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)
  1. Spencer

    Perfect. Way to go Hans Christian Anderson! Now Christians are going to get shafted. That Imam says the discussion of terrorism should extend beyong Muslims. Hardly. Let's take a look at the stats. 5000 terrorist attacks....4,999 committed in the name of Islam vs 1 for Christianity. I think I'll worry more about plane i'm on being blown up vs a blonde dude taking down my kid at camp.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Dave

      4,999 to 1? The truth is somewhat different: http://www.dangardner.ca/i​ndex.php/articles/item/90-​remember-that-eurabian-civ​il-war

      July 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  2. LiberalNN

    As a liberal, I believe everything liberal CNN tells me, including that Islam is the religion of peace.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  3. tanae

    Hiprocrits! Religion will be the death of this world! All because people, Christians and Muslims together have read books writin by people who at one time thought the earth was flat. A shooting star was looked at as a sign of a spirital being, and not as a meteor entering the earths atmosphere. Everything that could not be explained by reasoning back in those times, are easily explained today. My point is that people back then were not as advanced as we are today, but when everthing is looked at, examined, then explained, people still believe that someone actually came down from the heavens above, and spoke the word of god, according to people who believed that one person would have the inner power to part the red sea.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • blahblah

      Well, My religion didn't say the earth was flat. My religion has the basic idea of the Big Bang. It explained the formation of humans during pregnancy which was discovered later after 1300 years, and at last my religion encourages knowledge and science.I'm Muslim and I am proud.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • justthefacts

      I know you won't care to know, and this won't change your mind but if you are going to criticize Christians and mock the Bible, then at least be educated enough to know that the Bible told that the earth was round and not flat. Find a new slam when you are being intolerant because we should be tolerant.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  4. geckopelli

    Religion is the common thread. It's as simple as that.
    With "god"s" approval, a man can do ANYTHING he feels like.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  5. ignorant

    Lol. when r us humans going to realise we r one. Quit seperating ourselves already.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  6. P*

    And this story is news worthy ?

    July 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • tanae

      Exactly, they've already made a reputation for their religion, and that is that their's is right, and everyone else's is wrong. It takes a lot to change my mind from hating them to acceptance.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  7. joeamerican

    Jones b token on da crack pipe again

    July 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  8. Devon

    Islam itself is terroristic....however, thankfully not every muslim follows all the cruel teachings of Muhammed in the Quran, Hadiths, Sira and Sunnah.....Islamic terrorism is a worldwide reality and has been for 1400 years...their is no way in avoiding that.....we have a real mess on our hands...

    July 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Jason

      You are one of those responsible for the terrorism mess that we are in.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • blahblah

      "Your hands"?!! You think you are superior. Never the less. Democracy like allll systems will crack down, and the first one will be the US by "their own hands".

      July 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Fr33d0mhawk

      The Old Testament is terroristic with God's favorite guys, King David slaughtering thousands of children by dashing their heads against rocks, kind of like the Christian fundie did with a gun. Before that Moses had 3000 of his own people murdered by sword for worshipping a golden calf, proving there is no such thing as a right to worship who you see fit in the Bible explaining why right wing Christians are against freedom of religion. Then you had the Inquisition, the Catholic Church terrorizing Protestants, Puritans committing horrific acts for those infidels who dared to laugh on the Sabbath. During the early 1900's we had the KKK terrorist group commiting terrorism on a scale Al Qaeda could only dream about and the cross lighting, a symbol of their dedication to the bible.

      Its not the religion that makes terrorists, its the violent apes that use mythology to justify the most immoral of acts, and that in itself is proof that religion is the most morally relativistic set of morals on the planet. The 10C's did not even dry before Moses murdered 3000 of his own people, but Moses was special, not subject to silly laws God created. Islam is based on Judaism so its not surprising Islam is abused to justify terrorism just like the KKK abused the Christian bible.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Coolkat

      Inbred redneck,, Hitler was Christian...

      July 25, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  9. dima

    Excellent editorial, Mr.Latif. Your words are thoughtful, intelligent and true.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  10. The_Mick

    Why have the Muslims of Spain issued an official condemnation of al-Qaeda and a fatwa of bin Laden, but America's Muslims can't be bothered to do that? Have America's Muslims spoken to Afghanistan's or Pakistan's Muslims and said they shouldn't execute people who convert to Christianity? I want to see an equal playing field before I trust Muslims.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Joelli

      Whatever Muslims will do you will never trust them , never !

      July 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Joelli

      For you to trust Muslims is like Tea baggers to like blacks, that will never happen !

      July 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • GodPot

      Well then let me be the first here to denounce this evil white guy's actions in Norway. I as a white guy, want you to know I have no affiliation with that Norway guy and am not a terrorist even though we have the same skin color. I know its hard to believe but I completely disagree with that white guy on every level, I just want the rest of the world to know so they don't get the wrong idead about me and other white people like me (sarcasm intended).

      July 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • William Shelton

      They have, Mick. You haven't been listening.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  11. joeamerican

    Sharia law for all liberals and progressives.........

    July 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • javier

      sharia law and all your beliefs are what's killing this world, why don't you keep your stupidity to yourself please?

      July 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Danny

      You're a buffoon. It's that thinking that has the US in the mess we're in. Why we can't pass a simple budget on time. Why we are the closest to defaulting on our loans. Each side will not agree on the right or wrong choices. I'm liberal, but I have found many valuable practices in the gop. A house divided...

      July 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • chilliepepper

      Yea Sharia law for all Liberals. That will teach them a lesson how great America is....@Joelli, You have been brainwashed. The Tea Party loves black people just like anyone else that has their same beliefs. Herman Cain is Black and is their Presidental candidate. Don't spread lies to further your agenda. Oh yeah, Liberals live by ends justifies the means. No morals

      July 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  12. socrates jones

    The author is right however – the next time there is muslim terrorism, I'd like to see the so-called "moderate" muslims get just as upset as the rest of us. These moderates seem to stay awful quiet and are too afraid to stand up against their extremist brethren. After 9/11, the arab world was awfully quiet. When all moderates stand together for peace and rational behavior, then we wont have a rush to judgment. Proof yourself peace loving then we'll stand with YOU!!

    July 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Colm

      They are quiet because they are afraid

      July 25, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Not Falling For It

      Perhaps they dont want to 'lose their heads'.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  13. Ganymede

    Muslims are harmless champions of women's rights and world peace. Anything else you hear is simply right-wing extremist propaganda. I am now going to backward from ten to one. When I reach one, you will awake, feeling refreshed and alert.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • socrates jones

      pass the toke please

      July 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • GodPot

      Islam, like every other religion, needs to be put behind glass in a museum where we can take our kid's someday and show them all the sadness and pain that was inflicted in the name of imaginary beings and our children will walk away haunted as if they had just seen the inside of a gas chamber at Auschwitz.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  14. true red and blue

    People can not compare this with jihad attempts. The reason I say this is because, every time I turn on the news American authorities are picking up individuals who claim to be naturalized. It's a front a hopefully American politics will realize this

    July 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • GodPot

      I think your foil hat may be interfereing with your reception...

      July 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  15. joeamerican

    Of course the "practicioners of the religion of peace" havent caused any problems in the world........

    July 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Peter

      If the British didn't give away thier promised land they wouldn't be mad!

      July 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Jason

      You think the other major religions have done any better or have you forgotten about the Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch hunts, and what the Europeans did to the Americas?

      July 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  16. Mike

    No; it is not always a Muslim....

    ....But it certainly is the way to bet.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Tara Molitor

      I agree. The attack happened in Norway. Let it go.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  17. heyhey

    there are crazy people in all walks of life and all religions. This proves it......................................

    July 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • socrates jones

      but you must admit that wheres theres blood theres usally arab fingerprints

      July 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  18. Sid Airfoil

    It is not unreasonable, given the current state of the Muslim world, to WONDER whether a heinous crime like this has been committed by a Muslim extremist. But it is unreasonable to ASSUME it. I think that Western society is proving to be quite commendable on this issue. Although we may initially fear and suspect that a Muslim terrorist is involved, we quickly reject this notion when the evidence proves it it false. This was true of the McVeigh incident and the Norwegian incident. We do NOT want to believe that all acts of violence are caused by Muslims. Nor are we intent on ignoring the evidence even if it points to one of our own. Contrast this with the Muslim World, where they see the hand of the U.S. and Israel in everything that goes wrong for them, regardless of the lack of evidence or the presence of contradicting evidence.

    This is much ado about nothing.


    July 25, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  19. ObjectiveGuy

    OK, so two out of thoudands of terrorist attacks were actually NOT attributable to radical Muslims. Our deepest apologies to the religion of peace–why would we have ever thought to suspect them!

    July 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Big George in Big D

      This guy did this BECAUSE of the infiltration of Muslims in his country so, in effect, you can still blame the Muslims! God bless all the families that were affected by this crazy person.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Eric

      WOW! Someone is really in need of a history lesson.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Peter

      Westboro baptist church terrorizes the families of solders daily.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • GodPot

      "two out of thoudands of terrorist attacks "

      "Objective – not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion." – Dictionary.com

      Please list facts for "thousands of terrorist attacks" attributed to muslims. I'll accept the general premise of more terrorist actions are coming from that region, but it is unfair to infer its a 2 to thousands ratio. Wiki shows attacks for this year and out of 28 so far 22 were from islamic radicals and 6 were from other, two being this incident and the attack on Rep Giffords both by white professed Christians.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  20. Julie

    I suppose that it doesn't help the al-Qaeda took responsibility for the initial explosion before any of us even heard about the students on the island and long before any of us even heard the name Anders Behring Breivik.

    If I was a Muslim, I;d be mighty ticked at al-Qaeda for hijacking my religion.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Where did you see that Al Qaeda claimed responsibility?

      July 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • blahblah

      Well, We are not ticked we are angry for what they did but confused. You see, at the beginning they were heroes who stopped the soviet union and they were helped by the U.S and SA but then U.S turned against them and the U.S plan backfired.till now I don't believe that al Qaeda bombed 9/11. simple proof enter the FBI's Osama Bin Laden page none of his crime say "the 9/11 incident" I am sure things will be clear in 20 years.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • amuslim

      You bet. As a muslim, and I can vouch for many fellow muslims I know personally, Al-Qaeda is the organization I hate most. Those b****** do not represent us.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:53 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.