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. Honesty

    Glenn Beck: Hey CNN where is the article in regards to Glen Beck comparing the poor victims in Norway to Hitler Youth?The reason WHY he compared them to Hitler Youth is because part of the Norwegian Youth Camp program was aimed at Israel and boycotting them for atrocities toward Palestinians and Muslims. Beck is an Israelie SUCKUP and anyone who steps on the Zionist toes he takes issues with especially being that he is a Ruport Murdoch puppet. Look I have NO problems with Jews but truth be told there IS a ZIONIST element that needs serious looking at and NO Nation is beyond criticism. Israel is will lead us to HELL with the concessions we as a Nation has made for them. They believe they are the CHOSEN ones? Fine.......just don't drag Americans, Norwegians or whomever into their evil. America has ENOUGH problems of her own than to take on their crap. America has sold its SOULS to Israel..Sad Sad Sad....

    July 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Jan

      Nesflash: Mr. Beck works at Fox news, not CNN.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Odgie

      Also, no one gives a f*** about Beck anymore. Good thing too.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  2. Nadoush

    psst prove what your listing is true
    i can list thousands for you but with facts

    July 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Noble9

      Every single one of the terrorist attacks I've listed were headline news when they happened. Heck, look them up.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Kevin

      Probably want to post those thousands if you want anyone to take you the least bit seriously.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • HZ

      I would suggest you to take another lead than challenge the list since that list is pretty much accurate......

      July 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  3. The One

    Terrorism is terrorism no mater the religion of the terrorist.
    However there is a big difference between examples that the author brought here.
    While all these muslim terrorists have acted in order to impose their culture and religion to "non-believers" and what they did was in "non-beliver's"western countries, Breivik acted at home, in order to protect his own culture and identty.
    Hordes of people of muslim background have filled European cities, lowering living standards, and trying to impose their own religion and culture, forgeting that they are guests.
    What Americans said after 9/11 to all foreigners was Love it ot leave it" is now valid for Europeans.

    European politicians have stop being "politically correct". They have to put their herritage and european values before their political interests

    July 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Monica

      Just wow. You bet, killing kids is definitely the way to protect your culture.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  4. Nadoush

    @ Frode
    Well said,
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you beautiful people and country.
    If only the world follow your steps, peace will prevail for all humanity

    July 25, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Frode Westby Thorstad

      Thank you, Naboush, it really means a lot. I, myself, is not directly affected by these horrific acts. I'm merely quoting what a lot of the youth who survived the attacks have said. Thus, the message is even stronger: When those who experienced the violence first hand find it in their hearts to preach a message of love, unity, democracy and love, who am I to say otherwise?

      July 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  5. Noble9

    So the author thinks that we shouldn't blame the Muslims?

    1995 – Oklahoma City bombing: right-wing white man

    1996 – Khobar Towers bombing: Islamic extremists
    1997 – Luxor archeological site murders: Islamic extremists
    1998 – US Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya: Islamic extremists
    1999 – Russian apartment bombings – Islamic extremists
    2000 – USS Cole suicide bombing – Islamic extremists
    2001 – World Trade Center and Pentagon – Islamic extremists
    2002 – Bali nightclub bombing/Moscow theater – Islamic extremists
    2003 – Casablanca bombings – Islamic extremists
    2004 – Madrid train bombing – Islamic extremists
    2005 – London suicide backpack bombers – Islamic extremists
    2006 – Mumbai train bombings – Islamic extremists
    2007 – Yazidi suicide bombs – Islamic extremists
    2008 – Mumbai attacks – Islamic extremists
    2009 – Underwear bomber – Islamic extremist
    2010 – Time Square attempted bombing – Islamic extremist

    2011 – Norway bombing and shootings – right-wing white man

    July 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • LibyanNina

      Noble9, your message is repeated. You have just said that earlier.

      You must have taken this from the website of this Norwegian guy 🙂

      July 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Kevin

      Noble, one thing you might want to correlate between that list is the fact that ALL you've listed are extreme right wing reactionaries.

      Be careful just assuming that someone is a culprit before the facts are in, or you'll be just that much more easy to convince of a lie.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Bobba Fett

      lol oh I love this.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Noble9

      @Kevin – were you asleep for the past 10 years? Most of these have had confessions or gone to trial with verdicts rendered.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Kevin

      I agree, I'm not challenging your list, I'm very aware that it's accurate, but even if 9 of 10 people that commit a crime are in the same group, it's just not correct to ever jump to conclusions. The more predisposed you are to a certain assumption, the easier it will be to make that group a patsy whenever chaos arises.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Noble, ... the problem is that you forgot all of the IRA bombing and killings. At the same time, you forgot the USS Stark, and the first WTC bombing.

      You know....as an African American.... I think all I have to apoligize for is O.J. and the guys that beat Reginald Denny... 🙂

      wait.... forgot the D.C. snipers..... sigh ... I guess no ones hands are clean.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Kevin

      I mean, you do realize that religious fundamentalism is, in fact, a far right proposition.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Noble9

      Mark – I was only covering the time period mentioned in the article. IRA bombings had pretty much tapered off by the late 90's.

      Kevin – They might all be right-wingers, but they wouldn't be hanging out with each other.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  6. truthbetold

    What makes me wonder is that you never hear of anyone in the muslim religion letting authorities know about dangerous members or the actions of dangerous members.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  7. Frode Westby Thorstad

    Norwegians across our country, have today displayed our view on the horrific terrorist attacks. We believe in freedom and democracy for all, regardless of race, religion and political views. As a nation, we stand firmly behind our leaders who say: Our response to evil is more freedom, more democracy. "The perpatrator has been caught. We will give him a treatment he will hate: A lawyer, a fair trail, a human verdict. This is how we meet the forces of evil and chaos, as what we are: A civilized society. This is how we win." (Anders Heger, Norwegian journalist) This is not a religious war, this is our fight to be free to be what we are: humans, living together with humans.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  8. rachel

    Funny how the Islamophobes get their panties all up in a tizzy when it's one of them causing the mayhem. This monster is a huge fan of their Patron Saint of hate, Pamela Gellar.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  9. Nadoush

    Do you condemn the terrorist of Norway first

    July 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • HZ

      of course I condemn the norway terror attack just like I condemn any other terror attack.
      religion IS the problem, no matter what religion you believe in.,

      July 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  10. HZ

    I just wonder did this imam come out and say anything when muslims committed terror attack?

    July 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  11. LibyanNina

    I blame G Bush for creating all this hate between muslims and christians.

    We muslims have always been supported by "good" christians. The prophet Mohamed sent a group of muslims (when they were few) to the christian ethopian king to protect them from the Arabs.

    Today in Libya we are saved by christians from Qadaffi. Eventhough a long bill will follow, but I still call it help.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Kevin

      I blame Pope Urban II, but I bet you don't know a THING about that, do you?

      July 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • LibyanNina

      Kevin, you just sound as full of hate as this Norwegian guy. But watch out. Too much hate, even if to others, make you kill your own people. It is also bad to your health!!

      July 25, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Kevin

      Why don't you learn some history and stop laying blame for things that don't deserve it? Instead of assuming I'm an angry person, I'd assume that I'm just that much smarter and informed than you are.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Nina... You ever heard the Marine Corp hymn. You eer study eastern European history?

      You folks gotta let G.W.Bush go. The rift between these groups existed way before G.W.Bush. Do you not remember the first World Trade Center attack? The Marine barracks,.... heck, the Saturday morning when the USS Stark was hit?

      G.W.Bush just beat your boys, its in the history books. Al Gore lost. That does not mean that we were in a utopian dream.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Kevin

      Shhhh, it's clearly easier blaming Bush because my worldview is limited to the narrow scope of CNN.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • LibyanNina

      Definately the one who have a broader knowledge is the one who knows more cultures and reads in many languages. Not just knows one country and reads only one language!!!

      And because I am from the other part of the world I have to go get some sleep.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  12. NY

    Religion can be blamed for acts of hatred and violence because hatred and violence are part of the tests that define the religion. I've read the Koran and it clearly loathes this world while placing all the worth on the after-life. It doesn't help that it favors people who die in defense of the faith either.

    And we can blame anti-immigration, nationalism, tea party ideologies for Anders. All of these are bad ideas to be running on the brain which can lead to this type of violence. What's so hard to understand about that?

    July 25, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • NY


      July 25, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      "Religion can be blamed for acts of hatred and violence because hatred and violence are part of the tests that define the religion."

      ...and at the same time, things such as Peace and understanding also exisit in many forms of Faith. It is all in who is using it. Should we dicount those that do good in the name of faith because of those that do bad in the name of Faith?

      July 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  13. Maya

    No, of course religion isn't to blame for inciting hatred...

    Name ONE act of terrorism that was perpetrated by an atheist for the expressed purpose of defending or expanding atheism. And don't start talking about Stalin, because that his motive was not atheism but the imposition of a political ideology by totalitarian means.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Kevin

      Well said, Maya. Neither Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Kim Jung Il, or Pol Pot were/are atheists. Replacing a traditional book's deity with yourself in a cult of personality make YOU the religion.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • AARicks

      Please, religion is a catalyst for humans to justify a means to an end. Doesn't matter if it's God, Allah, Marx, or the Toothfairy. Religions don't kill people. People kill people. And this comes from an atheist. If fallacious to say that there is no God, yet imply that religion and God had something to do with these attacks. No, people committed these attacks. Not religion. Human beings. Atheists are no less susceptible to committing acts of violence as a religious person. It's just a matter of justification.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Michael

      Except that the whole point of zealotry is the imposition of one's ideology on others; in the real world whether the ideology is based on theology or political philosophy is immaterial. Sheered of belief in the actual existence of God, religion is simply an ideology and therefore the attempted forcible imposition of Islam, or any other religion, on non-believers by zealots is no different than Stalin or Lenin or Mao imposing their communist (and, yes, atheist) ideology at the point of a gun. And when we consider the murder of huge numbers of people over ideology it's rather specious to argue that somehow it's different if the ideology is political. I realize atheists are a bit uncomfortable over Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot...but if we liberal Christians have to struggle with evils done in the name of our faith (by people that didn't follow it), atheists have to do the same. 😉 It is NOT religion, NOT ideology, NOT belief that causes violence and death, it's people that twist and/or create ideologies to justify their desire for power, their desire to force everyone to conform to their vision of the world, their intolerance, their hate. Nothing to do with God, nothing to do with politics. Everything to do with the evil that can dwell inside all humans. And that is, after all, the major lesson that the great religions of the world try to teach – that we have the capacity to do evil or good, and we should turn our faces to the light of God and do good. As Christ said, to unto others as we would have them do unto us. Whether you believe Christ was divine or just a wise human being, I think we all can agree on the rightness of his call to tolerance and decency.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Kevin

      AAricks, I think what we're getting at is people with credulity issues are very easily swayed by what they consider a superior to commit acts of hatred.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  14. Sir David

    By evading one's own actions & policies, an adversary, real or not, is always conjured up to distract the public from its own atrocities, look at the inevitable economic collapse for ex, we still blame China for unfair trade policy, yet wont own up to our inability to make an equally competive product, we blame Islam for the world being in turmoil, yet people claiming to follow the ex of Jesus has lead us into war after war, go back in US history & you'll see we never had peace, we even blame 12million so-called illegals for taking away good jobs, imagine that, 12million out of the 310million people living here, with a near 50% national unemployment have hijacked jobs, though these same jobs in question are both menial labor most of us dont desire & have been recruited by corps to do, who pockets monies, because they dont pay taxes or insurance to them that they would ordinarily spend on US workers.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  15. Wondering

    Why this discussion again? I don't believe muslims were singled out or anyone accused any muslims for the Norway incident. Why is this Imam even writing such an article?

    Once again, CNN has an article which unnecessarily brings out unwanted and meaningless comments and discussion.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Sean

      Maybe because right after the attacks the media and general public were blaming it as a islamic attack. I read a few articals on websites stating that they beleived it was a radical islamic group that caused the bombing.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • GizzyN

      I'd suggest going back and looking over the (now closed) comment sections on the initial articles coming out about the Norway tragedy... thousands of "it's the Muslims" comments. Thousands. Even after the actual person responsible was identified, people continued to say that he "must be a white Muslim convert." Many, many, many, many people... who suddenly got very quiet when his actual motivations and background were finally well-publicized. And there are STILL people claiming this guy was a patsy for Muslim extremists.

      So yeah, you may want to rethink your comment.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Nohate

      Are you serious?! Did you read any of the comments when this attack first came out?

      July 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Sir David

      Islam is the new evil, its the easiest & most convient excuse of blame as Fox News, among others readily blamed, before all facts were in, as a Muslim myself within the Nation Of Islam, we too were implicated in the Oaklahoma bombings, as a Detroiter, home to the largest Arab population outside of Mideast, i remember the day of 9/11, me & others at work also Muslim my boss & a maintenance guy, both Chaldean, asked if our ppl had anything to do with it, even ppl saying they gonna call INS on the boss & maintenance guy, i remember Arab businesses being destroyed, hurded up like immigrants (Latinos) are now, more recently Pastor Terry Jones (the Quranic burning preacher) attempted to lead an anti-Muslim rally, i remember the feds killed a local imam here, then tried to say he shot at them, like the SF cops who shot & killed a guy for not paying his bus fair, i also remember Minister Louis Farrakhan's UN speech & shortly after, it was said he should be tried for treason...now ask why its an Islamic thing

      July 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  16. PhilG.

    You cannot go on an island and kill a hundred people and talk about God in any way shape or form.

    To do what he did,you must first give your entire life over to hatred and be guided by the Evil that lives in this world as his home.

    God has nothing to do with what this piece of human feces did to all those innocent people.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Kevin

      Did god think that when he ordered the slaughter of the Caananites? How about the priets of Baal?

      I think you should read your book again.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • PhilG.

      Who is to say God ordered it?

      Who is to tell me I must go kill a hundred people on an island?


      YOU CHOOSE to kill people like that-it's not a God given right or message at all.

      I know about the historical references to massacre in the Bible.

      I choose to see God in a different light because I have a BRAIN AND I CHOOSE TO DO SO.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Marc

      @Kevin Hasn't anyone explained the new testament-old testament to you? Go visit your church – I'm sure someone there will help you out.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Sean

      Ahh ok, so the Bible is great as long as you read between the lines and ignore all the "Evil vengeful god" stuff and only look at the "Happy, going to heaven" god... I Gotcha... *rolls eyes*

      July 25, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  17. Concerned America

    banthemosque dot com, and threligionofpeace dot com.....open your eyes folks, the clock is ticking.....

    July 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  18. Nadoush

    Couple of days ago, in texas there a shooting in a mall, and some was killed
    now that wasnt a muslim who didnt, dunno why the media dosent cover those
    guess he was a fanatic christian that is why

    July 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  19. Concerned America

    You are missing the entire point of the editorial you are reading. Here, and Imam is concerned about the muslim communities being fingered for this heinous act, before anyone knew about the real perp. I say, if the Imam is so interested in this PR editorial, why isnt he telling the little believers in his mosque to show compassion by their actions. Tell them to stop trying to enforce Sharia in America. Tell them to stop murdering and beheading Americans, and fr allahs sake, teach them that the killing they are plotting, right now, is wrong across the board. Then, Imam, cooperate with the US government when they come knocking on your door about the terrorists in your own mosque. Do not cry foul, or religious persecution....answer their questions, and then I will believe your little speech. fact is, Islam is dangerous. Sharia is dangerous. If you cannot blend into the country you immigrated to, ar into a society that deplores terrorism, leave. I will buy your ticket out.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Kevin

      While making assumptions is bad, the fact that when Muslim terrorists DO attack, their countrymen usually poll somewhere between complete bliss and orgiastic fervor.

      Think of them as entire countries of the equivalence to the Montana Militia.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  20. Rodney

    so let's see: 20 years ... 100's of terror attacks by Muslims and two by non-muslims, one of which was a direct result of Islamic terror. So Muslims are not directly responsible for one attack in 20 years and that makes Islam peaceful? Whatever! Even my "moderate" Muslim colleagues at work bought candy to work after 9/11 and again yesterday. There is NO SUCH THING AS A MODERATE MUSLIM! ISLAM IS FILTHY TO THE CORE. I am not a Christian, but have met some moderate and some fundamentalist ones ... but NEVER a moderate Muslim (and I live in a city with a VERY high Muslim population).

    July 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Kevin

      Breivik, Loughner, and McVeigh. That's just 3 off the top of my head. Not to mention the recently foiled Seattle bombings that were part of the white separatist movement.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Kevin

      And you've clearly never met a Pakistani doctor. I know 2, and neither of them are 'fundamentalist' by any measure. They came here to avoid that sort of social expectation.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Rodney

      3 out of 3 000 way to go Islam. I have never been in a white supremacist bombing ... I have been in 2 Jihad attacks and lost many friends and some family. Yes, other people do commit acts or terror, but Islam is definitely the MAIN cause.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Rodney

      @kevin they come to the West to make lots of money and send it home to make bombs. Don't let the friendly smile fool you.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Kevin

      And I've survived over a dozen IEDs, but that doesn't make me dumb enough to assume anything.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Rodney

      Assuming and IED is caused by a Muslim is the BEST place to start, actually. If it turs out you are wrong ... It's usually surprising. You Americans will learn soon enough, the hard way it seems.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Kevin

      Lol, you'd be surprised at how much more advanced the US citizenry is above the European mentality when it comes to addressing the flaws in multiculturalism.

      Why do you think Hitchens lives here now?

      July 25, 2011 at 8:08 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.