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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. Jeff

    Absolutely blame the Muslisms! Two white people committing terrorist acts in the last 17 years does not discount the fact that a majority of terrorists in the world today are MUSLIM men between the ages of 18 and 30. You want us to stop blaming Muslims because some Old Navy commercial reject lost his marbles? We have every right to suspect Muslims first when terror attacks occur and if you don't like it, talk to the terrorists, not us.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • call4peace

      keep doing it, you are stupid.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Moose

      What about all of the right wing "Christians" that blow up abortion clinics? Is that not terror?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • TruthBknown

      I have some more to add to the list:
      Unabomber – Ted Kaczynski
      Jared Lee Lougnher
      Eric Robert Randolph – Olympic Park Bombing in Atalanta
      -Numerous abortion clinic bombings
      Robert Chambliss and Ku Klux Klan members who took pride in bombing black churches

      How many more do I need to add before we can start blaming and stereotyping white American males for terrorist attacks or can we stop being naive in believing that one race of people cornered the market in terror?? You tell me because I still have more to add to the list.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:08 am |
  2. les_b

    Yes - hate spawns hate. But the vast majority of terrorists are . . . you guessed it. Winston Churchill : "No stronger retrograde force exists in the world."

    July 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Occupation

      put away your yard stick, and just admit they are all absurd, all of them.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Matt

      You need to consider the reverse. How many Muslims are terrorists? All of them? That's over 1,500,000,000 terrorists. One percent? That's 15 million terrorists. A hundredth of a percent? 150,000 terrorists. Obviously, I don't know how many muslim terrorists their are, but if we assume the last number is correct (the first two clearly aren't) then 1 out of every 10,000 muslims is a terrorist. How many muslims have you met in your entire life? 0? 10? 20? 100?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Occupation

    They didn't commit mass murder because they didn't believe in god. Your correlation to atheism is asinine.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  4. Muhammad

    As a Muslim, I believe this article is outrageous. Muslims have been committing most of the recent attacks – fact. Just because one or two events occur where it doesn't happen doesn't mean that I will not automatically assume a Muslim is behind any future acts. Its a sad state of affairs but its true. This article is absurd and its unfortunate that a prominent leader in the community has taken this sort of a stand.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Occupation

      Event? Like an outdoor concert? If Islam is to blame then so is Christianity, simple.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Values Voter

      Since you say you are a Muslim and not a piece of white trash repub, I'm sure it must be true. Idiot.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • The Truth

      considering you used the name Muhammad, I seriously doubt you are a true or devout muslim. And your whole argument is exactly what the article was warning us about.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  5. sharky

    Imam Khalid Latif–

    First a claim was actually made that it WAS a Jihadi group that committed this terrorist act, so it was not exactly out of the ordinary to think it was Muslim based.

    Second, MOST historical fact, MOST terrorist attacks have been by Muslims. Not even just terrorist attacks. Protests, riots they have turned violent too, by Muslims.

    The West and Islam do not mix. Most people know this.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Values Voter

      gee, I guess you need to tell my Muslim co-workers that. Moron.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • mica

      @Sharky
      I see that when you decide to spew nonsense on the internet you really go all out!!
      When you say "Second, MOST historical fact, MOST terrorist attacks have been by Muslims" are you talking just the last 50- 60 years or did you forget the other centuries....??? Terrorism did not begin 60 years ago buddy??

      Next time you use the word "HISTORICAL" make sure you understand the meaning

      July 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  6. Cold Sup

    The main difference between attacks by Christian fundamentalist (if this guy was one, which still is not clear, he looks more of a Nazi than any thing else) is that the christian world repudiates his actions, while the muslin world welcome its terrorists as heroes.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Ryan

      Very insightful comment.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Mohamed

      This comment shows how disconnected you are from the Muslim world, and how you know very little about it. Muslims across the world denounce terrorism. Muslim nations have suffered from extremism more than other nations. Do a simple search on the web and you will find countless Islamic organizations denouncing terrorism. The media just doesn't propagate it very much because it's not what people like to hear.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  7. John

    I understand the bomber's anger, but doing the same thing the muslims would do is totally wrong. I am not religious, but please don't twist this to be a Christian problem. I don't want Muslims in my neighborhood either.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • mica

      I don't want christian's around my kid's....we all know what those priests do!!!!!! I wonder if that sounds half as dumb as what you wrote?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • D

      Wow, could that view be any more hypocritical?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • sharky

      mica–

      Sad truth for you though, most kiddie diddlers are family members or family friends as opposed to priests. Your next door neighbor not even a priest, could be a kiddie diddler. Lawyers, Doctors, high ranking professional people, politicians are kiddie diddlers they just do it in foreign countries.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • mica

      @Sharky

      ummmmmm what??????

      July 25, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  8. bs

    The 10,000:1 ratio of muslim terrorists to terrorists of all other beliefs can not be ignored. Extremists of all varieties are dangerous, however at the moment and for many decades, the muslims have demonstrated themselves to be a significant threat to the civilized world. I have no doubt that if the muslim threat was somehow eliminated, the christians would become the next threat to global civilization. Next in line would likely be the growing threat from eco-terrorists.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Andre

      100% agreed with the Christian thing. And I'm an atheist btw.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Mohamed

      Muslims in general are not the threat. Every one in five people on the planet is Muslim. If their religion were the threat this world would be drastically different. If every Muslim had these extremist beliefs or ideologies then all those Muslim nations would have waged war with anything non-Muslim...this is hardly reality...

      July 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • bs

      "Mohamed – Muslims in general are not the threat." This is in large part due to the fact that muslims have been very busy attacking each other. Should the muslim sectarian conflicts abate, I have no doubt that their attacks on non-muslims would increase dramatically.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  9. Daniel Del Rio

    It's unfortunate to still have acts like this still being committed around the world,promoting hate and violence against people of a certain religion or ethnicity.I thought by now,we would all realize that a lot of thing dawned upon us by our ancestors do not work with religion being the first.Taking a good look at history, I see religion as an act of terror itself.Religions at war with one another when they're suppose to be the ones to unify the masses and promote peace and prosperity.Whichever religion we believe to be the right one even though I,myself believe religion is just a way to divide people,we as people need to come to an understanding that we as humans, can come together under one umbrella and work our differences out without the use of terror and hate.We need to work together for the future of our kids who now deserve to live in a peaceful world without religion,without war,without comflict itselt.Its time y'all, its time.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  10. Mystic American

    I dunno. I like the idea that all white Christian males be scrutinized a bit extra at the airport. After Nazi Germany, the Russian Revolution, the Inquisition, Oklahoma City bombing, and Norway, there is no telling what these fanatics might do next. Better safe than sorry, I say.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • JT

      Nazi Germany persecuted Christians who followed the Bible (albeit a number of churches of many different denominations allowed themselves to be corrupted by the Nazis). Perhaps you've heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer? What's more, the Arab world were allies to Nazi Germany and were in full approval of the extermination of the Jews.

      As for the Russian revolution, that had nothing to do with Christianity. It was fed by socialist and (especially) communist ideals that led to the atheistic Soviet Union and approximately 61,000,000 dead.

      The inquisition was a horrible atrocity that resulted in the deaths of approximately 2,000 people INCLUDING protestants. It was in no way in accordance with the principles taught by Jesus Christ and is therefore difficult to characterize as "Christian".

      As for Oklahoma City and Norway, exactly what teaching of Jesus Christ aligns with these deeds?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • matt

      scrutinize all you want, i could care less. the people that complain will complain anyway, no matter what color/religion they are

      July 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  11. Mr. Mxylpxlk

    ...If there AREN'T any Muslims, there won't BE a Muslim problem....

    July 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Mystic American

      If there weren't Christians, there wouldn't be the problem with Christian fanatics.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • IS

      Both of you are right, however without muslims, the number of casualties would be considerably far less. That is a fact!.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Nonimus

      ...there would be a problem with genocides, and you might be next.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • JT

      If there weren't people......

      July 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  12. Nsaqib

    What a hogwash! People's perception has nothing to do with media in fact it is the other way round. Corporate media actually perpetuates what is really the majority view. Nothing you or me can do to change one's thinking, it only happens by chance otherwise some nut case reads it all wrong and think it is his/her duty to implement the message. Indirectly everybody is responsible for such acts as the message is kept alive in the living rooms and beyond. The problem is that everybody thinks it is just their mere opinion but the seed is already sown in the minds of the future generations.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Jack Chambers

      "Corporate media actually perpetuates what is really the majority view"??????????????????
      My goodness, people need to get educated. almost 2 billion muslims in the world and the media perpetuates what is really the majority view? You obviously don't watch the news do you?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  13. mark

    this is stupid. there are only a handful of white terrorists, whereas muslims are blowing people up 24/7 in some stupid muslim country of the world everyday. all white countries shouldn't be issuing permanent visas to people who segregate themselves and form outsider groups in their own country. that's just ridiculous, they use our democracy to let them in then mock us in our faces.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Tilla

      if you think people should form their own communities, then you better ban immigration altogether in every country because majority of people form their own communities to live with people who share similar values, language, culture, economic status, etc. People will always choose to live with people who share their commonalities, whether its language (hello, Chinatown anyone? Most people living in these communities cannot speak one iota of English or the language of the new country) or economic status (suburban life has to do with higher earning power than downtown/inner-city living).... Stop blaming Muslims, immigration, and people who are different than you.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  14. Kayt

    There are extremists in every religion. To assume that all Muslims are responsible for any and all assaults perpetrated by someone with muslim ties is tantamount to blaming every Christian for the holocaust or the crusades. Both of which killed more than any 'terrorist' attack directly or indirectly linked to Islamic extremists. The point of the article is that hate and xenophobia create the kind of extremist reaction that ultimately lead to loss of innocent lives, not any specific religion.
    Look at what you're perpetuating, the exact kind of hate-spewing rhetoric that you purport to be against. Muslims are peaceful on the whole, but you must understand that those who perpetrated attacks against other cultures were perverting their faith just like Breivik did. They are the exception not the rule.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Ryan

      If you want to go back to the Crusades. You should probably go back to the massacring of entire cities and villages by the Muslims (Moors) in Northern Africa and Southern Spain. The would have continued to "spread the word by the sword" and massacred most of Europe if El Cid did not stop them in the tracks in Spain.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • JT

      There may be extremists claiming to adhere to all religions, but are their views consistent with the claimed religion? For Christianity such violent actions cannot be aligned with the teachings of Jesus Christ. For Islam, well, Mohammed was not a peace activist, now was he?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  15. WWRRD

    It wasn't the Muslims THIS TIME. That doesn't erase the fact that IT WAS MUSLIMS so many times before. Just the fact that any one would right an article celebrating the fact that IT WASN"T MUSLIMS tells you something dire is going on in that faith.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • bree

      Muslims do it. Christians do it. Groups of people with no religion in common do it. The fact is that people do it, and we should focus on those individual people, not start freaking out about muslimsreligionjihadcrusades killing everything.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  16. SierraMan

    CheyneyBush

    After checking the historical killing figures presented above, we now know who the terrorist champions of the world. The reality is that Muslims killed very far less than christians killed. If we are to give grade on terrorism and give a trophy to the winner; the christians are the terrorism champions of the world hands down. Lets us be truthful about it.

    ---------–
    Let's stick to modern times and not focus on the historical world before any of us ever lived, nor could control. Who poses the greatest threat to world peace and liberty in our current times? (Rhetorical question that doesn't really need an answer if you have at least 1/2 a brain and read the news periodically.)

    July 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522

      And we are so hasty to disregard history...why?

      "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

      July 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Reality

      Obviously, you missed this:

      The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
      http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u

      o The Muslim Conquest of India

      "The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      Rank <<<Death Toll <Cause <<Centuries<<<Religions/Groups involved*

      1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

      2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

      3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

      4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

      5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

      6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

      7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

      8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

      9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

      10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

      11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

      12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

      13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

      14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

      15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

      16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

      17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Pagans)

      18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

      19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

      20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      Some added commentary from the reference:

      *:" Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?

      A: No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion."

      Q: So, what you're saying is that religion has never killed anyone.

      A: Arrgh... You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many doc-umented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it's more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or s-ex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don't even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.

      In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under "Communism", 24 under Colonialism, 2 under "Railroads" and 2 under "Scapegoats". Make of that what you will."

      July 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  17. Ryan

    So because people were wrong with what two terrorist attacks in the last 20 years where they blamed Muslims. How many times were they correct in blaming Muslims. Just saying if more than a majority of terrorist attacks are perpetrated by Muslims, naturally people are going to blame a Muslim when a new terrorist attack occurs. It is the basic idea of statistics. If a two horses race 100 times and horse a wins 98 times and horse b wins twice. What horse will you bet on for race 101?

    July 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • aubrie

      Good logic...good common sense. Wish more had it...

      July 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Matt

      Here's some more math for you. There are 1.5 billion muslims and it is the fastest growing religion. That is 1,500,000,000. If even 1% of that number are terrorists that is 15 million terrorists and we are in trouble. Nineteen highjackers killed 3,000 innocent lives on 9/11. How much slaughter can 15 million terrorists do? This dark picture isn't reality – the perception that even an appreciable percentage of muslims are terrorists is frankly ludicrous.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  18. LP Chicago

    This event has a lot to do with both Islam and Christianity. We would be better off without either.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      I am born Hindu, but an atheist. But I strongly believe in the goodness of all religions except one!

      July 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Amit-Atlanta-USA,
      Just out of curiosity, what's your logic, as an atheists, behind religions being good?

      July 25, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  19. Paul

    Islam is not stupid, westerners kind of are. Islam is looking toward the future when they have enough people/voters in the countries they plan to make their own, they have already done it in many easterner countries through violance. Westerners are very trusting and incredibly naive and should be easy to overcome over the next few decades with the vote and not the violance.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Robert R

      I don't blame Islam for terror, in fact I sympathize with the plight of many of the people living in the Arab and Muslim World. HOWEVER, if more moderate Muslims (which I do believe are 99.9% of them) would speak out when Muslim's ARE responsible, people wouldn't be so easily swayed against them by the media, pop culture, and their own ignorance. Where are the Muslim leaders in the media then?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  20. babloo

    I beg to differ from Mr Khalid.. It is a fact that muslims massacred millions trying to spread their religion. Estimated 80 million were killed in mycountry India. Remember towers of heads terrorizing people to convert over a 800 years of occupation of India.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • bree

      It is a fact that multiple groups have killed people in their name in history, some Muslims have, but if you're going to invoke history it shouldn't take long for me to find a list of examples of Christians and Westerners who have done THE EXACT SAME THING. Doesn't mean we should vilify everyone for it.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • nadia

      You are so lost dude. I am indian and i know muslim did not kill 80 million. Which history book you took this info from. YOU ARE ONE LOST SOUL WHO IS REALLY DUMB.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:01 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.