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.

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. Dan

    I can't believe that CNN published this. The argument in it is so flawed it shouldn't have a place in serious debate. To argue that terrorism is not a primarily Islamic extremist problem, citing to two data points 16 years apart, and ignoring the scores of data points of Islamic extremist terrorism in between, is the worst kind of selective, non-rigorous argumentation. And to make this argument at this time, using this heinous act as supposed evidence in your unfounded polemic is disgraceful. Shame on the author and on CNN.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Don

      I can't believe that you can't believe it Dan. This kind of crap is CNN's primary bread and butter.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Ali

      Don... Shame on you for taking the time to read this article... Your such an ignorant racist... People with your IQ cant comprehend big words...

      July 25, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Shane

      Oh yes, I agree that we should shame those who challenge the viewpoint that terrorism is exclusively a problem of Islamic extremism. Sure, 76 people died in Norway, directly inspired by an unwaivering commitment to such a viewpoint, but that's just an outlying data point, right? Who cares! Demonizing muslims is still the way to go. We shouldn't try to learn anything from this event.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Joe

      Yeah haha Ali, why is he stupid? Because you disagree with him? Instead of telling him "he can't understand big words," explain your viewpoint. That simple. It's clear that you come out as the immature fool in this case. Not to mention the fact that Dan is right. People die daily due to Islamic terrorist attacks, and the author uses two attacks 16 years apart to argue that terrorism isn't mostly carried out by Muslims. That is a fact. You are the airhead if you don't acknowledge that. FACT: MOST TERROR ATTACKS IN THIS WORLD, BY A WIDE MARGIN, ARE ISLAMIC TERROR ATTACKS. I'm not saying all Muslims are evil; I certainly don't believe that. But we have to be honest: radical islam (newsflash: still islam) is responsible for most terror attacks.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • syd

      Joe, did you know that the US Justice Department still has not definition for "terrorism." IF we follow conventional definition, every act by the KKK, IRA, Spanish Conquistadors, Crusaders, Army of God, Lambs of Christ, Orange Volunteers, and Bosnian Ethnic Cleansing executors are terrorism. Meaning that in fact, your statement is not true. Furthermore, most Muslims do not define someone who does not follow the 5 tenets of Islam as Muslim. Terrorists do not follow the 5 tenets and basic teachings of Islam, and thus their claim to be Muslims is nonexistent. Likewise, any of those "christian" groups I mentioned above are not truly Christian, are they? Every rleigion has idiots and nutjobs trying to perpetrate acts of violence in their name. It is an inherent human quality – the capacity to produce crazy people. As with any large religion, Islam and Christianity have their fair (but small) share of psychos. It is just that Islam is not understood, meaning that many associate it with terrorism. Conversely, Christianity is well understood in the United States, and thus whenever any "Christian" commits a terrorist act, it is understood that he was crazy and not representative of all Christians.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  2. Muslims are not Terrorists

    To all readers,
    Muslims are not terrorists, there are some thousands of fanatical so called "Muslims", but what you may not know is that these thousands are rejected and hated by the hundreds of millions of normal Muslims. Nothing they do has any reference to our faith and they do things that are in fact banned in our religion. Islam is a peaceful religion, any of you who have Muslims friends would know that and we hate that these men kill others even though in our religion the only time we are allowed to kill is in either self-defense for either us or our country. Furthermore I would also like to state that if you do some research you find out that, in Pakistan and Afghanistan (two MUSLIM countries), more people have been killed by radical "Muslims" than the amount killed in every other nation put together. So I would like to say Islam is a peaceful religion and this article is 100% accurate. I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this heinous attack in Norway and once again; Muslims are NOT terrorists.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Lover

      Islam is peacefully religion?? Ok then let us draw mohammed cartoons!!! and please don't burn church and embassy!!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  3. Nadoush

    People without faith are the real danger towards others
    Wow America the land of fascist, racist and bigots

    July 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Lover

      Yeah but we have it all, we have peace freedom. Look at middle east. You will get nothing except fear killing burn out haatred curious conspiracy theory minded and slavery of child and woman.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  4. Beatrice

    Unlike all other religions, Islam's problem is its doctrine itself is the deadly terror to non-members! I hope this imam gets it!

    July 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  5. Pastor Evans

    As usual, one crazy person hiding under a cloak of Christianity the Muslims try to seize the opportunity to place them on the same field when it comes to violence. This nut did this on his own, God did not inspire or motivate him to do what he did. The bottom line all religions are not from God!!! God is spirit, and His eternal Kindgom is a spiritual Kingdom for spiritual people. Most people are not spiritual so they cannot understand what I'm talking, but what I'm talking about is cleary written in the Holy Bible, but unfortunately most people don't know this because they don't read it to obtain spiritual revelation which imparts transformation!!! The Kingdom of God is not from or of this world, but from the Heavenly Father!!

    July 25, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  6. Bobh222

    Yes, I believe that all forms of violent extremism should be condemned. I also believe that any 'religion' that has a manual that openly advocates ' severely punishing non-believers' should immediately extricate the offending verses. Unfortunately there are people who will use those 'holy writings' to their advantage and ignorant followers who will carry them out.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  7. Insight

    So long as the majority of Muslims that oppose terrorism don't raise their voice against terrorism, they are going to be blamed.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  8. Ravenna

    I don't care what anybody says, religion is at fault for these atrocities. Maybe if these beliefs weren't so untouchable– as in it is so impolite and so distasteful to criticize and find faults and failures of religion in the modern world– we could move on and away from believing absurdities. It was only a matter of time until the far right started lashing out just like the Islamic extremists.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  9. Bill

    Hogwash article. Says not all Muslims are terrorists; true statement. What he fails to acknowledge is that MOST terrorists are Muslims. Christian based terrorist attacks are rare to the point of being almost non-existant. The Norwegian that carried this one out is a NUTCASE!!! The thousands of terrorists that attack in the name of Islam can't all be nutcases. They get all their philosophies and teachings straight from the Koran and the hate spewing Imams Saying we should back up and simply ignore past behaviors and not blame Islam just because not all Muslims are terrorists is crap. Islam should stand up and change their teachings. Beliefs garnered during the 7th century cannot apply in a modern world. Those Muslims that understand this should pass this on to the ones that don't. Don't blame the world for blaming Muslims, you yourself probably thought at first this was yet another act of Islamic terrorism did't you? What a sigh of relief you must have had when you learned it was the brain fried nut it turned out to be.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • asyouaskforit

      Christians in many parts of Europe are not plentiful, less than 25% in many counties. Please do not confuse it with Roman Catholicism and Freemasonry which is reported to be the believe of Anders Behring Breivik. Please leave Christianity out of this matter.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Bill

      Roman Catholics are Christians and Free Masons are a cult. Get your facts straight.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • tolerance

      True, most terrorists are Muslims, but Islam is actually peaceful. Terrorists twist their religion. Did the Inquisition or Crusades correctly portray Christianity? No! These misguided acts of violence contracticed Jesus's teachings. Islamic terrorists have been brainwashed by radical leaders and they don't represent Islam. You must remember that there are some hate-spewing Christians out there too. I am a Christian and I know that hate IS NOT part of my religion. Besides, you can't reply to violence with hatred, it only creates more hate and violence. "Hate for hate multiplies hates"- MLK I have Muslim family members in the Middle East and they are normal, peaceful people, not grenade throwing maniacs.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  10. Mike smith

    O.K., so we have these two: Breivik and McVeigh versus the hundreds (if not thousands ) of muslim terrorists


    July 25, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  11. CC

    "The tragic events that took place in Norway on Friday provoked initial accusations against Muslims worldwide."

    Norwegian press did not, at any point, speculate on the orgin or religion of the perpetrator. However I noted that some UK and US papers and newsreports did, sad really.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  12. amin

    This is a lie "A 1,500-page manifesto that appears to be written by Breivik is an anti-Islamic tirade" , the christian terrorist was neo nazi. jew controlled american media lies.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  13. TommyD

    of course not Nadoush...that guy was warped, and violence is never a means, unless to defend. What I'm saying is when a country and its people have their traditions and values changed by liberal minded fools, it breeds resentment.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  14. T

    Don't Blame the Muslims.....Blame religion in general. You can't say that one person's discussions with a made up voice in his head is more real than anothers. They are both delusional.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  15. freesia

    Where is the proof that this monster killed in the name of Christianity?

    July 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  16. Muslims are not Terrorists

    @Chuck Steak
    I agree with you entirely, all religions should be treated equally and should be respected. Again you are true, you don't have to like anyone you don't want to like. But I have lived in many Arab countries over the years and other Muslim countries and in many of them such as Egypt, Malaysia and Lebanon there is no widespread racism against Christians. There a few people of course, but then there are many in the states who are like that as well.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  17. James

    There are too much ignorance about different religions other than one's own. Instead of banning the teaching of religion in schools, try teaching comparative religion ( including atheism which is a kind of religion to some people ) . Maybe then our children will grow up knowing that all religions have good teachings and the terrorists who use religion as an excuse for their terrible acts, are not true believers and must be condenmed IMMEDIATELY by leaders and followers of that religion.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  18. Amerishark

    As usual, no body is to blame. Myself, my companies and my family and friends no longer buy from their gas stations or stores. You think they are not out for us? Read the Koran...we did.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  19. Muslims are not Terrorists

    Excuse me but this article is in no way or form deceiving whatsoever. It is just explaining to you about the view of normal Muslims, of which there are hundreds of millions of, rather than a few thousand radical Muslims. If you actually researched the subject you would see that all Muslims hate the radical so called "Muslims".

    July 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  20. Chuck Steak

    The muslims in this country deserve all the rights and respect afforded to every visitor and citizen, but liking them is not mandatory. There is no law that says I must like them. There isn't a majority muslim country on the planet that doesn't treat their christian citizens like crap. Maybe if that ever changes, I'll like them!!!!!!!!!!

    July 25, 2011 at 8:44 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.