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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. Ben

    And this guy works for the New York University...our liberal education system at its best.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  2. AlAnwar

    Your Islamophobia (hatered of Islam because of media propaganda) is your END. People like Breivk are going to kill your fellow innocent labour party like countrymen because of this blind hate.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Roelof

      Dozens of Christian humanitarian workers have been
      beheaded by Somali Islamists in the past two years, including
      this man, but it is thousands of Muslims who starve as a result.
      http://www.thereligionofpeace.com

      July 26, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • peace

      Before islamphobia, there is westernphobia and christianityphobia in Islamic countries. You started it. Not Israel. Not Palestine.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • peace

      hatered of Western because of radicals Islam cleric christianphobia propaganda

      July 26, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  3. Media Manipulates Again....

    and the sheep follow. An amazing communication tool is a victim of character assassination. Smear campaign wins again.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Tom in Atlanta

      Its not a smear if it is smearing most of the Christian Terrorist Sympathizers on here.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  4. Roelof

    First of all the attack was claimed by a terror group called Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami (NYT). Next to this German news site Spiegel wrote that there was a lot of cheering on Islamic forums. While the attacker later seemed to be a nutcase Norwegian that slaughtered "their camp", the multiculti lovers. Now you don't see Christians dancing on the streets nor do you saw Christians cheering on Christian websites like muslims did. Islamic Jihadists killed and injured more people last week than this Breivik. The exact number of Jihad attacks since 9/11 is 17.501 and NOT 12.000.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Tom in Atlanta

      Actually you do. Lots of right wing groups are defending them.

      Just like when you ask Palestinians why they don't complain about Terrorists there, they always say, "Of course Terrorism is bad BUT" there is always a but.

      Just like when a Christian terrorist kills children you feel the need to get on here and go, "Of course terrorism is bad but..."

      July 26, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • peace

      Yeah, you remember Bali bombing. After Indonesia govt punish and shoot the bomber, They cheer and scream for the dead of bomber, yelling that the bomber die as a "martyr". Islamic version of martyr?

      July 26, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  5. AlAnwar

    pashtunforums dotcom/political-talk-11/taliban-deny-hanging-8-year-old-19332/

    July 26, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • Roelof

      http//www.thereligionofpeace.com

      July 26, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • peace

      mohammed version of "peace"

      July 26, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  6. Ben

    I sure hope that this religious leader had nothing to do with putting that Mosque, Madrassa, or Islamic Center or whatever people want to call it next to Ground Zero. Again...our political correctness is our END.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  7. Non muslim

    It just takes a few drops of ink to tarnish a bucket of milk. It just takes a swipe to fall a deck of cards. It just takes a day to spend one's entire life savings. So no matter how good, how perfect, something is, all it takes is but one element, in a split second, to destroy its goodness and perfection.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  8. AlAnwar

    also on birminghampost and
    pashtunforums dotcom and other news

    Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi rejected the claim as propaganda.
    "As far as we are concerned, we haven't done it. This is propaganda by the puppet Kabul government," he told AFP by telephone.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  9. wm ramakers

    I welcome all imigrants but I wonder,some people with their dess code
    like to display their religion,they dont like our schools or churses and above all our legalsystem they demand their own law
    one wonders why they came here

    July 26, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Sailes Sengupta

      May be to practice what we preach: Freedom of practicing religion

      July 26, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  10. Tom in Atlanta

    Hey CNN....call the Oslo Serial Killer what he is.... a Christian Terrorist. Or do you not have the guts?

    July 26, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Tom in Atlanta

      That was a rhetorical question by the way.

      You don't.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  11. stormsun

    In general, I agree with the theme of Khalid Latif's editorial: the argument really should be expanded to deal with the issue of the "radicalization" of religion generally. There is a need is for a wider discussion of the impact of religion on conflict, and the notion that we should not discuss religion for fear of offending someone. While it is true that various people may be offended when their beliefs are challenged, that is true of any number of topics that we discuss routinely. Here is an undeniable fact: religion, itself, is a cause of great divisiveness around the world. Who can possibly deny this? You have hundreds of sects and denominations, if not more, who leaders insist there is only one "correct" way to believe. Thousands of previous belief systems have now passed into the realm of mythology, but here we are in the 21st century with people still ready, willing, and able to kill and do the most atrocious deeds imaginable in the name of their religion. Anders Behring Breivik is an example. The current and apparently endless "jihad" by certain Islamic sects is another. All I would have to do is make an unflattering comment about Christianity to invoke a flood of hatred and ill-wishes here on this message board. When are we as a civilization going to stop listening to the "spiritual leaders" who counsel hatred and violence against other people with whom we share this planet? When are we going to recognize that these are mortal men, just like the rest of us – except without the compassion and empathy that most small children seem to have without schooling and without effort? When will we reject the notion that whatever God we do or do not believe in, we were surely not put upon this planet to hate and kill our fellow brothers and sisters, endlessly and senselessly, forever and ever?

    July 26, 2011 at 12:40 am |
  12. dark paul

    iIf the leftist/liberal/Marxist leadership in Norway hadn't allowed 500,000 unwanted immigrants into the country, their children would still be alive. The "camp" these children were at was an indoctrination camp to brainwash them into the leftist way of thinking. Payback is hell so they are paying. I hear Vikings cheering all the way from the gates of Valhalla. The war against the left is on.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Tom in Atlanta

      You know since the Federal court just said that its ok to say "I'm going to kill the president" I really feel tempted to say, "And hopefully someone reveals your name and address so that a rampaging mob can find and kill you" but really that would just be stopping to your level and that of the Christian terrorist.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • Tom

      Unwanted? The governing party was elected in a democracy. If the immigration was unwanted, they would have voted them out.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  13. peace

    it looks like this will be going to be a longest comment in cnn blog history?!

    July 26, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  14. Sean

    What people don't understand in their rush to accept a multicultural explanation for everything, is that there are actually HUGE differences in the way that Christians and Muslims handle issues like politics and war. Jesus specifically told his followers to stay out of politics, where as Islam is a distinctly political religion. Mohammed was a General, he had an army, he conquered other peoples in the name of God. Because of this, there will always be more politically charged violence in the name of Islam, for better or for worse.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • Samuel

      While indeed Christianity started as an anarchist religion, ever since the Roman Empire took it up it has been firmly a political religion. So really what either religion was founded on is a moot point. Christianity has been politicized for a few centuries before Islam even came around.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  15. LAphil

    Not ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORIST. Just 50 Million out of 1 Billion on Earth...

    July 26, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • collins61

      Try over 200 million.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Joe

      Even 50 million is way too many. Stop justifying it.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • peace

      but 1 billions afraid of that 50 millions and doesn't do anything to stop their radicals "fellow brother" 50 millions.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  16. Joe Dugan

    Are you serious?

    July 26, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  17. Name*keith

    Again with the Oklahoma bombing?? Thats the only domestic terrorist event these people have. Now this jerk from Norway. Thousands of atrocities comitted by Islam every year and these two events are some how a justification of the poor muslim victims being smeared?

    July 26, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Dan

      Yes and McVeigh was an agnostic - a fact that these people willfully ignore.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Tom

      What do you call KKK lynchings? The US Capital shooting by Puerto Rican nationalists? Abortion clinic shootings? Eco-terrorism?

      July 26, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • stormsun

      Ted Kaczynski would be another. His violence was on a smaller scale, but created considerable fear. The DC sniper (I'm not going to look up the loser's name) was another, along with his dim-witted nephew. If you went back a bit farther, the SLA was certainly a terrorist gang; so was the "Weather Underground" and various other politically motivated reactionary groups. Personally, I believe you should also include the "eco-terrorists" – killing or using violence in the name of Mother Earth is no less reprehensible than doing the same in the name of God or Allah or the Party Leader or whatever.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  18. BillBeeRx

    Quite simple: IF the world knee jerks to muslims as the perps... 1. don't you think the muslims earned that dubious honor. 2. don't you think you muslims have damage control to do?? you put the onus on yourselves..by not controlling your bad seeds

    July 26, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Hani

      You're an idiot.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • peace

      want to know? go to front yard of your muslims neighbor and scream "mohammed is a piggy fat lazy" and then on 3 seconds, you will be shoot and they onl say "i'am going awarded by 72 virgin on heaven" LOL LOL LOL

      July 26, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Tom

      Ok, so we should expect an apology from you every time one of "our own" commits a crime.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  19. Modern Muslim

    "The ink of a scholar, is holier than the blood of the martyr." How come no one quotes this when they refer to "radical" Islam and how Islam is all about Jihad. Get to know the 99% of us who are just as ordinary as the folks that reside in this world, and hopefully we can live in a world where people can co-exist with each other. Instead of spewing hate on these sites, maybe get to know your fellow neighbor, whether he/she be a Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Athiest, gay, straight, whatever. If you are so concerned about this world, make a change with your fellow citizens instead of hiding behind an I.P. cover and trying to add fuel to the fire. The world doesn't need anymore coals added to it. It needs more fire fighters to put the fires out.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Concerned America

      I am sure you feel like an ordinary guy...do good in the community, and all that. but.as a muslim, you are required to live according to the quran. you are required to follow its edict that you must prevail in the conquer or killing of non believers. you sir, are being taught in your mosque that non believers in allah will ultimately perish, and that makes you part of the problem. Yes, as my neighbor, you might borrow my mower, or break bread at my home...but you are being taught to win the battle. And when you ever feel threatened, or that you are called by allah to win the war...you will do it. you and those who would act out the call for jihad will kill me in my home, the very place you broke bread with my family. And when we begin to dismantle the mosque because we finally see islam for its real dangerous nature, you will arm yourself, and take my family hostage. It is what it is.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • peace

      What fuel? Who is fire? lol lol lol radicals is not fire, they instead is a coward hiding behind religion name.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Hani

      Concerned America obviously gets his MISinformation from fox news. You're understanding of the Quran is pathetic and wrong. Try really learning about the subject you speak of before you talk. Right now you just sound like another ignorant hate monger.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Dan

      Unfortunately many of the nicer sounding verses of the Qur'an were later abbrogated by Mohammad as his quest for blood and booty grew. Truly convenient for him, that Allah was so willing to change his own word when Mohammad wanted to do something.

      Then, of course, is teh issue of Taqiyya. If you're allowed to lie to unbelievers about your religion, how many people are going to take you at your word?

      July 26, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Modern Muslim

      My dear neighbor ... This is exactly what I'm talking about. If only you got to know me and not judge a book by a cover. It's not just about breaking bread or borrowing your mower. I've learned to co-exist, something many of us that can't do. I'm 28 years old and I've never touched a gun in my hand. I play hockey with a guy who's name is Jimbo (how redneck of a name is that) and he's among one of my best friends. One of my favorite songs to play on the guitar is Alan Jackson's "Where were you when the world stopped turning," a song that so beautifully narrates the awe we were left in after the horrendous crimes of 9/11. I don't hate my fellow neighbors. IF there is anyone I hate in this world, it these "Muslims" who make the other 99 percent look bad. In conclusion ... let's coexist buddy.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Tom

      "Concerned America". How can you even come to such a radical conclusion without even knowing who "Modern Muslim" is?

      By the way, you are quoting one interpretation of the Quran. Another says Jews and Christians are not non-believers but rather fellow People of the Book. That same interpretation says that the greater Jihad is the internal struggle within each of us to prevail over the evil in our hearts by doing good in the world.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • Dan

      Tom,

      Funny that you don't deny that the lesser jihad is killing people.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Behave

      Wow, CNN. I love the fact that you allow so much. Discussion on your blog comments, but can we have a little more mediation here, please? There is a lot of hate being thrown about here...a lot of bigotry and prejudice. Is it possible that comments can, oh, I don't know, be limited to the article being discussed and not, for example a comment above about killing off an entire religion? Or Neo-Nazi propaghanda? Please. Thank you.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Cyrus

      Concerned America:

      I am not going to mock your sad misinterpretation and half-baked understanding of the religion. Instead, allow me to state some simple things that might ease your confusion.

      As the original commentator stated 99% of the Muslim world work, pay bills, raise families, go to vacation, pray, and try to leave a better life for their children. They may not look like us, or talk like us, or we don't even have to like them. But their strife is no different than ours.

      Secondly, Faith, Religion, and Scripture are very different things. Muslim scripture, i.e. Quran, is called the "End Book". It is called so because in it Allah (or Alaha, Elohim, Alla – all Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic word for God) clearly states that a "believer" must believe in the End Book and Mohammed as the last messenger. But then it REQUIRES that every single Muslim men/women must also believe Bible, Torah, and other holy scriptures that came before Quran, as well as all the messengers and prophets who came before Mohammed. Yes, that includes Jesus/David/Solomon.Moses, etc. etc. A Muslim doesn't have the choice of believing in one prophet alone. He must believe and respect them all. It's precisely why, Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist are revered in Quran, where Abraham is the father of all nations, where David's wisdom and courage are praised, and so on.

      2. In Quran, there are only two types of people, believer and non-believers. Quran clearly defines believers as "those who believe in one God, and no other god". Quran also calls Christians and Jews the "children of Israel" and relates Muslims to them as part of their family. Quran exalts those Christians who fast, shuns the Jews who do not follow Sabbath, and tell Muslims to take cues from the pious, devoted, righteous Christians and Jews who understand the message of their messengers and pray to the same god.

      3. Quran also says, "If you believe in god, the end of days, and do good deeds, whether you are a Christian, Jew, Sabean, or fire-worshipper, I have rewards for you and you will not fear from your god." This phrase is repeated, in other forms, all over the book. So, no, Quran doesn't say we must fight and kill all non-Muslims.

      4. Jihad means struggle, and every muslim is required to "struggle" AGAINST one's own greed, lust, etc. Muslims are asked to pick up the arms ONLY when they are attacked (whether by other Muslims or from other religions). If you know about Al-Qaeda's rise, you would know that Osama & Co. built its ground when our forces stationed in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. Many Muslims around the world viewed that as an occupation force in the holy city of Mecca. Given the history of occupying forces, colonizers in the past 800 years in the Arab world, I think their fear was not completely unfounded. Al-Qaeda's platform was exactly that. Those crazies kept saying Islam is under attack by the Americans and Mecca/Medina had been occupied by foreign forces (not true, of course). The call for Jihad came from there.

      I also suggest that you read more about the various practices within Islam (i.e. Shiia, Sunni, Sufi, Ahmadiya, etc. etc.)

      July 26, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  20. Dave

    The manifesto rings true. Islam is the religion of terror and must be abolished. A few isolated acts of terror every 10-15 years by someone other than Muslims doe not qualify the argument that all religions are responsible for terrorism.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • collins61

      Well said my friend and an excellent point as well.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Tom in Atlanta

      And the fact that you don't see the countless acts made by Christian Terrorists every day proves you really aren't one. By their fruits shall ye know them. Yours are rotten hater.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Hani

      You're both stupid and misinformed. You think that there are a few scattered acts of terrorism from non Muslims?? Get a clue. Your news sources are biases. Wake up sheep.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Tom

      No religion is responsible for terrorism. Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11, not Islam. Timothy McVeigh was responsible for Oklahoma City, not Christianity.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • Dan

      Again, Timothy McVeigh was an agnostic. Say, Timothy McVeigh, not agnosticism, is responsible for the OK bombing.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:00 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.