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.

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Of course, it turned out that the attacker was homegrown and named Timothy McVeigh, not a Muslim.

Sixteen years later, not much has changed.

The tragic events that took place in Norway on Friday provoked initial accusations against Muslims worldwide. Of course, that proved to be the farthest thing from the truth.

Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed bomber and shooter in this horrendous act, was not motivated by the teachings of Islam, but by the teachings of those who oppose Islam.

A 1,500-page manifesto that appears to be written by Breivik is an anti-Islamic tirade.

Who is Anders Behring Breivik?

“Since the creation of Islam in the 7th century and to up to this day, the Islamic Jihad has systematically killed more than 300 million non Muslims and tortured and enslaved more than 500 million individuals,” it says.

“Since 9/11 2001, more than 12, 000 Jihadi terrorist attacks have occurred,” it continues. “… This trend will continue as long as there are non-Muslim targets available and as long as Islam continues to exist.”

An inappropriate response to Norway’s acts of violence would be the condemnation of Christianity, or a claim that religion itself breeds violence and hatred, though the manifesto repeatedly invokes the defense of Christianity as a primary reason for violently defeating multiculturalism and combating the “Islamic colonization” of Europe.

The expectation shouldn't be that white Christian males should now be scrutinized at airports or profiled by TSA workers. It's wrong when it happens to Muslims and it would be just as wrong if it happened to anyone else.

A more appropriate response would be to expand the conversation around terrorism and violent extremism beyond Islam and the Muslim community. The Norway attacks highlight why congressional hearings should not be held on solely on radicalization in the Muslim community, but should focus on radicalization more broadly.

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It's also imperative that training for law enforcement and other governmental offices on Islamic doctrine and law not to be conducted by those who present the normative understanding of Islam to be something that is radical. Our focus should be the safety of all citizens in any country from every act of violence or terrorism.

By cultivating a narrative that says Islam is the problem, we keep ourselves from maintaining that focus. All terrorist acts stem from an idea that it's OK to resort to violence in order to get what you want; that it's OK to kill to get the kind of world that you would like; that if we disagree, we cannot co-exist peacefully.

Over the weekend, #blamethemuslims became a trending topic on Twitter. The purpose of the hashtag was not to blame Muslims for the Norway attack, but show how Muslims are unfairly blamed and singled out regularly these days. The tragic events in Norway remind us that not all terrorists are Muslim and there is no reason that all Muslims should be treated like they are.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Norway. May God make things easy for them and grant us all the strength and courage to stand up against those who preach intolerance and hatred, even if they look like us, align politically with us, or practice the same religion we practice.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khalid Latif.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Interfaith issues • Islam • Opinion • Terrorism

soundoff (2,486 Responses)
  1. Mona

    Muslims certainly don't have monopoly over terrorism, but Islam is the most violent, backwards and humorless of all the Abrahamic cults, and neither one, nor 10 Breiviks won't change this fact.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • amust

      @ Mona,
      r u suggesting to have another attack, sad...

      July 25, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  2. NorwayTerror


    July 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  3. Dogger

    Move over Timothy McVeigh. You have been displaced as the idol of the left. Mr. Breivik is the new poster child for the extremist and violent tendencies of Christians opposed to multiculturalism. The atmosphere at MSNBC is electric! Everyone is giving and getting high fives and screaming slurs at Glenn Beck. This event is certainly a close second to the election of Barack Obama in its euphoria quotient for progressives.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Roger

      Dogger.....at least you picked the right name.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • the boys

      If anyone ever kicked some outright traitor in the azz, MSNBC would get a bloody nose.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  4. tim

    well technically we could blame them... they were why he did it. so, if they werent around... he wouldnt have had to bomb his own people. right. right? whos with me?!

    July 25, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • HereToCorrectYou

      We can't blame the most violent, murderous group on Earth when a man kills people in order to create awareness of how violent and murderous they are! That's wrong!

      July 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Roger

      A lot more people in the free world than you might think.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  5. NorCalMojo

    As long as Muslims keep slaughtering innocent people, Muslims will have to learn to live with the stigma.

    Oslo is already being used as a rhetorical clubs to bash the right wing. It was even tried with Loughner and the Palin crosshairs. That's just how it works. It's a dirty game. If anything, it'll make it worse. Most of the people who were saying all muslims can't be blamed for terrorism last week are blaming the entire right wing for terrorism this week. Next week, they're not going so sound very credible. It's pretty obvious that the objections are more about their personal loyalties and not at all about the principal.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  6. hart

    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."

    hmmm, that sounds like a governing body I am familiar with?

    July 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  7. Elvis

    So you write about a Christian attack in 1995 and 2011. Hmmmmm... So just how many Islamic attacks have there been during that same time period? What? Not enough fingers and toes. Never mind, asked and answered.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Zob

      hah...you almost sound relieved there...why are people defending this? you forget the major wars of the world...you forget all the modern day wars...should I not be surprised because this is cnn and most of you are americans and have not taken history or been to school for that matter?

      July 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  8. mike

    Human nature is the same everywhere, that doesn't mean all religions/philosophies are equal. They should be judged on what they say. Which is better? The religion that says you should convert the world thru violence and execute apostates? Or the religion that says you should treat other people the way you would want to be treated? Pick a horse. At least in Christian countries, you have the freedom to choose what you believe.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  9. hmanity01

    It should say: "Sixteen years later [after 4,000 radical muslim extremist related attacks] not much has changed" Please

    July 25, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  10. Hoss

    out of 12000 attacks two were by Christians? Good point, lets not blame the peace loving Muslims.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Zob

      You are forgetting the Wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Africa. Not to mention economic ones on Iran, Pakistan etc.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Delmonte

      "The European Union's Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2010 states that in 2009 there were "294 failed, foiled, or successfully executed attacks" in six European countries. Islamists? They were behind a grand total of one attack. Yes, one. Out of 294 attacks. In a population of half a billion people. To put that in perspective, the same number of attacks was committed by the Comité d'Action Viticole, a French group that wants to stop the importation of foreign wine."

      Go look up your own sources; or better yet – just continue blindly believing what you do without fully understanding what is going on.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  11. JUSTIN


    July 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • charli

      Lol ok stalin.... I am an athiest but... that is like telling people they can not day dream or practice make believe in public.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Nacho

      It should have been illegal for your parents to reproduce. Also, give up the caps lock. It's annoying.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  12. Jeff

    I am a Muslim, and i can Honestly tell anyone that Islam is not a "Terrorist" faith and should not be seen as one, People forget that any Religion is Perferct, However, Human nature is not perfect this is because Human nature has to much pride. For an example of this, many people think islam is a terrorist faith because of 9/11, this was labeled on islam because certian people have so much hatered they had manipulated people to carry out attacks, when this happen, the victim families and all of those people who were shock by this looked at it as "ohh they are muslims so there for, they are held counterable and their faith is terrorist one" The Victims and other people forgot that Other muslims were also killed in the attack, for human nature its more eaiser to play the "Blame-game" then it is to look at the real reasons why things happened. I would also like to point out some things, even in christian faith their have been terrorist, for example Timothy McVeigh, Bomb a Federal Building he was not Muslim, Adolf Hitler was a Christian and created the Nazis.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • charli

      No islam has a long modern track record in terrorism spanning every continent on the planet for many decades now. While religion wil always be a haven or extremist to pretend the majority of terrorism has nothing to do with islam is blissful ignorance.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      People don't want to hate Muslims. They just want it to stop. It's been almost 10 years since 911 and there's still a problem with violent extremism. The extremists still enjoy popular support. People are still pretending there is a moral equivalence. Most importantly, the violence hasn't stopped. The condemnations sound like lies now.

      That's why anti Muslim sentiment is building now, and not right after 911. People were willing to give mainstream Muslims the benefit of the doubt, but aren't seeing results.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  13. Matt

    Okay, so...a non-Muslim was responsible for this latest attack. But how many of the most-recent terrorist attacks before this one were perpretated by Muslims?

    July 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  14. Henry

    On the same page on the same day 'Taliban hang 8 year old boy'.
    If you can make people believe in absurdities, you can make them commit atrocities.
    Of course it makes sense to screen muslims at the airport. Of course you take a close look at a swastika tattooed Nazi as well. Who strictly believes in an ideology which endorses and widely practices extreme atrocities, might just have to live with a bit of scrutiny by those who are not eager to die for 70 (or whatever many) virgins.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  15. John Pedant

    "Of course it turned out that the attacker was homegrown . . ."

    O no it didn't. The whole point of your editorial is that terrorism (and other crimes) are never a matter "of course," so you cannot use that phrase yourself without compromising your own principled attack on stereotypes. Here, as so often elsewhere (and on both ends of the political spectrum), attacks on stereotypes are (of course) stereotypical.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  16. jane

    We should all remember that regardless of religion, every man has his own demon. No one is born like God in this planet. We are all sinners and each one of us will be doomed if we continue doing evil. And whether or not what man is doing is considered evil or not depends on his own thinking, the issue here is his psychological capacity to discern well.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  17. eddie2010

    Nutcases are nutcases no matter the denomination. But where are the mass demonstrations after a muslim-performed terrorist attack? Thousands of people lined the streets of Norway yesterday. How many lined the streets of Karachi after the Mumbai massacre?

    July 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • charli

      Its easier for muslim culture to not deal with radicalization and pretend it doesn't exist, then to admit some of its followers and tennants are seriously flawed. As it has been shown all religions pose a threat because people are able to justify terrible things in divine terms.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  18. Rob Bahou

    I can't even look at that man's face, it sickens me, and what's even worse, he won't get the death penalty, because that's the European penal system. But as for blaming Islam, do you blame them. Every day the news feeds us with the ideas that muslims are bad people and they are all extreme, it's just not true. I'm not muslim but i'm Jordanian, i'm telling you, the most extreme of the religions are the zionist jews, and they may not be bombing anyone (although they are, take a look at Gaza), they are inflicting huge amounts of damage on the region. I guess this incident shows that we should assess all possibilities before placing blame on islam

    July 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Holy Roller

      Like it or not the Jews are Gods chosen people and not any other. I believe what the Holy Bible tells me and we will soon see who is the promised seed of Abraham. If you don't believe in God or the Bible then I'm sure you will have some great remarks to my comment...FYI I use to be a nonbeliver myself so I understand the negative comments.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  19. Mike

    Exactly – The Muslims/Muslim fanatics get blamed for way too much – our Governments spend way too much time on keeping tabs on Muslim fanaticism while ignoring home grown radical groups.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  20. charli

    Islam and christianity are cults... Like all religions. How could someone not look at their worshippers and not think its a haven for psychopaths and whack jobs. Its pure fantasy that claims reality. They are all nuts.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • charli

      Oops double ngative, but you get the idea.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Henry

      From burning witches to blowing themselves up in hospitals ... Its easy to make people commit atrocities when they believe in absurdities. It is so sad that we might be heading for another medieval time with the nuts in the lead – and your only choice is pick the least objectionable fairy tale.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Siyajkak

      being that Islam and Christianity are the two biggest religions on earth, so your saying that most of the earth has some mental disease. Usually people who think most of the world is crazy are likely candidates for being crazy themselves...

      July 25, 2011 at 8:43 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.