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Flashpoint

August 7, 2011

FLASHPOINT: Let’s hope America doesn’t produce more Breiviks

The recent tragedy in Norway is the subject of an editorial in NY Times of July 25 which focuses on Norway’s domestic terrorist, Anders Breivik — an anti-Islamic extremist, who carried out the attacks to “save” Norway and western Europe from “cultural Marxism and Muslim domination.” His heinous actions — a car bombing of government buildings and a shooting spree at a Labor Party youth camp — make him no different from the Muslim extremists.

Mr. Breivik appears to have been deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about Islam’s supposed threat to Western civilization. Their tendency to paint law-abiding Muslims with the same brush as extremists is repugnant. They need to categorically denounce Mr. Breivik’s depravity.

Breivik cannot be dismissed as a lone crackpot whose xenophobia got the most of him. To call him insane and let it go at that is too easy, for him and for the rest of us. His hatred — of Muslims, immigrants and, most of all, fellow Norwegians elected to lead their country — is a familiar virus transplanted to a peaceful country.

When the news first broke of massacre in Norway, the initial reaction was “Muslim terrorists.” But it turned out that the terrorist who shocked the world was no Islamic extremist, but a blue-eyed, light-haired Nordic, those who see hatred coming only from one religious extreme were quick to place the case in a box of isolation. 

But there is a global debate in which some are calling Anders Behring Brevik,  a “Christian extremist” or “Christian terrorist.” As westerners wrestle with such characterizations of the Oslo mass murder suspect, the question arises: Nearly a decade after 9/11 created a widespread suspicion of Muslims based on the actions of a fanatical few, is this what it’s like to walk a mile in the shoes of stereotype?

Anti-Muslim activists are well organized and frequently appear in mass media such as Fox News or their own websites. A recent report by People For the American Way discusses eight strategies employed by anti-Muslim activists to cast doubt on the validity of Islam as a religion and the integrity of American Muslims in order to justify prejudice and illegal discrimination:

•  Framing American Muslims as dangerous to America

•  Twisting statistics and using fake research to “prove” the Muslim threat

•  Inventing the danger of “creeping Sharia”

•  Justifying taking away freedoms and liberties from Muslims in order to “defend liberty.”

• Denying the validity of Islam as a religion

•  Arguing that Muslims have no First Amendment rights under the Constitution

•  Linking anti-Muslim prejudice to anti-Obama rhetoric

•  Slandering progressives and non-Christians as unholy and anti-American

 The transformation of Breivik into a domestic terrorist and the report from People for the American Way are relevant for Tribune-Star readers. At least a dozen Islamophobic, inflammatory letters have appeared in the Tribune-Star during the last 12 months. The non-Muslim men and women of conscience have largely been silent. Let us hope America does not produce one or more Breiviks.

— Khwaja A. Hasan

(formerly of Terre Haute)

Wadsworth, Ill.

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