardcore traditionalists in every community that lives in India. They feel theirs is the only culture that is truly gracious, the only religion that will give them a passage to heaven and theirs is the only language worth speaking. They might live side by side with the hateful “others”, send their children to the same schools and even work with them but only because they have to. If they do speak about these others, it is only to heap scorn on their differences.

Most of the rest of us are quite happy to live side by side with people from other cultures. We have this easygoing attitude of live and let live and are comfortable with our differences. What’s more, we feel free to indulge our curiosity for and enjoyment of the huge variety of traditions and cultures we have always lived side by side with.

Here’s a strange phenomenon. We might be easygoing about other cultures but we are really proud of our own. Imagine someone trying to criticise anything about our heritage, our khandaan, and see how quickly that puts our defences up. It is curious because this pride we have in our own unique culture simply cannot be explained away by reason or logic. It just is, wherever in this world we might be.

Then why blame someone trying to preserve that “uniqueness”? There are many reasons. Many of us grow up understanding that our liking for individuals is irrespective of culture. When youngsters fall in love with someone from a different culture ask them what they would give up easily – their desire to preserve their “uniqueness” or their friendship? When I watched the movie, “Bombay” I know I wanted the two young lovers to be happy together irrespective of the fact that one was a Hindu and the other, a Muslim.

For most of us, it isn’t the desire to preserve our own traditions or culture that is the bigger problem. It is the use of violence to preserve it, to preserve any culture anywhere in the world that disturbs. It goes against our core humanity. To witness carnage and bloodshed sickens us. The majority of Norwegians spoke out against Breivik for that very reason.

They spoke out against the violent methods he adopted to highlight the “problem” which isn’t to say they spoke out for the immigration of people who they perceived as different, into their country. That is a separate issue. It remains a problem in many countries today, including India. Why, I hear you ask, is it an issue in India? In India, we already are a multicultural society. We’ve had people of different cultures, religions and languages (say at least seventeen languages and 5 to 600 dialects?) living side by side for hundreds of years. I might even be justified in adding peaceful co-existence has been an issue with us way before it became an issue for some other countries. Their problems of trying to assimilate people of different physical appearances and from different religions and cultures started in earnest after WWII. It is fairly recent.

In India, we’ve been multicultural since centuries with a large number from every community suspicious of the “others”. And as we all know, of late, many of our hardcore traditionalists have resorted to violence to uphold their own values and traditions to the exclusion of all others.

How do we, the secular minded Indians, the ones who don’t feel threatened by the presence of other cultures in our midst address this issue? On two fronts.

First, we must denounce violence because of racial prejudice. Not to do so is to condone it. To condone something that goes against our basic human values eats away at what makes us human.

Second, we need ongoing discussions to try and resolve this issue. It has come back to haunt and hurt us repeatedly. Open discussions and debates will throw up a few more urgently needed ideas to stem its growth even as our traditionalists express their suspicions and prejudices. Perhaps Aamir and the makers of “Satyamev Jayate” are listening?! Perhaps this is what will give our non-violent but communal minded Indians the strength to speak out against violence within their own ranks. Perhaps they are the only ones who will make a difference as they are the ones who understand these suspicions and prejudices against the “others” in the first place.