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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. Nicoyas

    Oh come on!!! The last gazillion terrorist attacks were carried out by Muslims. Let's not do the whole "see, you're just like us, don't be so quick to judge" spiel please. Fess up. You're culture is a mess. There is no other mass religion or culture in the world as violent or ignorant as yours. Are you a decent Muslim? Good! Find a way to positively affect your people instead of trying to point the blame on others.

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

      You're an ignorant troll. And we wonder why the word hates Americans.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • bao

      It depends on your definition of terrorist attack. The people the USA bombs and writes off as collateral damage would argue its the USA that is the terrorist.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Oyster

      Right on. And don't blame Sunni/Shiite violence on America.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • BG

      @ Sofya

      Word. But the 'world' has had it's collective ass saved by us.. a lot.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Peter

      Nicoyas: Ever heard of the IRA?

      July 25, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Mah Freitas

      Nicoyas, by your comments all I can assume is that you've never studied Islam nor has read the Quran, nor studied the history of the religion – and that your views are biased by that ignorance.
      The "find a way to positively affect your people instead of trying to point the blame on others" is valid to you and many westerns: history shows Eastern governments supporting repressive regimes in the Middle-East (mainly through business, bringing money to the regimes), invading countries and supporting Israel even though history proves the illegality of their actions.
      As you can see, violence breeds more violence; hatred breeds more hatred. What will be your choice?

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

      How many millions were killed in world war I and II? And it was a war excusivly between christians, right? And the list goes on and on.

      Radicalism exist in every religion, and it is mostly caused by lack of knowledge. All the religions have carried a message of peace, but people have distorted the teachings.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • caller

      Hey Nico, Bombing one million Iraqi civilians to get your dirty hands on their oil and labelling them collateral damage is also terrorism. Here's an interesting thought...in a dictatorship the civilians are innocent because they have no votes or say in the leaders actions. But, in a democracy every civilian is guilty because they agree to vote and consent that the action the elected leader takes is representing the will of the people...so how did the iraqi civilians get killed and the civilians of the leader who waged an illegal war continue to fill their SUVs with stolen oil...don't try to explain you'll only look stupid.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  2. Factfinder

    @heliocracy
    have you read his writings? He's an athiest, who thinks that europe should be a Christian majority as a way to keep order. This is common for atheists, even my professors feel this way.

    Not saying we should blame atheists either, a nutjob is a nutjob.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  3. eazyboy

    wow..people..why are we discussing muslims at all. A guy murdered innocent teenagers. Who cares what he said his reasons are, the guy is nuts. He came from a well to-do family from Norway. He probably never saw a Muslim in his life. This guy was disillusion and killed more of his own people then 99.9 percent of any Muslim ever has or will. When the son of sam claimed a dog told him to kill the people, i didn't see anybody complaining about dog ownership. Yes Muslim extremists commit mass killings to but not in this case. Muslims are not responsible for everything that happens. Christians like myself bare responsibility for the failure of peace on this planet

    July 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Oliver

      The guy have been mugged and beaten up 8 times by muslims in the streets of Oslo. His best friend from childhood was a muslim.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Peter

      I have been held up three times by white males. Therefore all white males are troublemakers? What?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Sofya

      @Peter
      Nice comment.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Sofya

      @ eazyboy
      I agree wholeheartedly. Could not have said it better. 🙂

      July 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Oliver

      Pete, If you are pakistanier and it happened to you in pakistan you would probably think so,

      July 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Philosophy

      @ Oliver:

      What basis do you have to make such a generalization? You can't make such claim without prejudice - unless you provide a substantial amount of evidence to show that Pakistani citizens have accused Caucasian of being trouble-makers because of a mugging incident; if not, your claim is invalid and heavily based on a prejudicial assumption and ignorance.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:26 am |
  4. JUSTICETO ALL

    Well there are no organized or government supported Christian groups who support the killing for the sake of their God. There are many Muslim groups some even supported by Governments that do just that. One scary statistic 90% of all minorities have been eliminated in Islamic majority countries over the past century. How scary is that? Also many Muslim countries have so called blasphamy laws used ONLY against non-muslims and some even have death penalty. How evil and how prejudice is that? If you do not think so than you should not oppose Blasphamy laws against Non-Christians in western countries.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Useyourbrain

      Muslims come from countries which are 500 year's living in the past. With increased education and infrastructure, that stuff (blasphemy laws) will go away. Remember what Europe and the USA were like 500 years ago, and you will see why you cannot measure most Muslim countries with the same yardstick. As further proof, progressive Muslim countries, as Turkey and Indonesia, are beyond a lot of the middle ages garbage you are pointing to.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • BG

      ... it was a world where you did everything with your fingers. When a handshake was considered 'squeezing the Charmin.'

      July 25, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  5. Larry - Columbia, SC

    Islam is not a religion; it is an amorphous nation with civil laws and punishments which has the capability of directing it's "military" to attack. As with any nation, some people in its population disagree with the direction it's leaders and military take. But they do not leave the confines of that nation. So it is with Islam. Stop the killing and we will embrace you; continue the killing, and we will defeat you.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • caller

      Listen Larry the expert. YOU started all the killing. Think back in history and try to figure out what you might have done yourself to pizz other people off. I know you guys right down to the gene and dna level now. All nice on the outside, devil on the inside. Can believe anything you say. Occupying and stealing resources and using democracy at gunpoint to achieve them! Wow what a people. Listen, YOU stop doing what you do and We'll leave you alone...ok buddy!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  6. JOe

    Blame the Norwegian politicians who ALLOWED so many Muslims to infiltrate the country.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • aber

      and let the actual murderer go free? what kind of justice are you talking about? you sound like you are living in the 2nd century

      July 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Randy

      still 99% of terorists are moslems and moslems targeting other religions as target (remember New York, Bali, London, Madrid) while home growned right wing christian like Breivik targeting his own folks. That's the diferent.

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

      What? A man takes a gun and shoots dozens of his fellow citizens to protest the fact that there are too many "troublemaking outsiders" infiltrating his country and you say the government is at fault for allowing the country to get to a 3% Muslim population? 3%? A whole big 3%? OMG, what planet are you on?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  7. Love

    As religion has churned out so many evil men, more and more evil men and women will be produced because of hatred verses. It is high time for United Nation to conduct soul searching on all religion books and make one stand, UNIVERSAL RELIGION which promote love, peace, progress, and treat human as human.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Geez

      Sounds like you are promoting the hatred and elimination of beliefs that are different than yours. Hows that different than Muslims wanting to get rid of Christians (and so on and so forth)?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • patriot44

      That is the stupidest utopian idea I have ever heard. If only all humans thought the same, had the same feelings, and hugged the same trees......

      July 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • BG

      @ Love

      1 shroom, good.

      Stop at one.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Soon as he said united nations, his entire argument was dead.

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

      @ MMR

      Actually, that's when I started laughing. I thought he was polishing his act for Dangerfield's.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • php5001

      there are in fact people in the United Nations who work there because they support world peace. They are good people. The United Nations itself, as a mediating power is, in a word.....worthless. As are the poeple who are in control of it. do the research, it's easy enough to figure it out yourself.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  8. Kristian FK

    Just to mention it, his best friend trough life so far was a Pakistani and a Muslim. He hated racism above anything else.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  9. jon

    You know its funny; the american and european left are always pushing secularism for us(christians) , yet, when it comes to muslims, the secularists will go to any lengths to placate muslim immigrants who actually hate us, despise us, and yet want to live in our cities and use our freedoms to attack us....

    ahhh the hypocrisy of the left....

    July 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Peter

      So this guy feared that too many troublemaking "outsiders" were infiltrating his country, so he took a gun and shot dozens of his fellow citizens. Huh?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Mah Freitas

      Says who muslim people hate american people? Muslim people might hate the American international policies/politics, but not the people. And I must remind that there are many muslims who are Americans, born and raised.
      If those who come to America searching for opportunities and a peaceful life find people treating them badly – as it's been happening for the past 8 years almost – of course they will not like you. You wouldn't like yourselves.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  10. yunus

    yu people have forgotten about the bosnian genocide ,rwanda genocide,spanish muslim genocide,jewish holocaust ,palestinian genocide,native american genocide .all these dastardly acts were carried out by non muslims.so pls dont stereotype muslims.the world shld be united against terrorism .

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

      couldn't have said it better myself well put

      July 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • JUSTICETO ALL

      Well lets see 90% of all minorities have been eliminated in the 55 Islamic countries over the past centyury. Some Islamic countries have Blasphamy laws used ONLY against NON-Muslims. Arab Muslims murdered an estimated 120 million africans since originally blacks were not considered Human in the Koran. There were 40,000 individual terrorists acts in the last 10 years 99% committed by muslims. Since 1956 96% terrorist acts were committed by muslims. Besides that Muslims are perfect.

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

      Palestinian genocide? Israel does not have a state sponsored killing of Palestinians – on the contrary, Israel is the only democracy in the middle east where women can vote and hold positions in parliment. Maybe your outcry should be against the Arab countries that withhold citizenship from their Palestinian bretheren and then blame Israel in order to project their mistreated populace's animosity and resentment outward.

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

      Assalaam Alaikum Yunus. You have excellent opinions and points. Also please allow me to apoloize for the idiots who post here. My best friend is Muslim and once you get to know Islam you realizehow similar it is to Christianity.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Fawzi

      Agree. Radicalism does not belong to one religion.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • Mah Freitas

      @ Realist: my apologies, but the history of Israel can be told two ways: under the perspective of the Israeli government, that praises itself for being liberal but that got established through questionable means (to say the least) or under the perspective of Palestinians who were expelled from their own land and now live as prisoners in the areas Israeli allowed them to be. Whatever you buy is none of our business. What is of our business is the wrong that goes on over there – wrong that you wouldn't like to be subject to.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  11. AZ

    Definition:
    Terrorism-
    Anybody wanna fill in the blank

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

      Is good!!!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  12. ryan

    I do blame the Muslims, and I don't care if its trendy or cool

    July 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • patriot44

      If Islam is a peaceful religion, and Guantanamo Bay is a terrorist recruiting tool, where do the recruits come from?

      They come from the peaceful supporters of Islam.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  13. RT80

    Hands down, western society is more tolerant of Islam than muslim nations are towards other religions – all christian majority nations, infact all non-muslim nations, are secular but most muslim majority nations are islamic. Clearly, this guy is one nut whose actions are NOT condoned by anyone and most importantly he is going to be brought to justice... unlike in islamic countries where people welcome a murderer with rose petals (remember the bodyguard-killer of some Governer in Pakistan) and celebrate on the streets after 9/11.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • sam

      what you make of the israels nentenyahos demand of the palestinians to aknowledge israel as a jewish state...and no one is objecting to the this very sickning idea if it was abbas demanding palestine to be islamic state the media would have a frenzy of alife time ...we know its the power of the media that shapes the outcome of alot of things and we saw it in action in england and we see it every day in our country the U S of A . its about time for people in charge of getting the massage across to turn this maddness around befor its too late .

      July 25, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  14. DLM

    The Norway attacks can be blamed on the Muslims and any other immigrant, because the shooter was attacking the system that allowed rampant and unabated access to the country. I live in Canada and we have the same issue, immigration and force multcultralism are ruining this country. We, as westerners, are so concerned about 'minorities' (even though every other race is more prevelent than caucasians) yet we have no concerns over how these people view us in their country. I say Asia for Asians, African for Africans. I bet everyone is alot happier...I know I would.

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

      I'm sure the Native Americans thought the same thing

      July 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • php5001

      hmm....i wonder how the native americans felt when the white man invaded their homeland and killed them in a mass genocide.

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

      the shooter did not attack the system the shooter attacked innocent people. How can muslims be blamed?? you think like a 2 year old child and you are actually showing sympathy towards the animal who committed such an act.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Philosophy

      Such an ignorant and naive post.

      Integrating other cultures into any bland demographic region helps to promote diversity. Diversity, unlike your "Utopian" idea of the Aryan race, enables people to see the distinctions and recognize differences; multiculturalism offers new perspectives to contemporary issues. When people are educated about other cultures and their differences, they will learn to appreciate and respect these differences. This, in turn, fosters an environment of acceptance and tolerance - I strongly believe that when given the opportunity, people will choose integrity and diversity over isolation, intolerance, and conflict; because it is in human nature to seek and find hope. Without diversifying our demographics, and if we were to remain ignorant of other cultures; we would be cultivating and welcoming hatred, intolerance, violence, and conflict - the hope to pursue a peaceful and meaningful life greatly diminishes.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  15. patriot44

    I would like to thank muslims for the advancements made to the American space program which is now scrapped.

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

      That's what happens when you steal space shuttle tiles to make Syrian bread.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  16. Alientech

    Muslims are welcome. Islam isn't.

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

      what have you actually read about Islam that is not from a non-muslim? would you go to a person who is not a surgeon for heart surgery? I would recommed you read the Quran in its entirety with an open mind before commenting further... or you will expose yourself

      July 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  17. Napoleon Hill

    "The Creator gave us the complete, unchallengable
    right of prerogative over the one thing, and
    only thing we own, our mind. "

    July 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  18. Oliver

    Imagine if all latinos entering USA were muslims. Thats is actually the situation in todays Europe. In Scandinavia,there are cities where Mohamed is the most common name among newborns. 25% muslims in children schools. Islamification in europe is very real. If it continues like this for a decade or two the risk is very large that Europe once again will be a warzone as it has been throughout history. And it can drag the world into a global war with hundreds of millions casualties. Killing children on a summercamp is not the resolution for this but there is a message handed out that is normally not listened to.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Saladin

      I cannot wait to reconquer Europe and make it part of the Arabian Empire again!!!!!

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

      Bring a Geiger Counter...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  19. heliocracy

    "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,"

    I disagree. Idiots are killing people over fairy tales, and it's time to recognize that religion is the problem.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Geez

      Religion isnt the problem. Its the excuse. Its the excuse that people use to hate one another. The way I see it, you are no better. People need to learn to live together...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • JAG

      Extremism is the problem. Extremism has many faces. Yes, it can take the face of religion, thus the existence of Al Qaeda. It also can take the face of politics such as Hitler's Nazi Germany. It can take the face of ideology, such as Communism, which married atheist anti religion and created one of mankind's greatest oppressions and gave atheist philosophy a bad name. Extremism is based on paranoia and fear and only knows violence as a means of getting what you want. This is the enemy that plagues.

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

      hahaha... I love the clip in religilous when he goes on to compare Jesus with Santa Clause "If Santa Claus can hit every house in the world. Steve Berg: No, we don't believe in Santa Claus. Bill Maher: Of course not, that's one man flying all around the world and dropping presents down a chimney. One man hearing everybody murmer at him at the same time, that I get. "

      July 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • php5001

      i agree. when you can't prove a story, it's a fairy tale. and the different people of the world are intent on proving that their fish tale is the one true epic story. i've always found it astonishing that we have archealogical evidence of elaborate cultures that can show detail down to what ancient people ate and were doing at the moment of death, yet there isn;t a scrap of scientific evidence to prove any of the 3 abrahamic religions that are causing the world to consume itself.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  20. rick

    i think what Timothy McVeigh, the oslo shooter had done is to wake up the world to take muslims issue seriously. (islamisation of europ issue and the terroism associated with them). instead of shooting the fellow christians, if Timothy McVeigh had shot the muslims in europ, it would have made the muslims more stronger and more jihadist.. so he had done this to wkae up the christian leaders in europ to protect europeans and christians..

    July 25, 2011 at 10:33 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.