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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. peace

    hey ..We only wnat to live in this small globe of land? Why we must afraid? why we must be killing because we don't want to believe of what mohammed said? Hey Muslim, we are not live in colonialization age anymore! I don't want to believe quran and mohammed? and i say mohammed is just lier. This is my free of speech? Do you want to kill me like that danish cartoonist? I live in free speech fresdom countries. I hope my comment here don't spark your emotion to kill your non-muslim neighbor! or burned out my countries embassy!

    July 26, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • donbeskerd

      i don't know what you said, but I like it!

      July 26, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • WorldIsRound

      Yes, in secular nations you have the right to criticize any religion. Funny that Muslims come to secular nations and are angry with the ways of their hosts!

      July 26, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • donbeskerd

      World is Round for President!

      July 26, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  2. Bob Rock

    The problem is the tolerance of religion, an insanity that should not be ignored as a benign tumor, when in fact it's cancerous and will kill us all eventually. Religion is the equivalent of government sanctioned drug addiction, where drug addicts make all the decisions!

    July 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • donbeskerd

      Religion is for retarded people who have not learned to think on their own.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Bob Rock

      Think about religion as a drug addiction. Instead of mind altering chemicals, people are getting mind altering illusions. Same thing. People love their addictions that free them from ho-hum lives!

      July 26, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Plexie

      Hey, I like my religion and I like my ho-hum life, so be nice. At least I found a religion that lets me drink my beer to make my life a little less ho-hum. No, Islam did not make that cut.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  3. Will_H

    This article seems like it's really trying to say, "Hey, look, it wasn't a Muslim this time! That means nobody can connect Islam to terrorism now." While I agree it's never good to just assume Muslims are terrorists or that any terrorist act is automatically caused by Islam, it's counter productive to assume there is no connection between Islam and terrorism. Islam seems to be a religion that's highly volatile. I know plenty of peaceful Muslims that are perfectly nice people and who I wouldn't think for a second are out to kill or even convert me. That doesn't change the fact that the religion does seem to have an effect on a large group of people out there. Being PC about an issue doesn't just make it go away. You can take an honest look at something without being racist.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • WorldIsRound

      Wait till the next massacre in the name of jihad

      July 26, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  4. David

    do you realize that in Muslim Countries, a lot of Christian and Jews live there Peacefully? open your eyes and don't be blind

    July 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • WorldIsRound

      Peaceful just like how they treat Christians in Pakistan (blasphemy laws, intimidation, lynching) and Egypt (abductions, forcible conversions)

      July 25, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • donbeskerd

      yes a few....but how many tens of thousands have been sytamatically erased from the face of the earth. In iraq there are no christians/jews living PEACEFULLY.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Funnyguy

      @worlds. How many times CNN or FOX or BBC show you people standing against the violence against the minority.?

      July 26, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Plexie

      Which ones? Egypt, where several Coptic Christian churches have been burned down, Iraq, where 68 Christians were killed in Baghdad ~6 months ago while attending a Christian church, Pakistan where a Christian woman is in jail under the sentence of death for so-called blasphemy, or Pakistan where a conversion from Islam to Christianity carries a death penalty, or....I can go on, but now it is your turn to come with facts, not generalities or wishful thinking.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • samir

      1. Almost all killed by terrorism in Pakistan are muslims. A bomb does not know what religion is.
      2. Christians live in absolute ease and peace in Pakistan.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • peace

      peacefull?? They yell and scream that Jesus is ****, they threat that church don't allow to get higher that mosque!!, thefact is minorities live peacefully because the country is democracy based such as Indonesia. And Indonesia is on theology war between radicals and moderat Islam to apply sharia and abandon democracy. Luckly Indonesia majority is not like Islam in middle east.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • Plexie

      Samir, you are correct, most terrorist strikes in Pakistan kill muslims, a sad fact lost on many people, including many Pakistanis. As far as Christians living in safety there, while I am no expert I disagree. They are under threat from extremists, as are many minority muslim sects. It is the reason why establishing a truly secular society and making religion a private affair is so critical. Some majority muslim countries such as Indonesia and Turkey are trying, God be with them.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  5. Melanie

    The Norway man is not a Christian! Apples and oranges people!!!

    July 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  6. Frank Rizzo

    Is 'Christian fundamentalist' label correct for Norway terror suspect? Hell Yea and why not?

    July 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  7. Khalid

    I am appalled by all the ignorant comments here. The true teachings of Christianity, Islam and Judaism (which have many similarities) and many of the world religions are about peace and love at their core. Unfortunately the message get hijacked by extremist the world over to meet their political objectives. As the saying goes there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Concerned America

      Oh, Khalid, you make a weak argument. the notion of god in any culture has always been misguided, but thats another story. The fact is this: Islam is dangerous. The reason I am so strong in this is several reasons: 1. the quran does not make any exception as the bible does between old and new testaments. Thats religion 101. the real reason is that the quran teaches peace and compassion only to fellow muslims. It calls christians and jews pigs, and they should be turned muslim, or die. The quran does not make any apologies for this, and its lessons are taught in every mosque in the world. Also it is worth noting that the Imam here stated "not me" in the wake of a heinous act of terror. But, I say to this Imam "yes....you!". In the manifesto, and killers own words, it is the muslim immigration that made him angry and disillusioned enough to carry out this killing. So, Khalid, take your quran, and worship your allah. Fantasize about heaven while you kneal in prayer....but dont do it in the US. We are done being the custodian of your religion, and your miserable, hateful god. There is no more room for islam, allah, the quran, or anyone wishing to impose sharia on us. Switzerland has done it, France is trying, and soon all of europe will banthemosque. America, as usual will be last in doing so, unfortunately, because we always were a little slow at kicking out threats. But, I assure you of this. We will see many more islamic attacks on, and in america. these terrorists will have learned in a mosque. Americans will wake up, equate the violence with the religion (ideology) itself, and ban the mosque, along with all reference to sharia.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Plexie

      Why are they ignorant, because you do not agree with them? That is always my first response as well, anyone who disagrees with me is ignorant. Of course they usually disagree with me on that point, so then they ignore me, making them even more ignorant from my perspective. It is a dilemma I have yet to resolve. Advice welcome.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Alex

      Agreed

      July 26, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Marc Twain

      Decrying another man's faith is easier than understanding one's own. Such a simple truth but so difficult for any religion to practice, as many simple truths are: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Once again, we call for Muslims everywhere in the world to rise up against their godless, self-centered, egomaniac war-mongers. Stop blaming Christians for not giving you another free hand-out. Islam's financial contribution to the world's most severe needs is abysmal. Christians lead the world in benevolence. The smoke and mirrors of Islam is sickening.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  8. ali khan

    Khalid is absolutely correct. Religion should be ostracized for the act of a small few, be they Muslim, Christian, or Jew. We need to move past the rhetoric of bigotry towards Muslims and try to understand their belief system. I can guarantee that if you do, your eyes will be opened to the peace and beauty that his religion commands on all people.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • donbeskerd

      no thanks. Religion is for small minded people.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Concerned America

      Ali, when you tell me the quran teaches peace to all, I will stop talking forever. But you know it teaches conquest and murder. I suggest you walk away from allah, as his is a god that no one wants much to do with anymore. the mere idea that all non believers should be 'taught the lesson" makes us all sick, and we are not buying it anymore. The blood of dead people killed by muslims is on your hands as well, for each time you worship the quran, and the sissy god called allah, you worship the killing and conquer of non believers. banthemosque dot com

      July 26, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  9. flyfysher

    You're too narrow minded in your view.

    The fact is, there are lunatics who do all sorts of insane things. Should I apologize to every Arab for GWB's insanity in invading Iraq?

    If every time a White person does something horrible then should we expect other Whites to stand up and disavow that misguided individual's act?

    You're approach is one of 'us and them.' If you can categorize someone so as to fear and hate them, then that somehow makes you feel safer. But the reality is, you're not.

    If you want to cite instances of terror then I suggest you start looking inwards. Just start with all of the multiple murders that take place on a regular basis at home here in the USA. Some of the more notorious include:

    1. OKC bombing – McVeigh/Nichols
    2. Atlanta bombing – Rudolph
    3. VA Tech
    4. Columbine High

    July 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • peace

      Its only four? You want to know about Indonesia after 1998 reform? up to know after yr2000, The church burn is more thatn 100, the minrities killing is more than 1000 (Poso and Ambon). Want more...go googling!

      July 26, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  10. Joe

    Listen to all this hate.. You fail to realize that Extremist muslims preach their own version that is not consistent with their Quran. The Extremist kill their own people who are muslims because they want power and a man made oppressive society. They have all the power in the middle east but now they are losing it. The regular muslim citizens do not want them anymore nor never wanted them but were to fearful of losing there lives... (sound familiar like in Nazi Germany). The arabs are revolting for rights, peace, and a free democracy. What do extremist do, they just kill you if you want rights. Look at Syria killing its own people because they want power. The non extreme muslims, the normal ones if you will, vastly out number the extremists who want to kill. The Extremists have all the weapons and money being brought to them from Iran and the drug trades in south america. You also fail to realize that the arab world does make up the majority of Islam. Every religion has some kind of extreme group in there preaching hate.. I mean in history the crusades happened through the catholic church which was basically believe in Jesus or die. I mean that was a long time ago and we didn't know better.. But this is basically the same thing.. It will pass like the wind soon, you can't blame all of islam for actions of a few. When Syria falls, than wait and see. Iran will die out because it needs syria to survive and all the terror groups will collapse because they look to Iran and Syria for cover and money..

    July 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • WorldIsRound

      Quran tells them to slay non believers wherever they can find them, asks them to not to take friends from other religions, prohibits them from marrying out of religion, tells that a woman's inheritance and her testimony half that of a man and doesn't allow them to chose their own religion.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  11. me..

    Muslims like to blow stuff up and christians like touching lil boys!!!! Which is worse!!!

    July 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Plexie

      Blowing up little boys, or hanging them, like the Taliban just did to an 8 year old boy in Afghanistan. Two wrongs do not make a right, and such weak arguments are simply an attempt to stand for nothing as a person.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  12. Abe Goldstein

    The jewish people suffer at the hands of Muslims everyday. Musims want to kill us. Why is the world so hateful towards us, after all we have accomplished and contributed to this world. Without my people, the world would have virtually no modern medicene or scientific discovery.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • donbeskerd

      yea....not really interested. Muslims kill way too many innocent people for me to buy your line.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Plexie

      Abe dude, if you are going to present yourself as a spokesman of the intellectual crowd, at least spell medicine correctly. Helps with credibility.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Khalid

      Without Arabs the Western world would not even have the democracy that was built on the Ancient Greek texts that were preserved in Arabic during Europe's Dark Ages. Oh, and the modern world would also be lacking today's numerical system, algebra etc. Besides, its the Jews who hate Muslims and want to kill all the Muslims. We never did anything to the Jews before they cam to Palestine and displaced 700,000 people.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Joe

      umm maybe because the Palestinians are being removed from their homes.. That is why the Arab world is mad with you. Give a Palestinian state and let the half a million refugees in Lebanon return home to Palestine than you will have a much better and peaceful area. The world doesn't hate you we are just SICK and TIRED of hearing Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and won't make peace when both citizens of the countries want peace.. But it is their respective governments not allowing it. The only problem I have is that the Israeli PM gets to speak to our American congress like he is the leader of this country.. Also you have the largest lobbying group in Washington for a foreign country... I wish Israel the best and agree they have the right to defend themselves but not at America's expense

      July 26, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • donbeskerd

      Khalid...read a real history book. The palestinians left to make way for the combined advancing arab armies that were intenet on killing all jews. They failed miserably (because they are arabs). So screw them. They should get on with their lives and quit crying about what happened decades ago. I don't see the wealthy arab countries doing squat for the palestinians, they are just propaganda in their pathetic poor existense. Get a life!

      July 26, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Plexie

      Khalid dude. learn a little history before spouting your nonsense. The second largest progrom against Jews, after the Nazi holocaust, occurred several hundred years ago at the hands of the Muslims in Baghdad, Iraq. Truth hurts, but is it still truth.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  13. Humami

    May god be peace on all of you!! I m not here to spread hatred or intolerance..Its my duty to educate you about Islam. I choose this religion by choice and that the most beautiful thing I ever had. well Islam never spread hatred or intolerance..to agree my comment just do Google..Koran :Chapter 5 verses 32, (Allah says..Killing one human is like killing all humanity and saving one human is like saving all humanity)& read chapter 9(Verses 1 to10) and try to understand the context. I do condemn all terrorist attack irrespective of religion and race. may god be peace on victims and grant them a higher place in paradise .Amen

    July 25, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Plexie

      Hey dude, if it is your duty to educate people about the peaceful nature of Islam, go educate muslims, and leave the human race alone.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  14. WorldIsRound

    Muslims make their own nation out of any nation – they don't assimilate and don't intermarry. What more, they bring more of their own in the garb of marriage and sponsorship. Their religion disallows taking friends and marrying from other religions. They only have allegiance to other Muslims and Ummah and not the host nations.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • Funnyguy

      what if i show you more thn 10 people who have married non muslim. would you promise to stop being ignorant?

      July 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • WorldIsRound

      For every one of those who do, I can show you a thousand who don't for religious reasons

      July 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Andrea

      world is round, this is absolutely not true at all.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  15. Funnyguy

    so now if a white person kills a white person, it is Islam's fault. so if a muslim kills a muslim, is it christian's fault or Judaism fault? or Hindu, or budha, or Scientology ( is Tom Cruise a Terrorist now?) .

    July 25, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  16. Heidi

    Any form of extreme thinking whether its Christian or Muslim, racist or leftist, is dangerous, and should be countered with real, lively debate in an open forum. We've become so scared to disagree with anyone, to challenge other's thoughts, or worse yet, to have our own challenged, that there is a tremendous polarization of belief. I don't think that all terrorists are Muslims, but I do think Muslim extremist beliefs, as well as right wing racist, mono-culturalist beliefs should be contradicted. Anyone who suggests that certain people are less worthy or godly than other people should be questioned vehemently. Isn't it funny how Mr. Breivik's actions are so similar to those Muslim extremists he would condemn?

    July 25, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Plexie

      I am inclined to disagree with you about the mono-culturalism remark, but I am afraid to do so.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Michael Redpath

      Nice post. Couldn't agree more.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Heidi

      No need to be afraid Plexie, I welcome dissent! Still think that monoculturalism has many more dangerous side effects than positive ones.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  17. american

    Terrorism is not easy to define. Back in the 80s, the US tried to come up with an official definition. They had a committee come up with 6 possible definitions. After careful examination of those definitions, the US realized that they had committed terrorist activities themselves. Therefore the 6 definitions were erased and they finally found one that doesn't include the actions of the US.

    SO... dont say muslims compose the majority of terrorists because there are many all around the world.
    Also, a small minority of muslims compose the "terrorists"

    July 25, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  18. Plexie

    Why are so many of you not sympathetic to the measlims? It is a terrible disease, and children if not inoculated at an early age are at great risk for catching it and being scarred for life.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • WorldIsRound

      See what hundreds of thousands of ex-muslims had to say about the way they were indoctrinated in this vile ideology right from age one.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  19. Muneef

    Yep wake up you will be having plenty of those blowing your brains out for political reasons disguised under the name of religion extremism....

    July 25, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  20. Marine5484

    Yes extremism comes in all forms but, Imams and clerics are the leaders in the eyes of a person who practices Islam and they need to speak clearly and loudly against the ones who follow an extreme form of Islam and encourage there followers to speak us as well and denounce extremism.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • me

      Muslims like to blow stuff up and christians like to touch lil boys!! Which is worse!!

      July 25, 2011 at 11:59 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.