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. Tom

    Radical terrorist white non-Muslims have killed several hundreds of people in the last 16 years. Terrorist Muslims have killed several scores of tens of thousands in the same time frame. Any questions?

    July 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Michelle

      Most killed by radical Muslims are other Muslims. Unless you live in Pakistan, India or Egypt you have nothing to fear. I'm guessing with a name like Tom you are probably a pasty, fat yank. In America and the West you have just as much to fear by some crazy white boy as you have to fear by a crazy Muslim.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • BG

      @ Michelle

      Been communing with the moose and beaver up there in Alaska, 'eh? Just as well. You're not fit fur.. sorry, for human company.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • aber

      yes! what was hitler's religion? case closed!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • up1652

      History records no religous beliefs for Hitler, Aber. He was an atheist.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • BG

      @ aber

      You're a putz. Hitler didn't have a religion. He used Catholicism because he admired the way the church held sway over it's membership. When the local Catholics became non-compliant with his agenda he 'ditched....' them.

      Grow the hell up.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • up1652

      Using a religon is hardly the same as taking part in it and I'm 59 I don't need to grow up. You however should study history. Claiming to be a genius doesn't make you one.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • up1652

      Sorry BG ,hit the wrong reply.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • BG

      @ up1582

      One word.


      July 25, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • BG

      @ up1652

      I was wondering! Cross-post mania. Consider it retracted.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  2. Rob

    Please..Dont blame the Muslims..How self serving! When you blow up planes, and churches, and skyscapers and Navy ships and your own mosques on a daily basis you will forgive us for thinking one attack done by a Christian was done by a Muslim. It kinda comes naturally at this point

    July 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Tara Molitor

      I agree. The article is shameful!!

      July 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  3. Chak Daddy

    Why the media don 't call this mad man a christian extremist terrorist ?

    July 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • sassypants

      Because he isn't a Christian.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • mullah hajdar

      the whole business of blaming muslims has one purpose only-to hide who real terrorists are.america is in a business of robbing others and american citizens have profitted from spilling other people's blood,so average americans,who are pigs,will not just terrorize others with arms but by propaganda,too.kinda like nazis blaming jews.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Rosa

      Indeed, why not?!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Muneef

      He claims to be Christian representing all Christians and calling them to take their swords and proceed as crusaders sweeping the world necks...!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • sassypants

      The sword referred to in scripture is the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. I don't need a real sword for fightintg when He fights my battles for me. No need to kill. Comprende?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • sassypants

      The sword referred to in scripture is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. I don't need a real sword for fighting when He fights my battles for me. No need to kill. Comprende?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • sassypants

      AND, I will still stay away from muslims and I still believe immigration is a problem. That does not make me Christian extremist it makes me smart and experienced. Yes, I am a natural born citizen with native american blood in my veins.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  4. pete

    This man should be publicly executed on international TV.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Rosa

      It's all about human right issue!!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Muneef

      No no that is Sharia Teachings...and it is curl....Muslims chop the head of the neck with a sword in public but recently by gun shooting through the heart...or hanged..

      But notice west kills by chemicals and electricity wave shocks....I think these are more painful suffering than our Islamic systems...! Wonder why west ask for a more painless death to animal while choose to increase the pains for excuting a human being although might be worse than an animal...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • Muneef

      You saying he has human rights to kill but we have no human rights to execute him for his killings....!? What human rights is that which works out for criminals more than honest clean people!? Why do you wait until the killer kills more than one in one occasion or in different occasions before he is executed... Your system supports criminals more than honest citizens...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • sassypants

      I think we have something called Grace worked into our system. It may seem to be a little too much at times but it is very reflective of what Christ does for the repentant sinner spiritually. No one can live according to the law perfectly and so Grace frees us from the curse of the law which is death. Christ paid our debt through His sacrifice and no debt is too big to be paid.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  5. Howie Rosenberg

    When I think of right-wing terrorist all that really comes to mind are Timothy McVeigh,and this guy from Norway. That's two people. If I tried to list all the Islamic terror attacks in just the past tens years I'd bee here all night. Last I checked Timothy McVeigh was executed and not secretly harbored in a palace for ten years which is what it a peers Islamic countries do with their Islamic terrorists.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  6. Ron

    hmmm.... no blaming either side... only one thing i know....

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    i hope this will end the debate coz the debate only fuels the hatred....

    July 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  7. Joe Somebody

    The difference between Christianity and Islam is how many attacks within the past 50 years or so in the name of the terrorist's respective religion. I will totally agree that millions have been killed in the name of Christianity but how many in our lifetimes? That's the huge difference. These terrorist attacks are happening TODAY. Jihadists are killing thousands of people TODAY. How many of these Christian terrorists are killing people today?

    Again, I'm not saying or implying Christianity is any better, but the difference people fail to make is these Islamic-fueled attacks are happening today whereas the vast majority of the Christian attacks have stopped. The constantly referenced Crusades et al occurred hundreds of years ago so it's not fair to compare what happened 800 years ago to what's happening to day.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  8. happen

    "congressional hearings should not be held on solely on radicalization in the Muslim community"

    this is amazing grammar for the headline of the featured story

    July 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  9. iamacamera

    I haven"t heard anyone blaming Muslims. Mostly we blame crackpot nutballs. Why would we think it might be Muslims, until we heard differently......?

    July 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  10. hippypoet

    shut up all of you, once again i shall explain – people kill people – religion is nothing more then an idea that when people die if they were good people they get rewarded. now as far as that being pathetic as well as childish i agree, but people take myths and stories too far. once i thought i saw a unicorn. but i didn't go and blow stuff up over it or go and preach the loving grace of unicorns. the fact that the belief which gives people the idea they will have an afterlife is over 2000 years old. the meaning of words and how we used them has changed nearly 20-50 years. so how can we break down a 2-3000 year old story. at the time the stories weren't taken as real life either, people knew that we don't live 900 years. if people of today truly think that then i have no hope for this world.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  11. cecilia dale


    July 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  12. Proud Muslim

    Our religion does not teach to hate. We are taught to love and respect all. The extremists have been brainwashed. It is a shame that everyone refers to them as muslims, they should be referred to as extremists. They are not people of Allah. I'm sorry you all have so much hate towards us. Your religion(s) do not teach this kind of hate. Each and every religion has their extremists and the terrible incident of Norway, the shooting in Texas of congress woman, columbine, virginia tech, etc... These are also terrorist acts.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • hippypoet

      bravo. speak the truth friend. no more hatred. only understanding and love.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Lboe

      No, your Muslims want the flag over the white house and kill infidel Americans. This is legion, not a few weird people here and there!

      July 25, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • hippypoet

      Lboe your the kind of moron the world could use less of. why is it that whenever there is an attack people like you are left standing!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • happen

      Periodic isolated attacks by individuals fueled by insanity are not related to persistent coordinated attacks by groups of people fueled by their hateful religion. Entire article and argument is invalid.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • hippypoet

      @ HAPPEN again, another moron... here, i'll explain again...people kill people – religion is nothing more then an idea that when people die if they were good people they get rewarded. now as far as that being pathetic as well as childish i agree, but people take myths and stories too far. once i thought i saw a unicorn. but i didn't go and blow stuff up over it or go and preach the loving grace of unicorns. the fact that the belief which gives people the idea they will have an afterlife is over 2000 years old. the meaning of words and how we used them has changed nearly 20-50 years. so how can we break down a 2-3000 year old story. at the time the stories weren't taken as real life either, people knew that we don't live 900 years. if people of today truly think that then i have no hope for this world.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Kealia

      You are correct. Terrorist acts originate from a complete and total lack of respect for humanity.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Proud Muslim

      I love how When a white person or a person who is of a religion other than Islam commits a crime its due to insanity. No wonder why Caset Anthont and Tyler Handley get away with murder.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  13. dragontail

    well lets see, about 2000 muslim terror attacks in the last 20 years around the world. and 2 home grown white men upset with their government. i am sorry but i gotta go with overwhelming odds on this one. suicide bombs, car bombs massive shootings. i dont think it is wrong to start looking where 99.99% of the people who perpetrate these attacks. hey no doubt we need to look at everyone in the end. but when white christian men get about 1000 more attacks then we will start to assume that it could be anyone.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Yuri Pelham

      Thanks. Agree entirely. The exception proves the rule. Now they're really going to go after demented old women with wet diapers at the airport.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  14. Ben Johnson

    When Christian Fundamentalists commit a 9/11 then we may not be so quick to label, until then the focus will still be on Islamic Fundamentalism. I would also argue that if Christians did something on that scale... Christians would come out STRONGLY denouncing it UNLIKE what has happened in the Islamic Community where many have been afraid to speak out. If you think that we shouldn't label it Islamic Fundamentalism or we are wrong targeting the Islamic population then your denying history and what has been going on for the past couple of decades. WAKE UP!!!

    July 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  15. cecilia dale


    July 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  16. Christian Meonada

    I think this kind of terror reflects what is Osama Bin Laden to Muslims and Anders to Christianity. Maybe they both said "I am fed up!" This article/post has every right and its all facts, but it feels like "washing hands". It should be acknowledged that some muslims demonize Christians and some Christians demonize muslims, Norway attacks is the same with Pakistan bombings... My point is its all the same, no one should take any sides for religion or race rather act upon conscience, which is a common ground for both faith.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • rwt001

      Yes, and, unless something is done to stop Islamic immigration, this will happen in the USA.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  17. JLP

    When you look at acts of terror,the vast majority in recent years have been in the name of Islam.To deflect scrutiny away from Muslims is done at our peril. When the Koran tells believers to either kill,convert or subject all "infidels",the use of extra caution is just common sense.Political correctness in this instance could get us killed.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Lboe

      It does. And that's not the only problem. Our president is PRO Islam
      And anti Christian in what he does! Words of politicians don't count very often these days, and not for him.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • wial

      I guess it depends on how you count. If you include the illegal US occupation of Iraq, and the over a million dead there due to that, killings by fanatics trying to co-opt Islam seem tiny by comparison.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  18. AesopsRetreat_Forum

    Don't blame Christianity or the "Crusades" for anything unless you know what you are talking about.

    Need more info before you open your mouth?

    July 25, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  19. Rico Gustav

    Reading all the comments responding to this article, no wonder there are wars out there. Can you imagine if somehow there is a "kill this person" button to every comment, how many people will get killed just because of disagreement in beliefs?

    July 25, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  20. Mike

    Islam was built in violence, blood and revenge. The prophet himself ordered violence and bloody for all 'infidels": christians and jews...(the pigs).
    All muslims are lying when they deny that. It is funny someone write such a stupid article defending Islam. The new york times didn't waste a second to brand "christian' a guy that has no connection with any church, his parents are no christians, no attendance of any church, no nothing. Please, give us a brake. The guy is a secular guy and the liberal newspaper want to compare this guy with Oklahoma. Wanna put Chrisitanity in the same (low) level of Islam.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Phoebe

      i agree.

      to all those defending islam, including the author of the article, i have ONE thing to say: the Quran encourages and supports violence as opposed to the bible, which encourages and supports LOVE and FORGIVENESS. yes theres bad people who call themselves "christian" but our dogma doesnt support murder and violence and make "martyrs" our of those who have killed.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • wial

      NO IT IS NOT. All religions of the book include and celebrated acts of genocide in the Old Testament. Does that make those religions bad? No, they also all share the Golden Rule, along with pretty much every other religion and philosophy in the world excepting a couple of profound misunderstandings of Nietzsche that will remain nameless but one of them is about someone named Galt and the other is about someone named Adolf. And the Golden Rule is good. It is incredibly good. Good for Judaism for picking it up by way of the Silk Road from Buddhism, good for Christianity for making it central, good for Islam for crystallizing it in the concept of charity, good for Confucianism for Jen ("I and I") and the Rastafari for that matter. Just wish people could get over the idea anyone can own it, since that seems directly counter to its spirit, as Jesus tried to teach with his parable of the Good Samaritan. Oh WELL.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • joe

      totally agree

      July 25, 2011 at 10:00 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.