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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.

Far right makes comeback in Europe

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. patriot44

    OK. You got us. Two mass attacks not carried out by muslims in the past 16 years. Although one of them apparently was a sick response to the spread of islam. There are muslims terrorist attacks somewhere in the world on a daily basis. There is a problem whether it is politically correct to say it or not.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • aber

      what about the slaughter of over 500000 Iraqis to 'rescue' Iraq?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Meena

      Really? just two mass attacks not carried out by muslims? if you thought about what you were saying for more than 2 seconds, you would realize that your definition of "terrorism" has subconsciously become "act perpetrated by a muslim" and are thus negligent of all other criminal attacks for the purpose of forcing submission by all sorts of other people/groups with various agendas. If only you would think about it for a few more seconds...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • raymondm1

      @aber

      What about all the Kurds slaughtered under Sadaam? People seem to forget to mention that.
      Civilians are a casualty of war there is no debate in that but hopefully they will have a government in the end which allows people their freedom, all people in the country their freedoms. Iraqi's may say it was better under Sadaam but what do the Kurds have to say on the matter? That is their home as well...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Useyourbrain

      What about Virgina Tech? What about Ted Kaczynski? What about Eric Rudolph? What about Jared Loughner? By the way, anyone who calls himself "Patriot" is simply someone who has an agenda. A real patriot doesn't have to label themselves a patriot because they don't need to gain any credibility with their audience.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • patriot44

      What about it? Talk about inflating your number in the hope that nobody would call your bluff. I think it is actually closer to 110,000 and I am not sure how many were killed by their own people. Probably less than was killed under the ruthless dicator that was removed?

      I bet you support the United nations. How many resolutions should be passed and ignored before the world takes action? I think the Iraqi people are much happier now that Saddam is gone and they are allowed to vote and educate themselves. Bottom line is that there will always be problems in that region due to the tribal nature of their society.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Lover

      Do know about communication theory? News Media in mid east doesn't allowing to publish about Muslim activity such as mass killing by radicals group. In western or democracy area, the news are free to publish. Iff you never heard then you never know. In mid east and others Islam countries, if you publish about majority Moeslem activity, your newsspaper will get a mass radical group demonstration and your editorial will get head-cut for insulting "the way of Islam"

      July 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • AlAnwar

      @ Lover, that is called "Islamophobia" from which Breivik was suffering fraom and he killed his own fellow Norwegians Youngsters..I wonder why..

      July 25, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • patriot44

      From what did the term Islamaphobia originate and when? Some people call it Islamaphobia (mostly Islam followers and liberals who want a group hug) and some recognize it for what it is...REALITY. Quit refusing to acknowledge the problem. Question: If some people say the Jihad is real and others do not why should the ones who says it is not be considered more credible?

      July 25, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Ty

      It is a war and surely not justified. It is just that when faced with an aggressor, be it a nation's military, most freedom gighters in the right mind would, you know, attack that military. They would not go to a market, in the next country over and blow up a bunch of women and orphans along with themselves, to "make a statement".

      July 26, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  2. DaVuVuZeLa

    I think it's entirely appropriate to put Christianity front and center in the attacks. His christianity drove him to attack his fellow norweigans, who he viewed as traitorous. I'm tired of this double standard of blaming islam when the attacker is muslim and calling him 'crazy' or 'insane' when he's christian. He's a terrorist just the same as bin Laden and christianity should be scrutinized the same as christianity.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • illuminati

      The blame is now on you. You were the helper in the sleeper cell.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • AlAnwar

      He was a Freemason, it says in wikipdia. Freemasons are Jewish I think. According to his video that I saw, he was a socialist Freemason who wanted to Incite the Europeans to fight the Muslims. Yet he killed norwegians.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  3. Mah Freitas

    Reading the comments I noticed something interesting: people explaining that the man who's responsible for this tragedy is no Christian, for Jesus would never endorse such acts and for the religion doesn't preach violence.
    I've been studying Islam for over 3 years and there's nothing that preaches use of violence, killings, oppression or anything of the sort. I wonder why those responsible for September 11th, the attacks in Europe, the recent attacks in Marrakech and in Mumbai fall into the religious terrorism label; if they're clearly not practicing the true Islam.

    I also read comments that mentioned the number of victims made by non-muslim terrorists is smaller than the number made by muslim terrorists. First of all, many people don't even know what terrorism means. Secondly, a kid opening fire in a school is terrorism, a guy opening fire in a political speech is terrorism; what happened in Norway is terrorism.
    The only clear distinction I see is that we label as terrorism something that comes from a specific group (the muslims), and not from everyone that actually practices terrorism.

    Another interesting comment was about the supposed 10% of the muslim population that is extremist. First of all, being ideologically extremist doesn't mean they will go on war – the same way there are extremely orthodox Jews and Christians that don't go to war killing infidels. Second of all, the west is dispensing a treatment to the rest of the 90% of muslims in the world that should only be dispensed to the terrorists. One might argue that this is the only way to keep security levels safe, because there's no way to identify them if they don't manifest. I agree. But the same thing goes to the white western terrorist – so why don't we dispense the same kind of treatment to westerns?

    The article might have sounded naif in many ways, but brought to our attention that we're subconsciously blaming a group for whatever terrorist attack that happens; without even considering that an "equal" could do that. Forgetting that the vast majority of muslims, who had their lives made hell by the west for the past years, don't have anything to do with terrorists or extreme islamists (which, in reality, are not practicing the true teachings of the religion).

    July 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • AlAnwar

      He was a Freemason, it says in wikipdia. Freemasons are Jewish I think. A Freemason who wanted to Incite the Europeans to fight the Muslims. Yet he killed norwegians.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Sofya

      Welcome to the People Who Have Actually Done Research Into Islam That's Not Found On Tea Party Websites Club. Or for sort, the Religious Tolerance club. I couldn't have said it better myself.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  4. Jennifer Alsharif

    On the muslim issue, people woulden't be so quick to label an attack as islamic or jihadist, if the fuzzy faced yelling lunatics in the muslim world could just stop burning flags and pillaging towns at the slightest western intellectual argument in opposition to islam the religion. What the muslims need, is a female muslim voice, muslim women holding placards, muslim women campaigning for peace, muslim women holding high status in the muslim community. we're tired of the intolerance of many muslim men. let the muslim females take the lead for a while.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Mah Freitas

      I agree that women need to be empowered in many so-called muslim countries. But in many other they already are: they work, study, are politicians...
      What lacks in the muslim community is a true knowledge of the religion. Most of them practice what their fathers and grandfathers practiced, and in many occasions what they practiced is more of local culture than religion.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Mustafa

      Jennifer, there are many women in Muslim nations that are in the political seats, just less than two weeks two Afghan women in the parliament were in a cat fight. As a Muslim I agree with Mah Freitas that most Muslims don’t understand and practice Islam to its original form, the problem is that most of Muslim nations have HIGH numbers of literate people where they don’t read and understand their own language let alone read and understand ARABIC LANGUAGE which the Qur’an is written in. Recently as less than two decades ago there were no translations of the Qur’an in other languages for people to read and understand the true meaning of Qur’an’s guidance. Most people were misled by those that pretended that they know the meaning of Qur’an in most of non-Arabic speaking countries. As an Afghan born Muslim I understand this was the problem 30 years ago and still is the same problem till this day in Afghanistan. My parents started to read the Qur’an in Dari translation and really understand Islam now where they did not back in Afghanistan when I was a child. So Islam is really flourishing in Western Countries more than it is with in Muslim Countries. I don’t blame the people but I blame the government of those countries. So this growth of Islam in America and Europe has got some people worried and they are trying very hard to demoralize Islam and it doesn’t help when Muslims that are not practicing Muslim do stupid things to help their cause…

      July 26, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  5. Researcher23

    I think all religion is ridiculous, obviously created by man to rule over other men. However, no act of violence or terrorism committed by a christian was ever done following the scriptures and teachings of the religion. However, islamic terrorism is fully endorsed and encouraged by the islamic scriptures, plain and simple. This article is insulting in its brazen comparison of two awful acts by xenophobic white people with christian upbringings to the vast networks of islamic jihadists who are bombing and killing on a daily basis.

    Perhaps people wouldn't blame muslims for terrorist attacks if so many muslims didn't commit them, and if muslims would renounce islamic supremacism and jihad........

    July 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • AlAnwar

      Islamic religion endorse terrorism?? What about the cruise missiles that were fired on Kabul before 9\11 killing innocent men women and children?? Who endorsed them?? And who endorsed The Nuclear bombing by America?? Islam endorced these nuclear bombings and the World War 1 and 2 your governments fought?? Now fighting wars against Muslim Lands in which Iraq was invaded by a lie????

      July 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  6. craig

    the killer is not necessarily anti-Muslim....he just doesn't want them colonizing Europe. I say to Muslims, you will not be welcome in any non-islam regions of the world if you insist on bringing your disgusting religion with you. So, if you want to emigrate to Europe or the US, just abandon your "religion" and everything will be fine. I always hear people say that Islam is truly a peaceful religion, but I have no doubt whatsoever that every muslim worldwide smiled a little bit when they saw the towers fall on TV and became aware that is was an islamic terrorist groups doing. Where is the outrage from the so called peaceful muslims who supposedly are the vast majority? Why are they not demonstrating in the streets against the terrorist factions of their religion? Its because they are all one. And if they did show any discontent, they likely have their tongues cut out or their hands chopped off or some other demonic "punishment" typical of islam.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • sheisugly

      It's not like your countries ain't already filled with disgusting religion and disgusting people.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Researcher23

      after 9/11, they were too busy dancing in the streets celebrating the mass murder of infidels to protest people hijacking their "peaceful religion"

      July 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • MM

      Because we are peaceful and prefer to stay in our homes, lead quiet lives and avoid confrontation. We also like to avoid people like you.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Sofya

      If you actually were to meet a Muslim you'd see how full of BS you are. Every religion can be taken wrongly by the ignorant. For instant just yesterday my family went and prayed before an ancient instrument of torture, eat ritalistic human flesh and blood and worshiped on the day of the pagan god Ra. In otherwords went to a church. And that lovely quote comes from Dan Brown fyi. Any how my point is don't judge a religion by the works of a few radicals. Christians kill 15x as many people as Muslims but nobody ever hears about it because it's not 'newsworthy'. Get a little intelligence before you come trolling again.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  7. Roy

    I am saying tjis to Bob . read verses: 7:166, 2:65, and 5:60 of the Quran

    July 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • aber

      you're prescribing verses now? why dont you let people read each chapter in its entirety so they may understand the context. you are such a snake.... u just might be the satan

      July 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  8. lou50

    actually 1700 years of history supports getting rid of muslims as no social redeeming value. you want a measure for that then look at the gross lack of achievement in science as compared to the jewish community. get a grip folks, it is a hate ideology and 1700 years of data supports it!

    July 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • beeblebrox

      Er... Aside from algebra , astronomy and medicine, you mean...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  9. AZ

    Your all stupid clearly

    July 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  10. AlAnwar

    @ Concerned America, you are the kind of people the neo-cons in the American government are. They made all these policies against Muslims, that resulted in Afghan war, and now your government lost this war and is in debt like former USSR.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  11. beeblebrox

    It didn't help that in the hours after the bombing two allegedly Muslim organizations took 'credit' for the act.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  12. Robert

    There's a problem with this perspective. Radical Islamic fundamentalism is taught in schools and mosques. Huge numbers of people follow "firebrand" clerics like Sayyid Muqtadā al-Ṣadr.

    Breivik was by and large a lone confused gunman. Killing children is an abomination, but he, so far, represents a small lunatic fringe. Remember the joyous celebration seen in large groups of Muslims around the world following the 9/11 attacks? You don't see that in the Norway incident at all. There is proper universal condemnation to his homicidal acts. But when you add the deafening silence among Muslims to fundamentalist acts of ham-handed killing of innocents (in addition to the out and out celebrations by smaller, but alarmingly large groups) there is NO comparison.

    People who equate the two are simply idiots.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Pete

      If you think that there aren't places in the US and Europe teaching racism and hate against minorities and Muslims, you should probably expand your education. Talk to law enforcement. Our media just doesn't advertise our dirty christian laundry. Or what is done in the name of Christianity.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  13. MuslimsareEvil

    So it is ok to blame the Tea Party when some white idiot goes bezerk but when Muslims bomb constantly innocent people they are NOT to blame.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  14. GI

    Denying that Muslims terrorist have and are causing the world to be in chaos right now would be ignorant.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • aber

      you are ignorant.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • AZ

      Since I can't use profanity ur stupid

      July 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  15. WHY?

    how come this person... one man... kills more than 90 people... isn`t a terrorist? yet Muslims, defending there home against people that come and attack it, are terrorists??
    make sense... don`t think so

    July 25, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • illuminati

      I know so. You are not qualified to make an opinion

      July 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • TruthSpeaker

      @Why I don't understand your shamelessness and thanklessness. America went to you so called 'Home' to free your people off flogging, stoning, slashing by the hands of people who still have 7th century mentality... You guys are hopeless. you should have been left on your own.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  16. Ty

    Yes, all religions are insane but the problem is islamic terrorists seem to blow people up orders of magnitude more people than other religious people. There should not be balnced political correctness here and to suspect each religion "equally", like after 9/11 when wheelchair ridden grandmothers were patted down as the ultimate show of poltical correctness. Further islam seems to go a bit further than other religions in prescribing the specific criteria on which one person can be killed vs not, clearly indicating that killing other people is an important part of the whole deal. If they are "innocent" they cannot be killed but if they are not innocent they can be. And it is effectively left to the individual to determine what innocent means. In many cases "innocent" means they are muslim. So if they are not, well fair game. The other religions simply forbid killing (although in their warped view of reality they still justify killing plenty of people). Lastly, if you make a cartoon of Jesus you will be condemned verbally and yes you might even get threats. We know what happens if someone makes a cartoon of the great charlatan mohammad. Lots of people, who didn't have anythign to do with it must die, property must be destroyed. I'm guessing vengence is a commmandment that has to be fullfilled on a daily basis, even if there is no act to commit vengence against.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Tony

      Actually, Christianity is responsible for killing more people than all other religions combined. Christianity has caused more deaths in the name of their spaghetti monster than all recorded wars in history too.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Ty

      I will buy that. I think islam may have cornered the market more recently, but the Christians and Jews have a most bloody legacy.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  17. AZ

    Each and everyone of you dumb @$$ that posted something disrepetful towards muslims or just posting dumb comments jus to be heard are idiots. If you don't know the definition of the word terrorism look it up don't go by what ppl say jus because there in front of a camera go by the number 1 soure that's been around b4 you were even thought of... A BOOK...

    July 25, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  18. illuminati

    All of this garbage about people arguing back and forth on who right or wrong or who can call another the worst name gets nowhere. The only thing that matters is where is the power and who takes over the world. The fight is on now.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  19. LoveEveryone

    We can't continue to blame Muslims for the worlds issues. Anyone that has read a traditional Koran can see it says to tolerate those who are not Muslim. Like christianity, there is different versions of their religious texts which are then interpreted differently from sect to sect.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Ty

      Tolerate by charging a tax. And if they don't pay that, then kill them.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • illuminati

      It is precisely those like you who take the middle ground who are our worst enemy. You are worse than the moslems. There needs to be a final solution.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • illuminati

      Know thy enemy. The Bible says to hate that which is evil. We know who that is.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  20. LicenseToSteal

    My advice to Washington DC is to stop any more Muslims from entering this country. They better wise up before it's too late.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Concerned America

      amen....banthemosque dot com

      July 25, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • LoveEveryone

      Do you wanna stop more muslims or more Arabs? And that goes against the freedoms and principles the nation was founded on. We are a nation that embraces those from overseas, not ignorant bigots.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • illuminati

      Vaporize all moslems.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Jim J

      +1

      July 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • BK

      I've read both holy books and I can honestly say that the Bible's teachings are no less violent than the Koran's teachings. Should we not allow anyone in that has read a book that has violence in it? Where do you draw the line exactly? After all, Christianity doesn't exactly have clean hands if you look at history.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • TruthSpeaker

      @BK The difference is people don't follow Bible blindly...They use their civilized mind and also they know that it was written in the past in a very different situation... Unlike Muslims...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:36 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.