Faces of Terrorism

My thoughts have been mostly with Norway this past weekend. The horrific terrorist attack that left 93 people dead on Friday felt to me like a surreal cross between Columbine and Oklahoma City. Although the wreckage from the bomb was impressive, most of the dead were teenagers at a summer camp miles away, hunted down like animals by a lone gunman. The young people on Utøya had come from all over Norway, so I can imagine that in each community there must be collective shock and sorrow, but private, individual grief as well. I hope they know that the whole world stands with them in this anguished moment. I offer my personal heartfelt condolences to any Norwegian readers.

Predictably, when news of the bombing and shootings first hit Norway and the world, many assumed that the killers must be dark-skinned Islamists. But unaccountably, this killer didn’t fit the accepted “terrorist” profile. Anders Behring Breivik was blond, Christian, and wanted nothing to do with Islamic terrorists. In fact, that was the problem. He hated Muslims so much he had decided to start a “Crusade” against both Islam and those who are tolerant of it.

The attacks in Oslo and Utøya shocked Norway and the world. Norway is a peaceful country where violent crime is rare. How could an atrocity like this happen there? It would be nice to think that Mr. Breivik really did come out of the blue. But he didn’t. In his 1500-page manifesto, Breivik drew on rising European anti-immigration sentiment, and used dozens of quotes from American right-wing activists. While the authors and activists that Breivik quoted might not themselves have actually called for bloodshed, they have created a culture of hate that makes a fertile breeding ground for violence.

And now I’m afraid I’m reduced to the awkward position of quoting myself. On May 4, just after the killing of Osama bin Laden, I made the following lament:

“In a world where principles have been replaced by patriotic slogans and war has been perpetuated and extended until it becomes a normal fact of life, it is no wonder that we are losing basic respect and human decency. I see the deadly fruits of our current societal attitude not only in the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, but also in the reaction I have witnessed to his death. I say again, what have we become when a violent death becomes an occasion for celebration? Must we choose the dark road of hate, revenge, and war? Will we look in the mirror tomorrow and find the very thing we have sworn to destroy?”

This weekend in Norway I looked in the mirror of Western Civilization and saw yet another deadly fruit. Breivik’s actions demonstrate the awful consequences of our society’s choice to demonize an entire religion and culture. And this week Norway paid the price for all of us.

We can do better than this. Surely by now we can see that it is not enough to love only our next-door neighbor. If we are to avoid this deadly harvest of hate, we must learn to love our neighbors across the world, no matter their culture or religion. Every generalization about terrorism, every religious denigration, every culturally-based joke (however idly intended) gives encouragement and validation to people like Breivik. Only by choosing to utterly reject bigotry, hate, and violence in all its ugly manifestations can we build a safe and beautiful world for our children, and teach them how to live peacefully in it.

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4 thoughts on “Faces of Terrorism

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  • July 27, 2011 at 9:52 am
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    I’m not sure how to respond. Although I choose to love all people, that is not always the case with them. Through personal, sad experience I’ve learned that we can serve and love others, but until they too choose to love in the same manner, things will not change. Imagine babysitting for free, driving children to appointments and school gratis, feeding, watching, serving, and loving a neighbor’s children only to be called racist. Imagine providing a safe happy place for the children of the neighborhood only to be ostracized by a few families, because of my LDS-Christian religion. To lump all of the Western World into haters of Islam is not correct. It may be more correct to say that ALL residents of this planet have a hard time loving anyone different than themselves.

    The news doesn’t portray reality. It doesn’t show neighbors serving neighbors; it doesn’t show churches and private Christian and secular groups feeding, serving, housing, funding medical care, schooling, teaching entrepreneurial skills, giving micro-loans, and providing clean water for people of all religions, races, creeds, and colors. No we don’t see much of that on the news because it isn’t sensational.

    I understand your passion, but it requires a little tempering. Leaders of my religion teach us that Muslims are our brothers and are good people. I believe we have the same religion.

  • July 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm
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    You didn’t mention WHY he did it. He chose the youth camp because it was for children of the elite Labor party members (the socialist left) who he was upset with for trying to help Norway to be more multi-cultural. I didn’t realize it was such a big problem in Europe. I guess I noticed Italy that, at least in the north, they really tended to look down on immigrants (especially from poor countries like Africa). But apparently, it gets harder for immigrants to fit in in society the further north you go. Maybe socialist societies like to be homogenous?

    Towards the end of last year, Angela Merkel (Germany’s Chancellor) said “Of course the tendency had been to say, ‘let’s adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other’. But this concept has failed, and failed utterly.” Way to go, Germany. REALLY??? And now, France is not the only country to ban the Muslim veil. Belgium has now made it against the law also, at least the niqab (full veil).

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