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. The Agnostic

    The problem isn't islam, or fundamentalists, or coptics, or jews, or the church of joe. the problem is religion....period. Religion is nothing more than our finite mind attempting to explain things we don't understand. An unfortunate by-product of that is that we end up saying...oh, it's gods will, regardless of what god that might be. As soon as a person gives up the effort to think through a problem and gives it up to god, the trouble starts. All sorts of bad things start happening. Unfortunately, we are stuck with religions. They are so deeply ingrained in society and culture that religions will haunt us forever, and forever bring nothing more than pain and suffering.

    Oh, and for those of you who might feel sorry for me and say you will pray for me, save it. I don't need your prayers. Prayer is just talking to your imaginary friend who can't do anything about anything anyway.

    You all have a great day!

    July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • LicenseToSteal

      I don't feel sorry for you. It's your problem.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Boseph Heyden

      Everyone convert to Agnosticism! It's the only way! And anyone who disagrees is wrong! You DO see the irony of saying your way is right, right?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Concerned America

      well stated agnostic. I myself would like to kill god in all cultures, in the minds of all men. But as long as people will be willing to kill and die for their notion of god, I am the one who will end up dead.........banthemosque

      July 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • The Agnostic

      Boseph, you missed the point. I never said I was right. I simply expressed an opinion. By definition, opinions cannot be right or wrong. And one cannot "convert" to agnosticism. It is not a religion. It is a point of view. Go google agnostic. The only irony here is that you jumped all over my post without any basis of understanding...right?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • TruthSpeaker

      @Agnostic.. People of all religion would listen to you and may also agree with you.. But for a Muslim you are the biggest infidel of all... That's the problem...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Ty

      It "explains" little we don't know now. Fortunately, after millenia of violent opposition, science has finally been able to step forward and show us that disease is not evil spirits, that the earth is not stationary and alone in the universe, that we and all life evolved from other life, and most other wonders and phenominon that used to be the purvue of religion. The only reason religion is around now, is because children are brainwashed with it at the earliest age, thus ensuring their obedience to the mental disease for the their adult life. The power of the parent to impress on the child is near absolute. Sure some "lost souls" find religion in adulthood, but those are people with serious psychological issues that if they didn't find religion, they would have been involved in some other masochistic endeavor. Like drug or alcohol abuse.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • The Agnostic

      @TruthSpeaker, sadly, you are absolutely correct. Because I don't follow the constructs of an established religion I am dangerous to those who do. Never could follow the reasoning behind that line of thought..lol. and the muslims are particularly intolerant of those who don't drink their kool aid. Just a bit more fuel on the fire against living your life by the rules of a "god".

      July 25, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • The Agnostic

      Ty, I could not have said it better. You are spot on. Unfortunately, clear thinking like that is often consider "blasphemy". I consider it sound reasoning by a person who actually used the brain "god" gave him. Pardon the pun..lol

      July 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Moses

      @Agnostic – You are right. A lot of nonsense has been done in the name of religion. But is that really enough to render all faith irrelevant? Is love irrelevant because of all the evils that are committed in its name?

      Have you ever wondered if Agnosticism is the "easy answer" we fall back to when we try to come to terms with a failure to understand the existence of God? People often ask for the existence of God to be proven. Can we prove that God doesn't exist?

      Also, as an agnostic, how do you form a basis for a moral framework? What makes the Anders' action wrong (if anything)?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  2. keith

    I guess the reason that Muslims are suspected in terrorist attacks is that most terrorist attacks are committed by Muslims. Every once in a while an equally crazy non-Muslim commits a similar act of terror. Of the two major attacks committed by non-Muslims in the last 20 years, only one (the Norway attack) cited Christianity as an excuse. All other major attacks (WTC ’93, US embassies ’98, WTC ’01, Bali ’02, Madrid ’04, London ’05, Mumbai ‘08) were committed by Muslims against non-Muslims citing Islam as an excuse. Given the record of attacks in recent years, it’s pretty obvious why Muslims are suspected whenever such an attack occurs. Some try to pretend that religion isn’t the cause of these attacks, but religion is the cause. Religious fanatics (of all religions) are the real root of evil in the world today.

    One side note: Someone keeps claiming that the Norway attack was perpetrated by Mossad or NATO: now that’s a joke! Mossad is guilty of perpetrating targeted killings, but has never engaged in a massacre like this and NATO does not have the capability or motivation to conduct an attack and they certainly do not have the internal discipline to maintain the secrecy to hide this type of operation.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  3. Rosenfeld

    Maybe Muslims should stop blaming all their problems on Jews and Infadels too!

    July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Bob

      Or perhaps we the children of Crusaders should finish what our European brethren started almost 1000 years ago.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  4. Thia

    Of course..."Imam Khalid Latif writes"....

    July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  5. George

    Yes, really,...how could anyone have ever thought that a Muslim might have done this? !!

    July 25, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  6. Jimmmy

    Islam is a gutter religion and needs to stamped out like the disease it is

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

      If only Hitler and Stalin could see the world today, I wonder what they would do differently?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  7. Rosenfeld

    good point. More Palestinians are killed by their neighbors than by Israelis.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  8. Concerned America

    still, does not matter if he went to church or not, christian or not. he hates muslims, wants them out of europe. The muslim connection is still there folks, and as long as we let any god live, we will have blood. I would love to see a ban on all religion, but find it necessary to start with the muslims. We will not accept sharia in america, even if we have to actively disband ALL mosques one by one by hand banthemosque

    July 25, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  9. Diana

    plz do not attack any religion......all religions deserve respect. this article is very insightful and in my opinion hatred = terrorism, it has nothing to do with religion!!!

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

      Religions do not, by mere virtue of being a religion, deserve respect.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  10. TruthSpeaker

    Mr. Khalid Latif's column is extremely ill timed..I guess people don't need a Muslim to tell them that the attack in Norway was not an Islamic terrorist act.. We can see that for ourselves.. But at the same time this act doesn't make Islamic terrorism a lesser threat. Actually the attack in Norway manifested from the failure of Muslims to assimilate into civilized societies.. The act was barbaric hands down but it was based on fears that don't seem imaginary......

    July 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • aber

      i guess an expert like you should have written the article

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

      Point well made.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • nalkapo

      if you call some terrorists islamic terrorism, then I will say for this guy and similar guys as Christian terrorism! in many countries from the past to the now always in europe, in amerika, in asia or in africa always there has been terrorism. so if these happened in christian countries then it is christian terror! is that what you mean???

      July 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • greoon

      So basically your saying... they started it?

      July 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Melanie Scanlan

      On the subject that the western world is the only "civilized society". The western world is, for now, the most powerful on the earth. But time is transitory and we will not always remain so. I believe it would be prudent to hold up the best aspects from all society. Not regarding one as civilized and the other as lesser. Their failure to assimilate as you say, is one culture's attempt at holding its own truths rather than ours and we cannot fault them for that.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • FMEN

      If you were to listen to this guy and take his manifesto seriously and change the political culture in a way that reflects some sort of agreement with his views then Brevik has succeded; he has won. At the cost of 70+ innocent lives and 21 years of his own he has been able sent an evil, vile intollerant message and make it resonate. Oh the fools that you people really are. It never takes much to show that something evil is evil and as such his views on Islam break down easily.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  11. AlAnwar

    America fired cruise missiles at Kabul even before 9/11 killling innocent men women and children, had made Military bases around Mecca even before any Muslim knew what is Jihad. What if Taliban made bases around the White house armed with all kinds of weapons with the President's approval? Would you people not be humiliated?? THATs what bred anger against Western Governments, and Muslims are fighting the army and government of the ALL of West because they sided with America in all the atrocities that your democratic government committed against Muslims even before any Muslim knew what is Jihad. When all our rulers are American puppets and Puppet Democracy would it not breed hatred against your government?? Your governments humiliated Islam and Muslim both before and after gulf war or 9\11, and now you dont like the consequences.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Concerned America

      nor do we like your thoughts. dangerous thoughts from a dangerous ideology, and a dangerous book, the quran. Mohammed was evil from the get go, a racist, and shows us that the whole notion of allah is sil;ly. allah is no more a god than i am

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

      Allah is the one and only God whether you believe or not. He is the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohommad and the one true God. You are a lier and I bear witness to this fact. The prophet Mohammad was a gentle, generous, honest, trustworthy person who preferred peace to war and truly believed that war was a last resort against those who seeked to destroy him and the believers.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • keith

      Americans provided Muslims the weapons needed to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan and then did not interfere with their government despite concerns over the Taliban’s treatment of their own people. We only attacked Afghanistan after the Taliban allowed al Qaida to plan and execute the 9/11 attacks.

      In 1990, Americans risked their lives to protect Muslims in Kuwait from oppression by Iraq after Iraq’s invasion. I guess that is what you are referring to when you talk about US bases “surrounding Mecca?” By the way nearest US base to Mecca was 500 miles (800 km).

      Americans risked their lives to protect Muslims from starvation in Somalia in the early 1990’s. The starvation was caused by Muslim warlords seeking power. 18 years later, Muslim warlords are preventing aid agencies from stopping starvation, once again. Allah be praised!

      Again in the 1990’s Americans risked their lives, despite intense international public opinion, to protect Muslims in Kosovo by attacking Serb military forces and militia.

      The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan came only after the 9/11 attack. If Muslims had not committed that attack, its unlikely that the US would have invaded Iraq and quite frankly we would not have ever attacked Afghanistan. Even after those two invasions, the US has worked hard to turn the control of those countries back over to their Muslim citizens. Unfortunately, Muslims seem to enjoy killing each other as much as they enjoy killing westerners.

      This year we are working to help Muslims in Libya to protect themselves from a Muslim ruler who actually perpetrates attacks on unarmed women and children.

      Certainly the US acted in its own best interests in protecting Kuwait and invading Iraq and Afghanistan, but that does not mean that our interests were not inherently in conflict with the Islam. In the cases of Somalia and Kosovo, we had no real national interest other than to relieve the suffering of the Muslim inhabitants of those regions.

      The argument that “the West is picking on us” is as ridiculous as it is untrue.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  12. Marc

    This article is a shameless attempt to take political advantage of a tragedy to try and sweep under the rug the fact that people do have good reason to suspect Muslims.

    After years of Islamic terrorism, it's up to Muslims themselves to get their act together, get rid of the out-of-control extremists, and prove their commitment to peace and tolerance by leading by example. For example, once Muslims repel the Sharia language that officialy reduces women to cattle and makes them properties of their husbands, no one will have grounds for calling Islam a backwards culture anymore.

    But what this article is trying to do is argue something like "we, the Muslims, have been right all the time, and it is starting to show now", which is a fallacy and a lack of respect for the human rights of those who died in Norway (not to mention those who died in Muslim terrorist attacks all over the world, the majority of them Muslims themselves). The author's only concern is to seize an opportunity to reassure his power as an Islamic sort of authority, and the power of Islam itself over the followers. Even if we eventually can trust Muslims, we'll never be able to trust religious authorities, of whatever religion.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • TruthSpeaker

      100% true.. Couldn't have been said better....

      July 25, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  13. John Sample

    Very well thought out article. I only hope those that most need to read it actually do.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  14. cklutch

    I love how hypocritical everyone is being. This man did the same exact thing 9/11 bombers did and al qaeda is still doing today, killed in the name of his religion. When in fact, everyone that is a part of said religion is completely against it. Open your eyes people, it's the same thing, just on your side of the table. Quit defending christianity and just accept this man has nothing to do with it.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  15. hippypoet

    people are dumb. its very clear the more and more i read and post on cnn... i have never seen such blind hatred.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  16. GI

    This act of craziness by this individual has not been confirmed to be tied to any Christian religion he was attending. It has not been confirmed he was aided/ funded in any way by a Christian fundamentalist group. Why is the media trying to have us believe this? So far this was an individual nut and nothing else! Geez stop the lies CNN.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  17. Anderson

    The Imam is right. We need to look at all conservative Christian violence and terrorism just as much as conservative Islamic violence and terrorism. It is beginning to look more and more like religion is not the motivator but the terrorists excuse justifying their horrific actions.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  18. nalkapo

    someone says this guy -Breivk- or whatever HE is not christian. because Jesus never would have done this or lead such a thing. OK! by the way, In islam, did Prophet Mohammad said such a thing? does Islam support al-qaida? islam or christianity never supports killing someone without a legitimate authority and the trial must be done in courts. so, why do prejudicial people blame on islam when the activist is muslim and why you don't blame on christianity when the guy is christian . In this situation you can see how stupid thing you have done so far! RUTHLESS BLAMING!!! terrorism consists of stupid people, not a religion!!!

    July 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  19. Shahriarzadeh

    Its funny how some stupid people are still blaming Muslims and trying to show what Anders Behring Breivik did is nothing, by saying he didn't do that for virgins, he didn't do that for Christianity, he doesn't have a Terrorist network. I wonder what will be your response when he come for a shooting practice at your neighborhood and kill some of your relatives and buddies.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  20. CoreyL78

    Christian Family Radio is saying that this guy was actually for Muslim rights and it was all a ploy by our enemies to make us weak to Jihad.

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

      that would have been your ultimate fetish... so sad to see people like you fanticize about negativity... quit belittling yourself

      July 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Diana

      yeah ok and i guess u can say pigs fly too!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:21 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.