I have been seeing several status messages on facebook since the recent Oslo attacks about how the Norwegian terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to the carnage of July 22, is being given more favourable labels by the Western media, because he is not a Muslim. The latest one was this status message which is currently going viral amongst my countrymen on facebook.
“If the person who killed 90+ people in Norway was a Muslim, the press would have declared him as terrorist and the act as terrorism. For now, he is just an “assailant “, “attacker” (Reuters), “gunman” (BBC, CNN & Al Jazeera). Looks like “Terrorist” is a name reserved for Muslims??? The US Department of State calls it an “Act of violence” (not an “Act of Terrorism”).”
I think this message is another manifestation of the denial syndrome common to Muslim world in general and the land of the Pure in particular. There are a couple of things that promoters of such messages are completely disregarding. I will list a few:
1. Type the key words “terrorist” and “Anders Behring Breivik” on google and you’ll find many mainstream western media websites, including CNN (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/07/26/norway.terror.developments/index.html), BBC(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14260297), Time (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2085623,00.html) etc. calling it an act of terrorism. So the assertion that Breivik is being labeled favourably is only partly true. It’s obvious that most people putting up such status updates are just copy-pasting without making any effort on research.
2. There’s no denying that initial suspicion and blame was targeted towards Islamist terror groups. However, I think that’s something easily understandable. If we just look at the sequence of all non-state terror acts (excluding openly declared state-sponsored aggressions) over the past two decades and see the names of their perpetrators, we will get the answer to why Muslim extremists are always the usual suspects. If we show a little more honesty and ask ourselves, were we, the Muslims, not mostly relieved to learn that the attacker was not a Muslim but a local Norwegian white Christian extremist. Media everywhere, in the race to break the news and offer pre-analysis, would rely on theories based on their probability. The truth is even for Muslims, fellow Muslims have become the prime suspects, and we can’t blame others for why we came to this stage.
3. Why Breivik’s actions would not be associated with his faith: because he doesn’t claim any inspiration from Christian religious scriptures nor are any significant religious groups coming to his support or calling him a hero. He calls himself a “cultural Christian” and a supporter of monocultural Christian Europe. His primary motive is to resist the influence of Muslim culture that is spreading in Europe through liberal immigration policies followed by their governments for decades. On the other hand, terrorists from the Muslim faith always tried to legitimize their actions and agendas through religious references and found large sections of populations as their supporters, though this trend is thankfully on the decline now.
4. The popular opinion in Muslim countries has been largely resistant to action against homegrown terror groups, as they are considered to be fellow Muslim brethren. Any action against them is considered to be done on behest of Western powers, as if terrorism is not our problem at all, despite the fact that majority of the victims of their terror acts are also Muslims. On the contrary, we will mostly likely see that Norwegian and European governments would deal with their far-right terrorist individuals and groups less ambiguously and much more efficiently.
5. And lastly, why would it make Muslims feel better if Muslims terrorists are referred to with supposedly sweeter names like attackers, assailants, gunmen and their acts as acts of violence instead of acts of terrorism, though I don’t see how one is better than the other. When we expect or demand that of the media, are we trying to own these terrorists or making a point that their acts are any less horrific? It is here that we permit terrorists use our faith for their unholy agendas. A terrorist is a terrorist and terrorism is his only faith. Changing terminologies doesn’t dilute the brutality of their acts. If we can’t denounce them, at least we should resist the sympathetic urge to ask for better treatment for some of them based on their faith. Don’t we see the need to distance ourselves from terrorists yet – Muslims or not Muslims? How much more blood will be shed before we recognize our responsibility to contribute to stopping this vicious cycle of hate and violence?
It’s time we should stop sulking, and feigning innocence, and start taking responsibility, for what we have become is a result of our own follies.
Written on July 29, 2011. Published at Pak Tea House on August 15, 2011