New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Reflection on the Norway Massacre

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2011-08-05

In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, the idea of terrorism has been utilized by a cabal of anti-Muslim bigots in a way that elicits, in the minds of many, an association between Islam and indiscriminate violence. This association has been reinforced by propagandistic lies such as, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” Before the term “terrorism” began being used in this fashion it was more objectively defined as violence visited upon unsuspecting, innocent civilians to effect a political outcome. 

The recent murderous rampage of the Norwegian, Anders Breivik, is a case of textbook terrorism. He targeted unsuspecting innocent civilians, specifically those at two locations identified with Norway’s ruling party, in order to affect a political outcome. That outcome, according to Breivik’s rambling manifesto, was to ignite an epic confrontation in European society that would culminate in the expulsion of Muslims from Europe in the year 2083.

There are, however, those who are so wedded to their campaign to demonize Muslims, and to the centrality of the association between Islam and terrorism in their ideology that they refuse to describe Breivik as a terrorist. To these elements he is a “madman,” an “extremist,” a “mass murderer” or a “hero.” There are even those who attempt to absolve Breivik of ultimate responsibility for the massacre by arguing that he was driven to his crime by the intensity of his “anti-Jihadi” sentiments. Hence, were it not for the violence of some Muslims, Breivik would not have been moved to undertake his own murderous rampage.

One of the great ironies of our times is that many political commentators, who never tire of parroting the danger of the manufactured Muslim menace, are actively involved in efforts to dismiss or cover up the real threat posed by individuals such as Breivik, and fanatical right-wing groups, many of whom openly advocate mass murder. When the Department of Homeland Security produced a report in 2009, principally authored by Daryl Johnson, documenting the growing danger of right-wing hate groups, it was condemned by many right-wing pundits and politicians with such fury that it was never publicly released. This sort of blind hypocrisy is placing this country and its citizenry in grave danger.

It is not surprising that Breivik, who ordered his high-capacity ammunition clips from the United States, claims that he was inspired by American-based anti-Muslim bigots such as Robert Spenser, Pamela Geller and others. America is giving free reign to their hate-inducing polemics. In the aftermath of Breivik’s murderous rampage, many of these writers and their apologists are claiming that they do not advocate violence. However, violence defines their program. That violence begins with their conscious distortion of the message of Islam and the gross violence they do to it texts and teachings.

They know perfectly well that their lies, half-truths and propaganda provide ammunition to the bloggers, preachers and “patriots” who are exploiting the fears and insecurities of masses of people, leaving many of them increasingly primed to engage in or readily endorse mass murder. They will be quick to claim that their words are not intended to incite violence and that such an atrocity has not occurred here in the United States. However, they are well aware of the fact that hatred oftentimes culminates in violence, sometimes genocidal violence. Many of them are praying for the spark that will ignite the American Breiviks their ideas have helped to create.

Like the politicians who so dutifully follow their lead, these so-called experts warn of the Muslim takeover of our government. The takeover of government they warn of is indeed happening and they are its architects, engineers and beneficiaries. It is they who are brainwashing our military and law-enforcement officers with their anti-Muslim venom. It is they who are dominating the briefing of our legislators. If their takeover of our government is allowed to be completed, and the reigns of the American war machine fall into their hands, the carnage that could well result as they attempt to realize their fanatical fantasy of ridding the world of Islam and Muslims would be no less than the Holocaust, the purges of Stalin or Mao, or Pol Pot’s effort to return Cambodia to Year Zero. Their escalating demonization of Muslims will inevitably lead to a program, a final solution, designed to exorcise their demons.

As the influence of these bigots grows they are steadily transforming the very fabric of our nation. The nation of fearless Americans who were roused and inspired when FDR urged, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself…” would be transformed, if these hate-mongers had their way, into a nation of paranoid cowards. Our institutions and society, which by their very nature are inclusive, are being transformed into bastions of exclusive, tribal privilege. And our political system, which once boasted of being the most open and democratic on earth is being systematical closed.

If these self-serving bigots are allowed to continue to work unchallenged, coldblooded mass murderers like Anders Breivik will become the norm. Senseless wars against Muslim nations on the flimsiest of pretexts will become the rationale driving our foreign policy. And the constructive role America could play in fostering greater peace, equity and harmony in the world will be sacrificed on the bloody altar of the chiliastic fantasies of the “counter-jihadis.”
At the end of the day, Spenser, Geller and their coconspirators, are what the British philosopher, John Gray, calls “revolutionary utopians.” The utopia they envision is one purged of Muslims and Islam. Gray reminds us that the “use of inhumane methods to achieve impossible ends is the essence of revolutionary utopianism.”  These ideologues may claim to reject the use of inhumane methods to achieve their ends, but the actions of their student, Breivik, belies their claim.

Finally, let us imagine that the wildest of the anti-Muslim bigots eventually get their wish and the country is purged of Muslims. Were that to happen, an America purged of Muslims would not be a nation immune from purges. New demons would emerge to take the place of the departed Muslims. Like the Muslims, those demons would demand to be exorcised and the likes of Anders Breivik, perhaps by the millions, would rise up to undertake the task. Before such a scenario unfolds, we would do well as a nation to realize that the demons we need to exorcise are not our fellow humans. They are the demons of ignorance, delusion, hubris and our tendency to continuously ignore the lessons that history repeatedly endeavors to teach us. The sooner we all get on with the business of attacking those demons the better off we will all be.


By Aminah on August 7, 2011 at 2:03am

Asalamulakum. I often have wondered how a city could be stopped if every Muslim worker, mother, teacher, doctor peacefully protested for a day to stop an everyday city to a demand respect, appreciation... After the attacks in Oslo/Utt

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