Nepali Times
Far from right


Last week's terrible terrorist attacks in Norway made many accepted certainties uncertain once more. It proved that the international media hasn't learnt the lesson from the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 when US commentators all rushed to blame Islamists, not noticing homegrown terrorism in their own backyard. Timothy McVeigh was a product not of militancy in some faraway desert, but of bigotry and rage against the state at home.

So was Anders Behring Breivik. This time, too, the first reports in wire services and the international news channels immediately rushed to point out Norway's NATO involvement, its sizeable immigrant population, the reprinting of Mohammad cartoons as probable motives, and to pin the blame on Islamic militants. The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and of course Fox News, all succumbed.

Even a week after the disaster, a cursory google search reveals a remarkable reluctance among European commentators to call Breivik a terrorist, a label that would have been automatically conferred on a suicide bomber in Kabul, Israel or London. As Anurag Acharya argues overleaf, we will probably never hear Breivik ever referred to as a "Protestant terrorist". Stereotyping and stigmatisation is so ingrained in the media now that the complexion of the mass murderer determines the label we tag him with.

Noted Norwegian-born peace activist and academic, Johann Galtung, described his country's security apparatus as having "a left eye so sharp that it even sees the non-existing, but a right eye so blind that Breivik passed undetected". It was a reminder that extremists breed in the dark extremities of belief systems, be they religious, political or territorial. And all it takes is one unhinged misfit with access to a killing apparatus to go on a rampage.

As the Oklahoma bomb and Utoya massacre showed, weapons of mass killings are easily available over the counter. Strong anti-immigrant rhetoric is allowed to pass in the name of pluralism. Intolerance is tolerated in the name of freedom. And, as with the Olaf Palme assassination in neighbouring Sweden, the security-intelligence establishment is once more caught napping, complacent and lulled by the orderliness of society.

There are many lessons for countries around the world, including us here in Nepal, from the terror spree in Norway. The first is that if it can happen in a multi-cultural, affluent welfare state like Norway, it can happen anywhere. No country should assume it is immune to the scourge of terrorism, just as no country has a monopoly on compassion or brutality.

The Norwegians had done almost everything right. Their school curriculum is a model for civic education, teaching tolerance, inclusiveness, the responsibilities of citizens not just to their nation state but globally. Like other Nordic countries Norway has an enlightened immigration policy. It sets aside more than one per cent of its GDP for foreign aid. They thought of everything, except the evil that lurks in some human souls. Who would have thought Dipendra Shah would end up massacring his entire family? Who would have thought a church would be bombed in Kathmandu? The far right is far from right, no matter where.

National security and intelligence need to be redefined. It is no more just about hefty military budgets, real-time satellite surveillance and drone cyber warfare. It is also about keeping tabs on the enemy within. It won't be easy with a terrorist who likes to work alone like Breivik, an anti-Muslim ethnic cleanser who kills Christians. Ears-on-the ground intelligence must use undercover infiltration of extremist groups and sting operations. Since potential mass murderers often leave a cyber trail of clues about their intentions, surveillance of the internet has become essential.

For us in Nepal it also means tackling the precursors to violence, the grievances and injustice that feed the terrorist mind. It means bringing those who have been left out of decision-making into the fold, and making those who make decisions less exclusive. Leaders need to understand that society needs safety valves so incubated anger doesn't explode into violence.

The quote from one survivor from Utoya, a young woman of Sri Lankan descent, says it all: "I feel pity for him. If this man had enjoyed a good friendship with just one coloured immigrant, this disaster might never have happened."

1. jange
Anders Behring Breivik killed on the basis of his political beliefs and in order to further his political objectives.

The Maoists in Nepal killed on the basis of their political beliefs and in order to further their political objectives.

What is the difference?

Why is one lauded and given high political office and the other is condemned?

The Norwegian government in particular were and still are very sympathetic to and supportive to the Maoists.

Why then does the Norwegian government not treat Anders Behring Breivik in the same manner that they treated the Maoists?

2. John
Absolutely spot on! Thank you.

3. Soni
"Leaders need to understand that society needs safety valves so incubated anger doesn't explode into violence."

You are mostly right but I will pick a bone with this particular statement. The anger that "compelled" Breivik to kill all these people was misplaced and no government could do a thing about preventing it.

What kind of safety valve could have prevented this from happening. 

About 79.2% of Norwegians were members of the Church of Norway as of January 1, 2010.

- Among non-Christian religions, Islam is the largest with the population of about 150,000. (out of 4.9 Million)

Another article in this paper which alludes to this incident misses the biggest point. Nepal, despite the fact that its thought leaders, such as yourself, have been so hypocritical when it comes to terrorism, there has been negligible violence following Mr Breivik's line of thinking. 

Give this country and its people some credit for that.

Another point, the comment by the Sri Lankan kid is illustrative of ignorance and hypocrisy. Apparently the man did know coloured people, it is they who ignited his anger according to his own testimony.

So is your article. NYTimes and others did not call it protestant terrorism because a criminal act under the guise of a political cause, is a crime by an individual notwithstanding the political cause.

On the other hand, a political organisation with an organised army, using lies and using coercion to recruit little boys and girls to commit acts of crime is a terrorist organisation like our own UCPN (M), and the ideology which promotes such violence is far worse than any of these nutters could create. 

Nepali Times and other Nepali media accepting such a group's political legitimacy is a bigger oversight than NYTimes' ignorant assumption.

4. Reader
Well argued piece. However, why drag Dipendra into this? The comparison is senseless, unjustified and plain wrong. Dipendra killed his family for personal reasons, not for some crazy rightist ideology. That doesn't mean Dipendra's act is less reprehensible than Breivik's. Simply that they are not comparable. Breivik and Dipendra do not belong in the same category. 

5. chandra gurung
The article made sense until its first half. After that, the editor seemed to have smoked the weed, and written things that are utterly nonsensical.

The editor implies that since the perpetrators are individuals, incubated in the dark extremities of the belief cities,the government should increase its vigilance to individual level and pursue the cybertrails of individuals. This is like asking for a "big brother" who keeps track of individuals. Chinese and other authorities may like it, but I will take a risk of an isolated terrorist than a govt that snoops on individuals and haul individuals to jail (or exercise some form of restriction on individuals) every time their activities arouse suspicion.

So, was there a bombing of Church in KTM? I thought that Churches in Nepal were more cruel to their own believers (read Dharan incident). In any case, I find it funny that a supposed bombing of church in KTM is dragged here to illustrate god knows what point. Timothy McVeigh was good enough analogy. Dipendra and Church bombing in KTM were useless examples.

Personally, the only way to avoid such mass scale violence is to put weapons of mass destruction away from individuals, something these countries were unwilling to do for their own particular reason. Another thing we conveniently forget in Nepal is Europeans are naturally terrorists. It really flows in their blood--Until 100 years ago, they were killing each other, exploiting their colonies, imposing wars on countries like China and Japan and Vietnam, mass killing of 6 million Jews and dragging countries of Africa to their meaningless wars. People with such a cruel history can't be civilized overnight. I hope their civic education works.

6. John Kelleher

3. Soni
>> "On the other hand, a political organisation with an organised army, using lies and using coercion to recruit little boys and girls to commit acts of crime is a terrorist organisation like our own UCPN (M), and the ideology which promotes such violence is far worse than any of these nutters could create."

You've hit the nail on the head, and that's precisely why nobody is going to call Breivik a "Protestant terrorist."  His garbled personal beliefs are incidental, almost an afterthought, to the utterly pointless and senseless mayhem he perpetrated so callously.  A warped nut acting alone does not need any qualifier appended to the "terrorist" tag to accurately describe what he is.

With adherents of terrorist organizations though, the matter is different.  Their actions are not guided entirely by fantasy or delusion, but rather by their self-mutilating loyalty to the objectives of the party or movement thet have decided to serve.  Though quite often nuts themselves, these individuals are recruited and manipulated by people who are neither stupid nor (completely) insane, and whose strategies and actions are geared towards their own aggrandizement.  Since the methods and modalities of these movements differ from case to case, and since their ideologies and rationalizations are not entirely irrelevant to their actions, it is useful to qualify the "terrorist" label with a specific descriptor, be it Mujahid or Maoist.

Columnists and commenters attempting to spin a racial angle on this tragedy are shooting very wide of the mark.  Indeed, all nations, ethnicities and creeds are fully capable of boundless evil, but I would beg to differ with those who claim that the media are uncomfortable with a white terrorist, or that the "terrorist" tag is used only by elites to stigmatize the "just" aspirations of subaltern groups.  There is ample and broadly-recognized precedent for the caucasian terrorist: the IRA, the Basque ETA, Germany's "Baader-Meinhof Gang", the Italian Red Brigades, Greece's 17th of November organization, or even South America's FARC and Sendero Luminoso, the rank-and-file of which might be overwhelmingly indigenous but the leaders of which tend to be noticeably "white."

In any of the above cases the miltants of such groups have always been accurately described as "terrorists," with any additional qualification as the case warrants: Irish terrorists, Basque terrorists, or Communist terrorists.  No one has ever hesitated to call a terrorist a terrorist, irrespective of the color of his skin.

That is, of course, until the political exigencies of Nepal's ongoing "peace process" made it politically incorrect to call certain terrorists what they are.  Kunda ji's rather odd selection of homegrown Nepalese terrorists in his seventh paragraph is significant in its omission of the most obvious candidates for the "honor."  It is quite easy for the author to highlight the "evil that lurks in the soul" of a lone far-right wingnut on the other side of the planet, or in the anonymous fringe idiots who blew up that church in Dhobighat, but a bit more difficult apparently for him to identify an equivalent "evil" in the far-left terrorists who are pushing Nepal into the failed state category.

But of course, his discomfiture is understandable: it is difficult to point to the Maobadis as specimens of Nepali terrorism when they currently hold the largest share of seats in the Constituent Assembly, which is itself an indispensable organ of the "revolutionary change" we are being asked to believe in at this point.  It's difficult to point the finger of blame where it belongs when doing so would call into question the inherent wisdom of this whole "Naya Nepal" experiment to begin with.  Consistency can be a dreadful, dreadful burden, when your underpinning assumptions are so disastrously wrong!

7. jange
# 6. John Kelleher

"His garbled personal beliefs are incidental, almost an afterthought, to the utterly pointless and senseless mayhem he perpetrated so callously."

You have given a perfect description of Kamred Prachanda.

8. Rajaram
# John Kelleher.  Yes.
Cum-red Prachanda  is responsible and will be remembered to introduce the culture of murder and violence in this peaceful land of ours, where even if one wanted to be molested was never molested some two decades back.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)