Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thinking About the Terrorist Murders in Norway

Barry Rubin

I don’t think this terrorist attack in Norway was a jihadist conspiracy nor is this guy a secret Islamist terrorist. He is clearly right-wing and anti-Muslim, lashing out against forces (the government and Labor Party) that he holds responsible for the growing “Islamization” or multiculturalism in Norway. The evidence also indicates, by the way, that he was not motivated by Christian religious sentiment. He looks at Christianity as an outsider.

Should we argue that such people don’t exist? Should we argue that hatred of Muslims cannot provoke terrorism? Should we claim that you cannot be a “right-wing terrorist” just as one can be a “left-wing terrorist”? Of course not.

We should rather say things like — but not limited to — the following:

1. All terrorism is bad and should be denounced. People should constantly be urged not to turn to terrorist violence or to hatred of whole groups or peoples. The events in Norway mean that people who reach that kind of audience should redouble their efforts to discourage violence and irrational hatred. 2. Islam as a religion is not the problem. Radical interpretations of Islam — and people have been quite creative historically in reinterpreting seemingly bloodthirsty “authoritative” verses into something else — that now dominate in many places are the problem. A political interpretation of Islam, which we call Islamism, is the problem. At the same time, we should not hesitate to point out that a very large portion of Muslims — the numbers are widely different in various countries — accept these interpretations and support these doctrines. Equally, a very large number of Muslims are victims of these doctrines. Many Muslims oppose them and only with the support of those people can revolutionary Islamism be defeated.

3. There is no parallel movement or powerful doctrine among other contemporary religions that preaches hatred, terrorism, or the seizure of state power, although there have been in some of them at certain times in the past. These were overcome precisely by the reinterpretation of religious doctrine — a situation likely to happen in Islam in the future (unless the revolutionary Islamists take over). The question is whether this process will take several decades or several centuries

4. There have been over 10,000 Islamist terrorist attacks, many of them against Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and others. The number of such attacks against Muslims in the West or indeed in the world is perhaps one percent of that number.

5. Any terrorist who attacks Muslims or tries to kill other people because they work for governments or belong to a left-of-center political party, as in this case in Norway, will be denounced by his entire society, apprehended, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All of the media, all of the intellectuals, all of the government officials will denounce this person in the sharpest terms This is hardly ever true in Muslim-majority countries.

6. Terrorists like the one in Norway are isolated individuals who have no institutional or organizational support. Islamist terrorists are usually members or supporters of large organized groups that enjoy backing from a considerable portion of public opinion. These groups have defined goals that they are capable of achieving, a point that does not apply to anti-Muslim terrorists.

7. Terrorist attacks against Muslims (or Western governments, or left-of-center political parties) decrease support for the cause of the terrorists. Terrorist attacks by Islamist groups increase support for the perpetrators.

8. It is senseless and counterproductive for Western media, academics, etc., to loudly argue that any terrorist action by a non-Muslim or a person on the political right (or a mentally deranged person wrongly associated with such movements, as in the Tucson case) characterizes all people who have a critique of Islamism or present-day Islamic religious interpretations or the dominant policies and views in the West today. To try to hush up terrorism by one group while manipulating terrorism by another for political gain is not intellectually respectable or morally proper.

9. The coverage and analysis of “Christianophobia” and antisemitism and revolutionary Islamism and aspects of cotemporary prevalent interpretations of Islam by large groups of Muslims should be as honest and intensive as that devoted to “Islamophobia.” And that isn’t happening by a — if you’ll excuse the expression — long shot.

10. And so when the media and the U.S. military cannot even admit that the Fort Hood terrorist attack was an Islamist terrorist attack, or when other clearly terrorist attacks weren’t terrorist attacks at all, that is a disgrace. In the same terms, conservatives and “anti-jihad” activists should freely admit that this was a terrorist attack motivated by anti-Muslim and anti-leftist motives.

11. Are people who have written responsibly about Islam, Islamism, and left-wing actions responsible for this attack? No. But if anyone wants to make that argument blaming such writers, then who among them are responsible for terrorist attacks by Islamists? Are those who slander, lie, and preach hatred against Israel thus responsible for terrorism against Israel? I would say that’s worth considering, especially because those who then launch such attacks know that they will have widespread sympathy and support, along with the prospect of political gains.

12, Indeed, that is a significant reason why more left-wing revolutionary groups in the West and Islamists in both the West and Middle East launch far more terrorist attacks. They can rationally expect that this violence will bring them political success. Any person on the other side who thinks that almost certainly must be mentaly deranged or at least driven by hatred rather than political calculation.

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