When I proposed this blog topic inmid-January, I had worried slightly that I would run out of immediately topical events to talk about. Charlie Hebdo was fresh on everyone’s mind. I thought that I would talk about Charlie Hebdo, a few other Europeans countries’ mentalities towards immigrants, and the United States and Canada’s feelings towards immigrants as well. But I had operated under the assumption that perhaps Charlie Hebdo was a one-off affair, for the near present.
Less than a week ago, however, Copenhagen, Denmark saw its own shooting, committed by a Danish citizen, a son of immigrants. As a Scandinavian country that prides itself on its treatment of its citizens, ranging from the criminal to the poor, Denmark has had to do some soul-searching. The shooter in question had been in prison recently for gang-related activities and drug use, and had been radicalized relatively easily, essentially exchanging one toxic subculture for another .
Denmark has seen how its relatively open, tolerant, and supportive government has failed to prevent radicalization. The fact that its society has not prevented such radicalization has caused Danes to question how open they should be—a substantial number of Danes now want to reduce immigration quotas.
In the wake of this shooting, how is Europe supposed to confront radicalization? Clearly a society that takes a more gentle approach to its immigrants—one where social inequality is arguably lower and more benefits are extended to the poor—is not preventing a sense of alienation that leads to radicalization. The shooter was targeting a cartoonist who had portrayed Muhammad as a dog—how can a country like Denmark give up on its ideals of free speech just to ensure public safety?
I’ll admit that I’m not the one with answers. Honestly the attack on Denmark has baffled me. Is there something lacking in the education system? Or is this a new reality—people can go online and be riled up by the state of their fellow believers/countrymen around the world. This disenchanted Danish man, who had been just a petty criminal, was riled up by events and people thousands of miles away to believing a toxic mix of lines from the Quran and a sense of injustice.
When Bill Clinton spoke at USC a few months ago, he spoke of how increasing connectedness was, of course, going to bring wealth and knowledge to many. But he also warned of increasing security risks and increasing discontent that came with more information. In a time of thinning borders, individual countries will have to use their weakening authority to best confront these international movements.