When hate kills

By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

In the first place, sincere condolences to the victims and families who endured or lost their loved ones in the massacre in Norway. Then comes reflection on this heinous crime of hate.

There has been considerable coverage of the terror attack itself and of the perpetrator, some coverage bigoted (especially before any facts came to life), some thoughtful and balanced. In a nutshell: an extreme right-wing Christian terrorist took out his hatred of immigrants and especially Muslims on scores of innocent people. The response of the Norwegian government has been noble: so far, it has pledged to respond to terror with more democracy, not with hunting ´em down. But how long and how effectively can democracy withstand attacks on democracy itself?

Breivik, Wilders, LePen, Griffin, and Co. enjoy talking about “Western” values which are presumably “threatened” by immigration (read: Muslims). But their demagogy is ridiculously plain to see when they call to stop that mythical “threat” with as undemocratic means as could be. Banning mosques and minarets means not only restricting freedom of religion but doing so in a discriminatory fashion; outlawing headscarves and dictating personal dress codes amounts to violating not just religious expression but privacy and personal integrity; deporting foreigners is often breaching not only freedom of movement but elementary, non-derrogable due process. And now merciless mass killing.

Even though not every right-wing leader has explicitly called for violence, the fact of the matter is that terrorism as a weapon against immigration in general and against Muslims in particular has been in place for some time now, undeniably inspired by the toxic populist rhetoric. Just last Autumn a “lone gunmen” terrorized the immigrant community in a Swedish town of Malmo. Muslim mosques had been burned in the Netherlands just a few years before that. Daily verbal if not physical harassment against ordinary Muslims in Europe is as common as it is impunible. But these things do not get reported and speculated about as much as alleged attacks by “Islamic terrorists”, who are about as representatives of Muslims as breiviks are of Norwegians.

Hate kills, we have just witnessed that, yet again. Moreover, there are concerns that the massacre in Norway can be a template for others. And while the intention of responding to terror with more democracy is respectable, it is useful to remember that even democracy has its limits, if it is to survive. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany — a country that knows these things first hand — stipulates: “Whoever abuses the (basic rights) in order to combat the free democratic basic order shall forfeit these basic rights.” Norway, and the rest of Europe where right-wing terrorism has taken hold, must resist to protect their democratic values. That means restricting rights of breiviks and especially people in the position of power who influence breiviks with their hate speech (Dutch courts that last month let Wilders off the hook should take note). Hate does not just speak, it kills.