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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. Ben Johnson

    A liberal article posted on the website of a liberal news agency. At least you guys are consistent.

    People have short memories...people forget 9/11 way to easily.

    Maybe this liberal news agency should give more coverage to Muslims denouncing terrorism and that might help.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • SayWhaaa

      Being Liberal doesn't mean they are love with Muslims idiot.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  2. Do be heedless

    The writer said do not default Muslims ! Any act of terrorism committed by anybody is terrorism. Do not use madman and terrorist interchangeably and terrorism and Muslims, either. If not someone is throwing you as a casino coin. Is it right Khalid ?

    July 26, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • peace

      He did to gain ignorant peoples attention to know the Europe degradation culture with a sharia threat (a threat??)..

      July 26, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  3. Khalid

    There are over 1.6 billion muslims worldwide the overwhelming majority are peaceful kind people. As I said before all religions have lunatic extremist but in no way do they represent the vast majority. Just like this crazy individual in Norway does not represent the very peaceful nation of Norway.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Marc Twain

      Rejecting hate used in the name of faith is not a new aspiration. The greater concern is those who use religion to invisibly cloak hate. The radicals are easy to identify, and for sound-minded of any religion to openly and vehemently reject, which I will add still is something Muslims fail to do with their haters. As I said, the greater concern is those who cloak their hate in the name of religion. There are many reasons to call for death to religion; perhaps not so many reasons are to call people to faith, hope and charity.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • One

      Don't underestimate peoples intelligence! Of course everyone knows the majority of muslims are good people! That is not what it is about. It is not the people that are the problem, it is the teachings that contain too many outdated beliefs that indanger some of our most important basic values. And these teachings are a danger too anyone who either is twisted from the start, or who gets too hung up on the beliefs (and many do strive for extreme dedication). It is a system that blends religion and law.
      All people have the same worth and the right to believe in whatever they want. And it is not about forbidding. It is about not spreading harmful influences and about spreading good values.

      There are campaigns to raise awareness about violence specifically related to Islam. You cannot compare this to Chistianity or other religions cause religion and law is seperated there, and also, our laws are actually built opon the basic human values from the Bible, they are not in conflict.
      Women who lack rights, who are beaten, forced to marriage, punished if they reject a man, who are killed because of 'honor' ?? and all things we read in the news daily. Then the next day, suddenly it is not a problem??

      You can't have it both ways!

      July 26, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  4. john

    Actually terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, national groups, and religions. However in the last 100 years the Muslims have been the most “prolific” if you measure the body count.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • SayWhaaa

      You know john that may be true but there are reasons why 9/11 happened and this in Norway happened. Those people didn't just wake up one day and said "you know I think Im gonna ram a plane into a side of building" You most likely know the "America the Great" story

      July 26, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • john

      I should have said the militant Muslims instead Muslims.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  5. Just someone out there

    This is just like Harry Potter. The Muggles have their extremists and the Wizarding community have their extremists. Neither represents the group they are a part of and each extremist's activites labels its group with an underserving tag. Extremism will plague us, regardless of which group it is a part of. However, we can lessen its impact and its membership by not lashing out against the majority. Work together with the other side's majority and this will go a long way towards reducing extremism. Do not make the mistake of losing contact but use this as platform to form closer bonds. After all, Christians & Muslims (just like Judaism), are like rays of light from the same lamp. What beautiful thing faith is and how wonderful is God and how unfortunate it is for the radicals to poison their waters. Become an agent of collaboration and have dialogue with one another. Get to know your neighbors because, you know what, neither is going away. Life is more precious than senseless murder.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  6. BlueMop

    Just stop the blame game. Doesn't solve anything. We're all responsible for our own actions. Also stop generalizing. The muslims I've met are peaceful, kind, considerate. I have muslim friends. They are respectable people. The world doesn't need another war. Let's learn from Friday's strategy to be more tolerant and respectful of one another. It's the least we can do for those that died so tragically.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  7. Bob Rock

    God has no p e-nis! He doesn't need it for reproduction (to make god-babies??), and doesn't screw around (no Godzilla the last time I checked!). He is not a ho mo $exual (he lookes down on that, and haven't been cought with men hired to carry his luggage). To top it off, he cerainly has no "balls" – not omnipotent, impotent is more like it!

    July 26, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  8. One

    Anders. B Breivik I S N O T a Christian!!!

    Very few people in Scandinavia are actually active or even true believers.
    (Secondly, no Christian would do what he did anyway).

    KHALID LATIF makes the same mistake and gets caught in the same hole as everyone else.
    Whatever it starts with, it always has to end up being about muslims.

    All people have the right to freedom, health and respect. But it is NOT a right to demand that your personal beliefs, habits, attributes and extremely thin-skinned ego be of main concern of everyone around you. Be thankful if someone does care, but never demand it!
    I don't demand that people listen to me playing the violin even though it's my life, neither at the office, in the streets or on the train do I demand that. I don't demand restaurants removing nuts from the menue though I could die from them, I just order what I can eat. I don't expect everyone to leave the gym at certain hours cause I happen to hate showing my bare legs. And if 100 guys looking exactly like me commits gruesome crimes, I don't get insulted when police search for someone looking like me.
    Because everything is not about me. EVERYTHING IS NOT ABOUT MUSLIMS.

    Nor is everything about religion at all. This crime was commited by a disturbed man, fueled by contacts he made on an unregulated Internet, inspired by them and by youtube clips, trained by violent video games. The case is a textbook example of a guy falling out of society and into insanity.
    I think that is where we agree.

    But then you go taking every chance you get, to make it be about Muslims.

    (which I have respect for btw, but many of you really need to get hold of some self-distance!)

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

      The guy is talking about hypocisy in the media, did you see the initial reports. 1000 bucks says that the right wing dogs will be on Islam if this guy was a Muslim.

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

      Yes I saw it and that is completely my point. If 100 guys looking exactly like me commits gruesome crimes, I don't get insulted when police search for someone looking like me.
      We learn from the past, and so the media were wrong once, so what? You cannot go suing people every time your feelings are hurt.. And most important. I would be a lot more concerned about the power media has in general. Practically the world is run by it now. unchosen, uneducated people rule our world, all for the money..

      July 26, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  9. SayWhaaa

    Im loving this so many bigots who just can't stand the fact that they are the same stinking garbage that they make Muslims out to be.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • ali

      you're smart. smarter than most.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  10. Holly

    It amazes me that people can read this article and still post completely ignorant beliefs and information. The media has people believing that every terrorist attack is related to Muslims. If there is an attack by a white person, they don't report, "Christian person attacked such and such." If it is a Muslim, however, they will be SURE to put that up for everyone to see. It infuriates me!

    July 26, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • Ingrid kwong

      can't agree more with you, in face white men commit for crimes than muslim on a daily basis

      July 26, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  11. Bobby

    People need to stop this radical Muslim. It's really anoying if a group of radical Jews started bombing buses, buildings, ect nobody would be saying a word. Leave Islam alone because any body that was always being hate would be angery also.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  12. mary

    my god...im embarrassed to be an american. u guys are so stupid.

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

      plz feel free to do so....but i am not an American and I am embarrassed too

      July 26, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Amused

      Mary, I think out of all 40 something odd pages of comments, yours sums it up the best. I weep for our country.

      July 28, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  13. Sherri

    I disagree completely. You are saying that we can't even ASK why some people become radicalized. You want to shut down all conversation about this. That is wrong. When you say something can't be discussed, you are going down a dangerous road. And also we have freedom of speech in the U.S. It is OK to ask about something. It is OK to discuss things. To say that we cannot even ask about something is not what we believe in this country. So don't try to tell us that we can't ask about this issue. It NEEDS to be discussed. More. Not less. I see that as Muslim you would not want this discussed, but it needs to be discussed. And if you tell me I can't talk about it,I will talk about it even more. I have the RIGHT to ask about things. As does any American. Don't try to take that away.

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

      What you got your period get over it.

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

      He isn't saying to stop the discussion of this.. he is saying you should make generalizations or profile... because when you do, someone slips in the back door. If you are always on the lookout for a muslim hijacker, you arent ever going to noticed the disgruntled baggage claim handler who loads a bomb in the cargo hold. THAT is his point. analyze everyone with an equal level of scrutiny.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  14. ali

    bring out the clowns! (mindless uninformed/misinformed bigoted haters who happen to be fixated on islam and muslims at the moment).

    Xing: 245 terrorist acts were committed in europe in the last few years. guess how many were by 'omnipresent' muslim terrorists...ONE. you can take that to the bank.

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

      Ali I am a brother too, and your number does not look right to me, plz keep your self informed about the facts....In šāʾ Allāh

      July 26, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Xing

      Ali I am a brother too, and your number does not look right to me, plz keep your self informed about the facts....

      July 26, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  15. David

    listen to this

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYMKQKSV0bY&w=640&h=360]

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

      Wow..this guy is infidels too....

      July 26, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  16. David

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYMKQKSV0bY&w=640&h=360]

    July 26, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  17. iainthatin

    i really believe muslims are to blame. sorry but it is what it is.

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

      Thanks for that thought provoking comment

      July 26, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Ingrid kwong

      All I can say is, different countries/religions can breed all sort of people. Good and Bad. You can't just blame on one religion. There are also Christians who kill tons of people and encourage violence, everyday. It is very ignorant of you to point finger and target one group of people.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • Danny

      Muslims are not to blame. people are to blame. we are all people, and we all have different motives. A muslim might want to kill a christian according to you. well i would love to meet a bigot like you in a dark alley. im not a muslim, so who would you blame then, hmm?

      July 26, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • peace

      What a midnight! Is is not Muslim to blame but it is Islam to be blamed about!!

      July 26, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  18. The Truth

    Guys, you're talking about Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Hizbullah as a Muslim terrorists, but you have to know the truth, not just believe what they say! I'm a Muslim and I ignored what they do, because they wore the mask to look like Muslims but they are not. As one of the brothers said, Qura'n tells us: "Killing a life is like killing the whole human being" it says "LIFE" which means muslims and others. I do respect all religions and I'm against what you see about us, because you all see the fake face of Islam, go and ask anyone who lives in the Arab world and he will tell you. Don't offend the religion, religion are good, but people are the ones who made them look bad. No one is perfect.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • peace

      Yeah right? And it say killing infidels is alloh command. And infidels is non-moeslems. So which true? Kill or not kill? The problem...brothers!...is the way interpretation of Quran and Hadist. The Islam radicals interpret "to kill body of infidels" while The Islam modern interpret "to kill desire f infidels". The way you interpret brother!!..it is the way how you interpret the Arab language!!

      July 26, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  19. David

    go educate your self. listen to this Christian on youtube:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYMKQKSV0bY&w=640&h=360]

    July 26, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Rex Lutherin

      We heard you the first time.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  20. Xing

    lets keep this simple....all Muslims are not terrorist, but most of the terrorist are Muslims

    July 26, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Rex Lutherin

      Let's keep this simple... you're a friggin' idiot. How about the IRA? The PLO? Timothy McViegh? George Bush & Co. ??

      July 26, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Xing

      you are ignorant..... that's why I have said MOST not ALL...take it ez Rex

      July 26, 2011 at 12:26 am |
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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.