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As Nelson “Madiba” Mandela went home to the Lord, basically all of my activist friends have mourned his departure, and of course my South African friends as well. When I was in SA this summer many prayed for his healing, not because they thought he was immortal but because they felt that they weren’t ready to live in a South Africa without him.
He stood not only for justice and equality but also for unity and reconciliation, and even though I personally think he treated the whites a bit too kindly through letting them keep large parts of their wealth, and thus not overcoming SA’s enormous economic inequality, the fact that he wasn’t as hostile towards whites as for example Robert Mugabe created an atmosphere of much more tolerance and acceptance.
However, many South African whites are very disappointed with him and the ANC, some for racist reasons and some for facing the fact that they’re not as privileged as before, and thus there is still a hostility towards Mandela. This is appearant in that some whites still call him a “terrorist” just as the racist minority government, as well as the United States, once did. And even today some Americans join their white South African cousins in calling Mandela “terrorist”. Needless to say, this is severely problematic.
One should recognize that “terrorist” is a pejorative term. It is used by states that kill civilians to describe small armed groups that oppose their interests. Yes, states that kill civilians. I know of no state that accuse others of killing civilians that do not do it themselves. And I don’t just mean through collateral damage, but intentional killing of civilians.
The other day, my American friend Robert Martin tweeted “Hey, @micaelgrenholm… Sweden is 5th happiest country in the world… congrats!” I jokingly responded “5th?? Now I’m definitely not happy!!” and he wrote “Well, at least 4 of the top 10 are Scandinavian… check it out. US is # 17″ Yup, Denmark was in fact number 1, and Norway number 2. All I could think about at that moment was actually racism and xenophobia.
How come? Well, a couple of years ago a Swedish journalist published a book called “The Happiest People in the World“ about racism in Denmark. While citizens enjoy a high standard of living with extensive welfare and social security, it’s very, very hard for non-whites to become such citizens. In fact, Denmark is probably the most xenophobic country in northern Europe. Even though the racist Danish People’s Party has not been part of a government, other parties have used similar rhetoric and even policies in order to prevent more people from joining them. The result is of course that DPP’s ideas of a multiethnic Denmark being a “national disaster” has formed national policies.
How about Norway, then? The day before Martin tweeted his message to me Norway had their parlamentarian election, and as the Conservative Party won they proudly announced that they would govern together with the xenophobic Progress Party. This is the first time a racist party has entered a Scandinavian government.
How do I know that they are racist? Well, for instance, they want to ban Romani people from the country. Furthermore they have all the traditional charesteristics of xenophobia: they are hostile to islam, they want to decrease immigration, they are patriotic and wants to defend “Norwegian values” against multiculturalism, etcetera.
Today is 50 years since Martin Luther King‘s extremely famous “I have a dream” speech at Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. He has inspired countless people through the decades to passionately work for justice and freedom using non-violence, and also to seek the God he so zealously followed. The problems he adressed – racism, injustice and violence – still exist in various forms, and so we should take his example and keep up the good fight against it. Here are three areas I think needs special concern:
Racism and Xenophobia in Europe
The ugliness of racism sadly exists in most places arounf the world, and even though the situation for African Americans have become better it is far from optimal. Yet, as a European, I think what we are seeing here sometimes are even far worse. In Greece a neo-Nazi party got 7 % of the seats in the parliament. In Hungary, a neo-Nazi party got 12 % of the seats in the parliament. Hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, Blacks, homosexuals and other minorities are on the rise. Just a couple of weeks ago, a Muslim woman here in Sweden got beaten by a racist for wearing a hijab. The event caused a massive protest where thousands of women weared hijab in solidarity. Then, a new group of racists found the woman and beat her up again. What can we do? Use the example of Luther King: be a light in the darkness, use nonviolence in the midst of violence, be loving in the midst of hate, welcome the stranger in the midst of xenophobia. (more…)
The far right is on the rise in Europe. Xenophobic, islamophibic and racist parties and movements have gain ground dramatically the past decade, probably fueled by the economic crisis.
In Switzerland, the Schweizerische Volkspartei, the country’s biggest party, depict immigrants as black sheep that needs to be kicked out, and they have succeeded with banning minarets. In Hungary, the third-biggest party Jobbik has formed a paramilitary Hungarian Guard that marches in romani areas, and a Jobbik member of parliament recently said that it was time to “assess how many MPs and government members are of Jewish origin and who presents a national security risk to Hungary”. But the most worrying far-right movement in Europe is, I would say, the Greek party Golden Dawn.
Golden Dawn is the first Nazi party to occupy seats in a European parliament since the second world war. The party themselves denies being neo-Nazi, however, the evidence that Nazi ideology is an inspiration to them is enormous. Their party symbol, an ancient Greek meander, is often depicted black on a burgundy coloured background, which makes it strikingly similar to the Nazi swastika. On numerous occasions members of the party have given the Roman sallute, widely used by the Nazis, and one Golden Dawn MP has “Sieg Heil” tattooed on his arm.