France’s Sarkozy: Multiculturalism a failure

French President Nicolas Sarkozy claimed recently on French TV that muticulturalism in France “has failed”, in a remark which seem to have been made with the 2012 presidential election in mind.

Sarkozy made his remark last Thursday on TF1 television during a nationwide broadcast which saw him face-to-face with a panel of nine French citizens.

Responding to a question submitted by a viewer on the subject of multiculturalism, he did not mince his words, declaring that “My response is clearly yes, it is a failure” because “the truth is that in our democracies we’ve been overly concerned with the identity of the new arrival and not concerned enough with the identity of the country which is welcoming him.”

He went on to say that people who come to live in France should accept that they should merge into France’s national community if they wanted to be made welcome, insisting that although Muslims should be able to follow their religion, that religion can only be “an Islam of France and not an Islam in France.”

On the subject of Muslims holding prayers in the street, Sarkozy made it clear that “we do not want people praying in an ostentatious manner in the street” and that France didn’t want “aggressive religious proselytizing.”

Concerning illegal immigration, the President deplored that for years the only policy had been to “regularize en masse those people without papers” and said that this policy had made integration impossible because “you can only integrate people if you have a home and a job to offer them.”

The first thing that springs to mind about his statements is that they are not unlike those made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the same subject last October – she said that attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany had “utterly failed” – and nor are they very much different to those made recently by British Prime minister David Cameron, who also made a speech on what he alleged to be the failings of multiculturalism in Britain.

Those two speeches were much commented upon in France, and it would not be unreasonable to say that there was more than a smattering of approval and understanding of them, given France’s own problems with the integration of immigrant populations, and most notably that of France’s Muslim community, which is around 5 to 6 million strong (8-9.6% of the total population.)

France under Nicolas Sarkozy has seen a clampdown on illegal immigration which has included a large increase in the number of flights taking illegal immigrants back to their country of origin as well as thehighly-controversial repatriation of thousands of Roma to Romania and other countries. He has also overseen legislation which has banned the burqa in public buildings and the civil service as well as other places.

These moves were supported by a majority of the French, and it seems that with the 2012 presidential elections beginning to become news Sarkozy may be paving the way for a two-pronged attack designed to cut the grass from under the feet of his two main rivals.

Far-right National Front party leader, Marine Le Pen, daughter of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, recently made headlines and gained poll support for her claims that Muslims praying in the street was akin to a kind of “occupation of parts of the national territory.” This was seen as a blatant attempt to steal potential votes from disgruntled elements on the right-wing of Sarkozy’s support base.

Also – but perhaps to a lesser extent due to their continuing disorganization – the French Socialist Party has been making noises about scrapping its traditionally relative lenience towards illegal immigration in an attempt to reconciliate itself with French public opinion, which is adopting a more decidedly less indulgent opinion vis-à-vis immigration as time goes by, that which puts it in step with a general tendency in Europe.

Sarkozy’s poll ratings are still hovering around the 30% mark, and if an election were to be held tomorrow he would lose to current IMF leader and highly-respected Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn were he to return to France and run.

His statements on Thursday represent not only a stinging rebuke of multiculturalism in France, they may well also be a sign that he is prepared to move to the right on immigration if that is what is necessary for him to be reelected.

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The hateful Norway debate
Op-ed: Massacre debate offers important insights into mindsets of Western societiesManfred Gerstenfeld

To better follow this debate in the future, one has to identify its main initial threads. One is the massive mainstream media attention focusing on Breivik’s writings. Psychiatrists believe that such extensive dissemination of his manifesto could lead to copycat attacks. A second issue is the opinions of psychiatrists and psychologists struggling to comprehend the pathways from political radicalism to murder.The despicable massacres perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Oslo and on the island of Utoya have prompted a chaotic and often ferocious international debate. It covers a considerable number of issues and simultaneously offers important insights into the various mindsets of Western societies.

A major part of the debate focuses on who bears responsibility for Breivik’s acts, besides himself. Rational arguments only play a minor role here. The debate mainly consists of mudslinging and striving to outshout one’s opponents.

The attackers in the debate mainly belong to the Left. One of their major themes is that while initially Muslims were accused, the bullets came from the Right. They therefore conclude that the radical and populist Right quoted in Breivik’s writings is partly responsible for his actions.

Almost all those quoted, however, have strongly condemned Breivik. Populist parties such as Geert Wilders’ PVV in the Netherlands and extreme Right parties such as the Front National in France denounced the murders. Very few figures in parliamentarian parties identified with him.

Italian Europarliamentarian Mario Borghezio of the separatist Northern League said Breivik’s ideas were very good and Christian Europe must defend itself against Muslim immigration. Minister Calderoli from his party clarified that Borghezio spoke only for himself. A local French politician from the National Front, Jacques Coutela, called Breivik a visionary confronting the rise of Islam in Europe. Coutela was thereafter suspended by his party. Erik Hellsborn, a local politician of the extreme Right Sweden Democrats, blamed multiculturalism for the murders. He removed his blog after he was criticized by the party leader Jimmie Ǻkesson.

The loudest shout so far comes from US broadcaster Glenn Beck. He stated on his syndicated radio show: “There was a shooting at a political camp which sounds a little like you know, the Hitler youth. I mean who does a camp for youth that’s all about politics?”

Anti-Semitic elements

The debate on who shares blame for the acts by the loner Breivik is largely futile. No other violent hatred can compete with the worldview of al-Qaeda, which is shared globally by at least 150 million Muslims. Furthermore, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yussuf Al-Qaradawi, supports suicide bombing. And in a number of Muslim countries, political and religious murders are ongoing and numerous. And yet, they do not receive similar attention to the attacks in Norway.

It would indeed be beneficial if the populist Right were more specific in its claims against Islamic movements, rather than generalizing and exaggerating accusations. The same goes for the Left. If one points a finger at others for Breivik’s acts, why are those who recognize Hamas not considered accessories to Hamas’ genocidal plans?

Anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli elements are also appearing as secondary threads in this debate. Hezbollah condemned the attack and called it “proof of the racism of Zionist culture.” Khaled Mouammar, the outgoing President of the Canadian Arab Federation, wrote that it looks increasingly that Mossad’s finger prints are all over the Norway killings.” There are also the classic anti-Israel hate bloggers who are promoting conspiracy theories against Israel.

Meanwhile, Norwegian society is reacting differently than nations elsewhere. There is major confusion, questions about how “one of their own” could be capable of such horrific, “un-Norwegian” acts, as well as observations that Norway will never be the same again. What changes will take place in the Norwegian self-perception and worldview remains unclear.

One person who already put his foot in his mouth was Norway’s ambassador to Israel. He found it necessary to explain the similarities and differences between the terror attacks executed by Palestinians and Breivik’s acts. This is another Norwegian provocation. The Israeli government has shown great empathy with Norway and so have many Israelis. I would guess that those with Norwegian friends have expressed their condolences to them, as I did.

The ambassador’s inappropriate statements will not alter the Israeli opinion that terror must be totally condemned. On a radically different level, his words remind us that the AUF, the youth movement of the ruling Labor Party, is an organization of anti-Israeli hate mongers. Their youth camp at Utoya was indoctrinating against Israel. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere spoke there and said that Israel should demolish the “security barrier.” It was an indirect pro-terror remark.

Stoere knows well that the fence was erected in response to the many murderous Palestinian attacks against civilians. Pictures of AUF youngsters playing Gaza flotilla “games” on Utoya, and of the poster there calling to boycott Israel, will be reprinted many times in the future.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. Two of these address Norwegian anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism

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Norway’s challenge

Europe’s fringe right-wing extremists present a real danger to society. But Oslo’s devastating tragedy should not be allowed to be manipulated by those who would cover up the abject failure of multiculturalism

The cold-blooded calculation of the Norway tragedy boggles the mind. For over an hour, Anders Behring Breivik, 32, dressed as a police officer and armed with a rifle and a hand gun, prowled Utoeya, a tiny forested holiday island a few dozen kilometers fromOslo, calmly massacring teenagers.

The youngsters had been attending the annual summer camp for the youth wing of Norway’s ruling Labor party.
With no one armed to confront Breivik, escape from the island by water was the only avenue to safety.

When he finally was forced to put down his weapons by a police team that reportedly took 40 minutes to respond, at least 86 were dead and many more were wounded.

Just hours before Breivik, a former member of a populist anti-immigration party who wrote blogs attacking multiculturalism and Islam, had detonated a bomb inOslo’s government district that killed seven.

The attacks, which targeted a government known for its embrace of multiculturalist policies, are being billed as the worst incident of bloodshed on Norwegian soil since World War II.

As Israelis, a people that is sadly all too familiar with the horrors of indiscriminate, murderous terrorism, our hearts go out with empathy to the Norwegian people, who perhaps more than any other nation symbolize the unswerving – and sometimes naïve – pursuit of peace.

Oslo is the namesake of one of the most ambitious – and misguided – attempts by Israel, under the mediation of the Norwegians, to reach a peace accord with our Palestinian neighbors.

Norway’s capital is where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented annually. And though Norway has troops in Afghanistan to bolster the allied forces there, the basically peaceful nature of Norwegians goes a long way to explaining the utter shock that has gripped the nation in the wake of the tragedy and the blatant incongruity of the conspicuous deployment of security forces in city centers to safeguard citizens.

Now along with their dogged pursuit of peace, the Norwegians are also coming to grips with the reality of evil in their midst. It would be wrongheaded, however, to allow the fact that this terrible tragedy was perpetrated by a right-wing extremist to detract attention from the underlying problems faced not only by Norway, but by many Western European nations.

Undoubtedly, there will be those – particularly on the Left – who will extrapolate out from Breivik’s horrific act that the real danger facing contemporary Europe is rightwing extremism and that criticism of multiculturalism is nothing more than so much Islamophobia.

While it is still too early to determine definitively Breivik’s precise motives, it could very well be that the attack was more pernicious – and more widespread – than the isolated act of a lunatic. Perhaps Brievik’s inexcusable act of vicious terror should serve not only as a warning that there may be more elements on the extreme Right willing to use violence to further their goals, but also as an opportunity to seriously reevaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere. While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel have both recently lamented the “failure of multiculturalism” in their respective countries.

Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Prize laureate for welfare economics from India, has noted how terribly impractical it is to believe that the coexistence of an array of cultures in close proximity will lead to peace. Without a shared cultural foundation, no meaningful communication among diverse groups is possible, Sen has argued.

Norway, a country so oriented toward promoting peace, where the Muslim population is forecast to increase from 3 percent to 6.5% of the population by 2030, should heed Sen’s incisive analysis.

The challenge for Norway in particular and for Europe as a whole, where the Muslim population is expected to account for 8% of the population by 2030 according to a Pew Research Center, is to strike the right balance. Fostering an open society untainted by xenophobia or racism should go hand in hand with protection of unique European culture and values.

Europe’s fringe right-wing extremists present a real danger to society. But Oslo’s devastating tragedy should not be allowed to be manipulated by those who would cover up the abject failure of multiculturalism.

The editor-in-chief adds: As a newspaper, The Jerusalem Post strongly denounces all acts of violence against innocent civilians. This editorial is not aimed at deflecting attention from the horrific massacre perpetuated in Norway, nor the need to take greater precautions against extremists from all sides.

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Posted on July 5, 2011, in Truth to Power. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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