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July 25th, 2011
01:53 PM ET

My Take: Norway attacks show why you can't #blamethemuslims

Editor's Note: Imam Khalid Latif is a chaplain for New York University and Executive Director of the school's Islamic Center.

By Khalid Latif, Special to CNN

In the immediate aftermath of 1995’s Oklahoma City bombing, much of the news media rushed to suggest that a Muslim, or at least a Middle Eastern connection, was behind the attack.

News reports on television and in print featured Middle East terrorism experts claiming the Oklahoma City attack echoed a World Trade Center bombing two years earlier and that it contained parallels to recent Mideast attacks.

The FBI picked up Ibrahim Ahmad, a Jordanian American, for questioning in an initial dragnet.

Does 'Christian fundamentalist' label fit Norway terror suspect?

Of course, it turned out that the attacker was homegrown and named Timothy McVeigh, not a Muslim.

Sixteen years later, not much has changed.

The tragic events that took place in Norway on Friday provoked initial accusations against Muslims worldwide. Of course, that proved to be the farthest thing from the truth.

Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed bomber and shooter in this horrendous act, was not motivated by the teachings of Islam, but by the teachings of those who oppose Islam.

A 1,500-page manifesto that appears to be written by Breivik is an anti-Islamic tirade.

Who is Anders Behring Breivik?

“Since the creation of Islam in the 7th century and to up to this day, the Islamic Jihad has systematically killed more than 300 million non Muslims and tortured and enslaved more than 500 million individuals,” it says.

“Since 9/11 2001, more than 12, 000 Jihadi terrorist attacks have occurred,” it continues. “… This trend will continue as long as there are non-Muslim targets available and as long as Islam continues to exist.”

An inappropriate response to Norway’s acts of violence would be the condemnation of Christianity, or a claim that religion itself breeds violence and hatred, though the manifesto repeatedly invokes the defense of Christianity as a primary reason for violently defeating multiculturalism and combating the “Islamic colonization” of Europe.

The expectation shouldn't be that white Christian males should now be scrutinized at airports or profiled by TSA workers. It's wrong when it happens to Muslims and it would be just as wrong if it happened to anyone else.

A more appropriate response would be to expand the conversation around terrorism and violent extremism beyond Islam and the Muslim community. The Norway attacks highlight why congressional hearings should not be held on solely on radicalization in the Muslim community, but should focus on radicalization more broadly.

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It's also imperative that training for law enforcement and other governmental offices on Islamic doctrine and law not to be conducted by those who present the normative understanding of Islam to be something that is radical. Our focus should be the safety of all citizens in any country from every act of violence or terrorism.

By cultivating a narrative that says Islam is the problem, we keep ourselves from maintaining that focus. All terrorist acts stem from an idea that it's OK to resort to violence in order to get what you want; that it's OK to kill to get the kind of world that you would like; that if we disagree, we cannot co-exist peacefully.

Over the weekend, #blamethemuslims became a trending topic on Twitter. The purpose of the hashtag was not to blame Muslims for the Norway attack, but show how Muslims are unfairly blamed and singled out regularly these days. The tragic events in Norway remind us that not all terrorists are Muslim and there is no reason that all Muslims should be treated like they are.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Norway. May God make things easy for them and grant us all the strength and courage to stand up against those who preach intolerance and hatred, even if they look like us, align politically with us, or practice the same religion we practice.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khalid Latif.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Interfaith issues • Islam • Opinion • Terrorism

soundoff (2,486 Responses)
  1. NotFooled

    But, we can and should blame Radical Islam for everything it promotes. There is a huge difference between one crazy person and a movement. To equate those two things is a deception. The premise of this article is a deception.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Siyajkak

      then go ahead and target radical islam and al-Qaeda, but not Muslims in general. There is a difference between an extremist movement and a whole religion

      July 25, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  2. Nadoush

    @Tommy
    how is hatred working for you, you blame the terrorist attack of Norway on immigrant and you hail
    the beast.
    what kind of hypocracy is this, ignorance and stupidity

    July 25, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Frank James

      Look, people hate your religion not just for what happened on 9/11. Almost every day, someone in the Middle East does something terrible in the name of Allah. Other religions are just as terrible, yours is just younger and is going through what they went through a few hundred years ago.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  3. aismanila

    "The tragic events that took place in Norway on Friday provoked initial accusations against Muslims worldwide. Of course, that proved to be the farthest thing from the truth." I disagree. Christian fundamentalism isn't the "farthest thing" from "Muslim fundamentalism"; it's the next closest thing. One religion blaming another religion is absolutely unhelpful; and when atheists blame all religions we don't get to the root of the problem either, which must be framed in biological and psychological terms. Ancient notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ impede us from creating improved social contexts – ones that foster positive behavior and hinder destructive behavior – based on modern understandings of the human brain. It’s time to pass the torch from individuals who seek to ‘control’, ‘save’, ‘exploit’ or ‘enlighten’ us to groups who seek nothing more than truth and blissful coexistence. Let’s learn how to form ‘inclusive groups’ that are positive (i.e., they reveal truth and/or seek beauty and/or add harmony). And let’s do so from a global perspective, not from the vantage point of ‘one country’, ‘one religion’ or ‘one ideology’. Let’s view diversity, open-mindedness, critical thought and nonconformity as virtuous qualities, and watch the age-old paradigms slowly fade away.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  4. TommyD

    Hey Europe.....Hope & Change? Hows Multiculturalism workin for ya? Thank God Europe(france, germ, UK) is waking up.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Cunamara

      Given that five "multicultural" countries exceed the US in per-capita productivity and GNP (including, umm, Norway) and another nice are within spitting distance of the US, it would appear it's working out fine.

      Too bad that the alternative to "hope and change" offered by the conservatives is "sadness and stasis." Let us know how that works out for you.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  5. George

    The Muslims have every right to be insulted. What ever gave anyone reason to think it could have been them?

    July 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • charli

      Maybe the fact that more then 19 out of 20 terrorist attacks derive from some whack job of shoot of islam.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Cunamara

      Charli, you might consider learning a fact or two about terrorism. Here in the US, the largest percentage of terrorist attacks are by Jewish groups, followed by Hispanic groups, right wing groups, left wing groups and somewhere further down the list Muslims. But maybe you don't want to let facts get in the way of a good rant.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  6. charli

    Its true... blame religion. Islam just tends to be the most radical cult these days so they take the most blame. Replace god with empathy.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  7. E

    Something that everyone seems to forget is that you can find a radical in any religion, political ideology or anything really. A radical is not specific to any group if you ask me. Islam and Christianity have similar beginnings and, to a point, similar teachings. What people seem to forget is that other people throughout history have distorted the messages within these teachings to fit their particular goals. Blaming one group for terrorism isn't a step forward, it's a step backwards. People need to learn to look past race, religion, gender, etc. I do feel sorry for Norway though. This whole mess is horrible.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  8. MonJ2011

    I think it is time to separate Christianity and Roman Catholicism to be more specific. Please?

    July 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  9. Rodney

    Europe? who said anything about Europe? Both the USA, Canada and Europe have a LOT to learn about Islam.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • emil

      maybe we don't want to learn about it just as you're not interested in learning about Christianity,

      July 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  10. Nadoush

    @ Phillips

    You better stop listening to fascist preachers
    cause if you didnt know, now you know
    MUSLIMS BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, WHILE JEW DONT
    NOW IF YOUR CHRISTIAN TRUE, WHY DO YOU SUPPORT THE ENEMY OF CHRIST TO BEGIN WITH

    July 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  11. ian

    Yeah don't blame the Muslims, otherwise you will be wrong .01% of the time.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  12. Phillips

    Hey Honesty, You will think sad,sad,sad.You better read your Bible. You don't want to turn your back on Isreal. You will think of these words one of these day's. God forgive you. I will be praying for you. God have mercy on your soul.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  13. Nadoush

    @JON
    anyone can post anything, but dosent mean it is fact or true
    without evidence

    July 25, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  14. Jon Lennart Aasenden

    It should perhaps be mentioned that only minutes after the bombing, two muslim groups went out and took responsability for the terrorist act - so no wonder they recieved our anger. -Norwegian

    July 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • augure

      No, it's because you are racists, now the whole world can see it, that you believe your media who told you that two groups are accused of being responsible

      July 25, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • emil

      first of all Islam is not a race so he can't be racist and second of all if two Muslim groups claimed responsibility anyone would assume one of them did it. they are not exactly known as saints.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  15. Nadoush

    @psssssssssst scot
    Muslim have rights to defend themselves

    July 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • the boys

      No they don't.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • emil

      yes they do, in their lands...

      July 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  16. Nadoush

    @Honesty
    America is ruled by zionist AIPAC and PNAC
    their media is as fascist it can be
    preaching hatred and fascism, braiwashing the sheep.
    the time will come when they wake up and find out they were fooled all those years

    July 25, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • zoso0420

      If that's true, then maybe the Middle East should be run by them. The USA still is the bext country on the planet.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • ian

      Brainwashed? The Muslim extremists convince ignorant sheep to do suicide bombings to kill civilians. I think that pretty much illustrates who is getting brainwashed.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Thomas Howard

      Oh no, not facist zionism! I wonder if you even comprehend the propoganda that you're mindlessly regurgitating. Someone in this conversation is a sheep, that much is certain. LIke zoso420 said, even if all of the garbage is true, it's probably not such a bad thing since this is a pretty good place in the world to live.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  17. Scott

    Pathetic. Using this tragedy to defend Islamic
    extremist. Just because occasional terror attacks are committed by non Muslims doesn't change the fact that 95% of all terrorist attacks ARE committed by Muslims.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  18. Nadoush

    @saaaaaaly
    your jealous of muslims admitted

    July 25, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • saaaly

      you're right, but only because they don't have to wear deoderant.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  19. Obama is to blame

    Obama is to blame for this terror attack. He failed to protect Norway.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  20. saaaly

    uh, yeah, you can and SHOULD blame the muslims. 72 virgins, pleaaaasssseee................

    July 25, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.