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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Breivik: "The Lone-Wolf"/"Terrorist" of Oslo

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Over 100 innocent people became victims of Anders Breivik's brutal 'lone-wolf' attack. Er, I mean, terrorist bombing? Or, um, crazed extremist shootings?

It seems our rhetoric for such tragedies changes drastically based on the skin color, religion, and/or country of origin of the perpetrator. Note previous observations of Miss. City Athena at Side Hustle Stories:

"Take a look at these incidents from the past couple years.

A group of men fly planes into a building in protest of a government.
Another man walks into a public area in his workplace and shoots into a group of people.
A man is caught stockpiling weapons and explosives.
A man flies a plane into a building in protest of a government
A man walks into a public area and shoots into a group of people.
A man is caught stockpiling weapons and explosives.

...The first three events are, according to the mainstream media, terrorist attacks. The last three events are, according to the mainstream media, a suicide attack, assassination attempt, and barely worth reporting....The first 3 events where done by Muslim men. The last three were done by white men."*

We can now add to that second group the Breivik attack. At first, the media jumped to the conclusion that Breivik was a terrorist "jihadist" and linked him to Al-Qaida. When news broke of his Christian association, the back-peddling was tremendous. He suddenly became a "lone wolf," an 'assailant ,' 'attacker' (Reuters), or 'gunman' (BBC, CNN).

Breivik is giving wolves a bad name... ;-)
The hypocrisy with which Breivik's religious affiliation is being examined is incredible. The same folks that were so quick to condemn 1.6 billion people based on the actions of 19, are clamoring to explain why Breivik  isn't really a Christian. Yet all similar proclamations made by Islamic religious leaders after 9/11 were to no avail.

Of course, it makes sense to distance ourselves from someone that professes our own faith, yet spreads violence and hatred. But it frustrates me when the pastors and commentators talk about the perversion of scriptures and Breivik's extremist beliefs as though they are the first ones to ever experience such PR issues. Welcome to guilt by association. It sucks, doesn't it?

Note what Glenn Greenwald says in Salon:
[It] is what we’ve seen repeatedly: that Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes, no matter the cause or the target. Indeed, in many (though not all) media circles, discussion of the Oslo attack quickly morphed from this is Terrorism (when it was believed Muslims did it) to no, this isn’t Terrorism, just extremism (once it became likely that Muslims didn't).
Meantime articles like this appear in Christianity Today, reminding Christians to pray for our safety over Ramadan. Yes, I know Christians are being persecuted world-wide, but highlighting Islamic holy days as a cause for particular trepidation is divisive fear mongering. Instead during this time, how about we offer prayers of forgiveness, mutual understanding, solidarity, and love? 

Regardless, fellow Christians, don't worry too much. This Oslo business will all blow over soon. Breivik will be dismissed as a random lunatic, while Muslim women and men will continue to be demonized all over the world.

*Obviously, there are many white Muslims, but it seems that if a terrorist is white, she or he gets excused as an individual, while Muslims of any other race are vilified.


  1. A related article from Sojourners:

  2. A related post from A Peace of Conflict:

  3. Mike's ‘two implications’ at the bottom are well distilled and spot on:

  4. Relatedly, graph reflecting when we ascribe religion to the terrorist:

  5. Thanks for the link StrngeFruit-- great blog--
    I did a post on the Norway terrorist attack and problems with the way it was worded in the media here that might be more appropriate.


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