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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. Jay G

    The difference between attacks by Muslims and non-Muslims is that non-Muslims always publicy and loudly condemn their own when they commit a terrorist atrocity. Muslims (even those that aren't radical) quietly sit by and probably even smile in private when a Muslim commits a terror act. After all, the Muslim faith is all about converting or destroying every infidel.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • BIOS

      you are 100% correct in your comment.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • tom

      After all, the Muslim faith is all about converting or destroying every infidel.

      Where did u get that from, Anne Coulter? Obviously you can't think for yourself otherwise you'd not have such an opinion.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • ArishaG

      Wow!! really? So all Muslims, silently applaud whenever any non-muslim is killed by one of their own? And you have that information by meeting who....all the individuals who call themselves Muslims? Wake up and smell the coffee.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Nick Rymond

      Thats funny. I personally know Muslims who publicly denounce all terrorist acts by muslims and get NO media attention for it. Perhaps its people like you who just dont want to give muslims any credit.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Concerned America

      Your comment is sadly so true. Remember, there has been very little cooperation from the muslim community in stopping terrorists, or jihad. The west is getting taken over from the inside, and sharia is in every court in the nation right now. Even Abercrombie and Fitch being sued because a muslim girl was asked not to wear a head covering. She is seeking millions, and going to win. Those dollars will go right to the mosque, and right into more suits against Americans. banthemosque dot com we must act.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Power Ranger

      ArishaG,

      Not ALL Muslims. MOST.

      Almost all Christians condemn Christian terrorists. Most Muslims are sympathetic towards Islamic terrorists.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • al

      you sound like a nice person so i will correct you...Islam does not require converting of non muslims at all , converts are welcomed but not seeked ...the quran states that very clear...
      i agree that muslims should have a louder voice to condemn any terror acts done in the name of islam...

      July 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  2. Cause

    730 000 000 Europens, one terrorist attack of a guy, smirking on his way to court,.... this is plain narcism, a psychopath at the highest level, he was busy with this, as I heard, for 9 years...this is beyond religion , its a sick person who pictures himself as a medieval knight..this is not an action one should use to free Islam for the terror it acts out, like blowing up schools for girls in Afghanistan, et cetera. If you use this to make religious terror less evil , your selfish and use this for your own goals. As long as men and women, gay or not, are not equal, don't pretend they are for Allah or God and their followers.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • skarphace

      So you are saying that if this guy turned out to be Muslim you would not hear many, many rants about how this is another example of the evils of Islam? Because if so, I completely disagree.

      Don't get me wrong. I feel very strongly that all Christians are not to blame for the actions of this psycho. However, I also feel very strongly that all Muslims are not to blame for the actions of Islamic terrorists.

      That, I believe, was the point of this article.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Cause

      I think , the way he did it, its an ego-statement, he thrives on this, he feels himself to be the rescuer of the christians, he ven killed for that innocent young people, but he is smart, he attacked them at the roots of his assumed evil.
      He shot the newgeneration socialists, see my other relply..Norway is not like the USA, its small..see here ;

      Vårt Land, however, recently put another slant on the Utøya camp, reporting that the Labour Party historically is run by a tight network of politicians linked by family relations, marriage and friendships who also have a tendency to take on key roles not only in government but in business and Norway’s powerful bureaucracy as well.

      That was his main goal i think..and that is why the prime minister of Norway said, even BEFORE they know who did it; we need more democrazy and we need to be more open.
      Cause this is a closed society, based on family and religion, even in parliament

      July 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Cause

      ah my slow pc..and my bad typing..give rise to all my typo's but ...democrazy is..well maybe the best one 😉

      July 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  3. Joelli

    I almost wanted to vomit when I watch TV and see broadcaster calingl this barbarian "MADMAN" instead of terrorist. If he was a Muslim, ohh my god, he would be called all names -TERRORIST, MUJAHEDDIN, ALQAIDA, IMMIGRANT, REFUGEE and mention his background", but because he is white I HAVE NEVER SEEN/READ in the western media calling this killer TERRORIST, they call him "MADMAN" ,ha ha ha ha its so funny!!!!!!! Is the definition of Terrorist means only "Muslim" Can any one answer this question please , is this killer TERRORIST OR NOT , even CNN and FOX news never called a TERRORIST

    July 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Ina (Norwegian)

      The man is called a TERRORIST in Norwegian media, and by the general public. He is accused for TERRORISM. This happened to Norway, by a Norwegian. We do not separate by religion or race when it comes to the actions this man carried out – he is a TERRORIST. I cannot answer for what the world media reports.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Norwegians

      Please note, in all norwegian media the suspect of this terrorist action (hence he will be reffered to this unitill he is sentenced in a democratic country) is reffered to as a terroririst. And I guess we also can consider Norwegian media as western media as well. Br. Norwegian citizen.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • skarphace

      Well, to explain to any non US citizen, there have been many claims by a certain group of US citizens lately that all Muslims are terrorists and that all terrorists are Muslim. If this logic is true, then the actions of this Christian should mean that all Christians are terrorists as well. Instead, they say that he is a madman, not a Christian terrorist. This is the hypocracy all levelheaded Americans have to deal with on a daily basis.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Norwegians

      This makes no sense to me. To be a terrorist you have to fullfill a terrorist action (terror) terrorism is an act and not a state of believe.If any direction of different faith is terrorism I guess we all have our issues. I guess you have to fullfill the definiton of an terrorist act to be concidered a terrorist. A act of faith is not, but gunning down 68 kids on a Island and blow up a government building is likely to be gloser to fullfill the defenition to be called a terrorist. Don't you Think?

      July 25, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  4. reader 2010

    Sorry,but Islam,Moslims destroy other cultures.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • skarphace

      Sorry, but so do any radicalized group, such as christian fundamentals. They are destroying US culture as we speak. They want all countries to be segregated by race and religion. Mutliculturalism is evil to them, and therefore so is the US as it stands today.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  5. Malik

    By the way, my earlier comment was for the Imam, not the idiots who post moronic comments purporting to speak for all Christendom.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  6. Causa

    730 000 000 Europens, one terrorist attack of a guy, smirking on the way to court, this is plain narcism, a psychopath at the highest level, he was busy with this, as I heard, for 9 years...this is beyond religion , its a sick person who pictures himself as a medieval knight..this is not an action one should use to free Islam for the terror it acts out, like blowing up schools for girls in Afghanistan, et cetera. If you use this to make religious terror less evil , your selfish and use this for your own goals.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  7. KotaKibalu

    As a diehard conservative Christian I believe everything FoxNews, Hannity, Palin etc tell me. In fact I think the way they tell me to think all the time.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  8. Ina (Norwegian)

    I have a suggestion for the author; look to Norway and how we have handled this issue. It is the least you could have done before writing this article! We are a small, but a very proud nation and not insignificant! Not once did the Norwegian media point to Muslims or Islam after the bombing in Oslo (before the shooting started). The only link to Islam that was addressed was a website where Al-queda claimed to be behind the attack. We have not called Breivik a Madman – we call him a TERRORIST because that is what he is. I truly believe that the world has something to learn from how we handle the aftermath of the attacks. We stand by our principles of democracy, openness and freedom. Our politicians will still walk the streets without being surrounded by bullet-proof glass, and the police will still patrol our neighborhoods unarmed. As our prime minister said: ‎"We are a small nation and a proud nation. No-one will bomb us to silence, no-one will shoot us to silence, no-one will ever scare us from being Norway."

    July 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Jenea

      Hear, hear, Ina.

      I can't help but remember how I felt right after the 9/11 attacks, desperately hoping our president would use this moment to take the high road and show the whole world how committed American's are to freedom and democracy (and even the Christian ideals that our politicians are always going on about).

      Yeah, not so much.

      Stay strong, Norway.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  9. nuser

    This writer should go to Sweden Denmark and Norway and see firsthand what is going on there and then make comments after.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  10. Tom

    Dostoyevsky's Ivan Karamzov said it: If God does not exist, everything is permitted.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  11. Malik

    As a Muslim, I have a message for the Imam: Shut up! Muslims have enough problems of our own with extremism and violence. Let's fix our own house first and then we can offer pompous advice to others.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Ed

      thank you

      July 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • News Flash

      Malik
      Why can't the US Muslim communities stand up a leader to speak out in these situations, and condemn these actions. All we hear is a resounding silence. Of course all Muslims are not responsible for ant act of a crazy person, but we never hear a condemnation by one respected, familiar figure. You guys are PR challenged !

      July 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • skarphace

      @News Flash: many Islamic leaders in America have stood up and said that terrorism is evil. A very large portion of attempted terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11 have been thwarted because of information obtained from Muslims. If you do not hear them, it is not because they are not speaking, but because you have cotton in your ears.

      This act of putting cotton in your ears so you don't have to hear the truth has a name: ignorance.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  12. Ebola

    Everyone seems to forget that the Jihadi's claimed responsibility after it initially happened. Obviously peace loving individuals.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  13. Mihai

    Truth be told radical islam and imigration are much bigger problems in this world then right wing extremists or cristian fundamentalim.One could argue that those to issues at list helped the grouth of right wing extremism etc . OFC you cant blame muslims as this is a very diverse group of people and the vast majority of them are not interested in terrorism but i do agree with the statment that imigration laws are way to relaxed in europe . And this is not directed at muslims ,lets be honest , people in diffrent parts of the world do have diffrent levels of human development /culture /respect for women and all the stuff that make societys more developed then other , not taking into account what if you imigrate to a country you should be willing to make some efforts to integrate and not live at the margins.I would argue that imigration should be more controled and in this way alote of the problems like rising crime/rising unemployment /welfare costs and extremist views on all sides will decres significalty.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  14. WDinDallas

    I think the major problem with -I-S-L-A-M- is Mohaomed was a bush wacking, murdering, pedofile with self esteem problems and a violent temper. You can call him a prophet if you wish, but I think your nuts.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  15. Ben

    Sorry, this idiot was copying Bin Laden's tactics. I blame Islamic militants for starting this 100-year war with its awful embrace of terrorism.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  16. Name*theo

    Now u see what being black mean in America.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Do you mean illiterate?

      July 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  17. Abe

    What happened in Norway has nothing to do with Islam. It has to do with a sick,deranged individual who systematically murdered innocent people. I do not care to know why he did it or what he believed. He is a murderer and that is it.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • skarphace

      @Abe: the point is that if this guy turned out to be Muslim, you would have heard many rants about how this is another example of the evils of Islam. The fact that you don't hear rants about how this is another example of the evils of christianity is hypocritical. If all Muslims are to blame for the actions of Islamic Terrorists, then all Christians are to blame for the actions of Christian Terrorists. Plain and simple.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  18. supernaut1988

    16 years later not much has changed..........except 9-11 happened

    July 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  19. Mason Kuldinow

    I heard them calling it a terrorist attack on BBC. We should all boycott american media if they don't call him a terrorist. Jared Laughner was a terrorist too.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  20. javier

    What i wanna know is why CNN lets a coward like this dude preach about how muslims are innocent of everything when he doesn't recognize the carnage his BROTHERS have started with their PEACEFUL actions?

    July 25, 2011 at 5:28 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.