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.

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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)

    "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". ..You said it like you live it ..a Jihadist through and through

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

    Seriously, I can't even count the number of typos in this mess. Who do you have writing for you–third graders? Oh yeah, it's the "belief blog" so it doesn't really matter anyhow.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  3. Randy

    and no virgin reward for killing innocent people.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • aber

      the only good think that came out of this is that a potential child molester has been caught

      July 25, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  4. Baldwin

    His views closely line up with the Judeo-Christian (Christian Fundamentalist) mindset of: "Israel must be maintained if Jesus is to come back. No Israel, no second coming."
    To him killing these people was justified. This is based on the day before the shooting when these children were showing off their hate for Israel.

    The fact that Norway is one of the few countries that has recognized Palestine supports this premise.

    The bombing took place at the oil ministry building which was boycotting Israel.

    This man is an Ultra-Zionist Christian. There is no other label I can place on him

    July 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  5. patriot44

    The term terrorism has been defined by acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims for the most part. Criminal activity certainly elicits terror but lets not confuse the two in an effort to classify everything as terrorism everytime a crime is committed. Was John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy a terrorist according to your definition? John Wilkes Booth?

    July 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  6. IgnorantCNN

    Naive article. Whatever moderate Muslims may believe, every time a radicalized Muslim blows up a school or market full of children, radicalized Muslim clerics around the world cheer. The difference here is that a racist evil man who calls himself a Christian does the same sort of thing, and the denunications from Christians clerics are unanimous and passionate around the world. That's the indisputable difference.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Sofya

      What about those idiots at Westboro? The ones who protest military funerals. Norway accepts gays. I bet they are cheering. Thus rendering your argument moot and stupid in an additional way.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  7. Jack

    As someone who is Christain and someone who is on the convervative right, I say the man in Norway as I would say to any extremist Muslim. You are a coward. You are the worst kind of coward. One who prey's on not only innocent people, but innocent children. That being said, yes there are extremists on the right and on the left. Look at Obama's buddy Bill Ayers who is a non apologetic terrorist. Yes there are extremes in all Religions and on the left and the right. I think any real Christian would condemn this kind of cowardly act. Yet in the Muslim world the condemnations of those who kill innocents are for the most part deafening. It's time for all Muslims to rise up and call the extremists what they are! COWARDS!!!

    July 25, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  8. Mojo

    Gee what a complete dolt this chucklehead is. 1 terror incident of teh past 10 years turns out NOT to be Muslim orintated and he wants to scroll everything back and we should pretend alll Muslims wants to be our friends. What a complete idiot and anyone with half a brain will not fall for this trojan horse mentality.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • aber

      looks like you dont have a brain

      July 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  9. Dontbow

    Dumb opinion. Radical individuals don't make a group all guilty. Muslim extremists however have operated in large groups of sofisticated networks which we know all too well. They carry their flag around the whole world and have many many cohorts. Big difference if you have a brain.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  10. Muneef

    He is white,he killed white people. He is Christian he killed Christian people....only thing that remains that he claimed it being directed against Gvt...so it is political issues against his own people who came running to him for he was the right color and wearing a police uniform...
    Am sure if it was a colored person even if wearing a police uniform...the time he called them to gather arround they would have run away with the sight of guns on him...!

    July 25, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  11. taurran

    It's not that *all* terrorists are Muslims, just that *most* of them are...

    July 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Jackson

      You're right of course. It's amazing that so many people are scared to say the truth. Of course, most Muslims are not terrorists, the vast majority are not terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslim. It's a fact, not an opinion. I'm sorry that it conflicts with some people's world view, ideology or whatever but denying the truth only makes you a moron, not a more enlightened person.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • aber

      you must be one of those child molesters

      July 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Freddy Jackson

      @ Jackson: You are completely right. It's the simple, plain, un-politically correct truth, and it can't be denied. And when something is proven, and nothing more can be said, the apologists and politically correct, like Aber down there, resort to name calling. Right Aber?

      July 25, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  12. Freddy Jackson

    This terrorist attack may not have been the Muslims' fault, but Al Qaeda Muslims are cheering the fact that it happened, which makes it really hard not to 'jump the gun' on blaming Muslims whenever a bomb goes off. Check it out: http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/07/islamic-internet-forums-cheer-norway-murders.html

    July 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • aber

      looks like you've been busy finding fringes that would be happy about such a horrible act... you could have spent less time finding Muslims who are horrified by this act. But satanic ideas have filled your heart... you dont want to promote peace and unity, you should looked out for as you may be as dangerous as the guy in norway who commited this atrocity

      July 25, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Freddy Jackson

      Jihad and terrorist attacks by Muslims have killed 930 non-Muslim people around the world, in this month alone (courtesy of http://www.thereligionofpeace.com), and there have been 17,501 Muslim terrorist attacks since 9/11. This isn't my opinion, it's proven fact. That many atrocities doesn't qualify as being committed by 'fringe' groups. Sorry.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  13. bob

    syd i agree with you

    July 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  14. Alexander


    July 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  15. yunus

    islam is a perfect religion dat is highly misunderstood .yu people should read about islam and stop judging islam based on the dastardly acts perpetuated by few bad muslims.in islam there are no racesvand tribes.the religion is against all acts of terrorism.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • BG

      Gimme dat, gimme dat, gimme gimme gimme dat, gimme dat ding, gimme dat, gimme gimme dat...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  16. iwiseman

    I would like Khalid Latif to post such commentary more often,and more specifically whenever there is any bombing or killing of innocents,or decpitation and such inhumane acts. Or is he brave only to talk when its a non muslim criminal. Would he have simillar courage and conviction when it is a muslim criminal. Thats my problem with the "silent" peaceful muslim mainstream.Where is the out pouring of contempt and disgust that should be coming everyday from Mr Khalid and his people during all the bombings- 911/bali/london/spain/Mumbai . Well, I welcome your comments ,but please do keep it up.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Freddy Jackson

      I couldn't agree more, and therein lies the problem. If 'moderate' Muslims don't condemn the acts of 'radical' Muslims, what are the rest of us supposed to think? Moderate Muslims only seem to speak up when it isn't their religion that commits a terrorist act, because their religion is initially blamed. Very insightful, iwiseman.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  17. disco

    I never heard anyone say it was a muslim when it first happened. Who is this article referring to? CNN coworkers?

    July 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • sara

      everyone did budd

      July 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  18. jasonda

    I hardly think we should be dictating our policy based on what some Imam says. 99% of terrorist attacks occur by muslims. Doesn't change a thing that a weird pseudo-"christian" does some crazy act.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  19. bob

    ok i am a Muslim and just want to say this take time to learn yr religion then say something about other religions and then compare them

    July 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Sofya

      Bob I just want to apologize for these ignorant trolls. One of my best friends is a Muslim and she and I often have religious conversations. I am constantly struck between the similarities between Islam and the Christianity I grew up with. Assalaam Alaikum Bob. (Sorry if that's not how its spelled.)

      July 25, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • LEE


      July 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  20. bao

    Of course we should blame the Muslims, and the Christians, and Jews, and Hindus, and every other religion. Religion brings leaves nothing but pain , misery, death and false hope in its wake. Grow up people. Its 2011.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • aber

      your rant brings nothing but pain

      July 25, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • GAW

      I wonder what that type of thinking will lead some people to do? And don't kid yourself it could happen.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Are you sure that? I mean the churches that it has been witnessed helping in times such as Katrina and just the daily soup kitchens and outreach programs would challenge your opinion.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:52 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.