Monday, July 25, 2011

Tragedy in Norway and Jumping to Conclusions

Anders Breivik (Wikipedia)
I was as shocked as everybody on Friday as news trickled in about the tragedy in Norway. As BBC began reporting that a shooting was occurring at a youth Labor Party camp it became clear that the act was clearly terrorism and not simply an assassination attempt on the Prime Minister. Immediate analysis pointed to Norway's participation in the ISAF in Afghanistan, as well as Norwegian prosecutors' decision to file terror charges against an Iraqi cleric facing deportation after he threatened the country's leaders. News outlets even brought up an event from six years ago to try to point out some kind of Muslim link: the Danish cartoon merely reprinted by Norwegian press outlets. That's desperation.

So you can imagine the media's shock at the fact that this heinous act was committed by a white, Nordic, blond, blue-eyed individual. That didn't stop some outlets from trying to grasp the sapling as their argument of Islam motivating the attacks began to give way underneath them. After the identity of the perpetrator - Anders Breivik - was released, the Wall Street Journal took to its site to ensure its readers that even though all of the evidence pointed to a single white man, the bombing and subsequent shooting could very well have been committed by Muslim terrorists. Take this paragraph, for instance:
Perhaps all this is at work. Or perhaps not: At our first deadline reports indicated that the attacks were the work of a jihadist group. Later in the evening evidence emerged that a suspect in the shooting attack on a youth camp was an ethnic Norwegian with no previously known ties to Islamist groups. Coordinated terrorist attacks are an al Qaeda signature. But copycats with different agendas are surely capable of duplicating its methods.
"All this" refers to the previous two paragraphs in which the Journal outlines Norway's involvement with Muslim nations (the article actually led with the Muhammad cartoon "theory.") The next paragraph then opens with "Whatever the case..." Unfortunately for this newspaper facts still reign supreme. At the time of the op-ed, the facts said that this was committed by a lone white Norwegian. It is highly irresponsible to float an already-disproved theory as if it was still in play.

We've seen this before. The day after the Oklahoma City bombing, the New York Times conjectured that it could be the work of right-wing sympathizers of the Branch Davidians, given that the bombing occurred on the second anniversary of the Waco, Texas debacle. This was quickly dismissed by the paper, however:
But other officials said that neither the Branch Davidians nor right-wing 'militia' groups that have protested the Government's handling of the Davidians were believed to have the technical expertise to engage in bombings like the one today.
Some experts focused on the possibility that the attack had been the work of Islamic militants, like those who bombed the World Trade Center in February 1993.
The article spent two more paragraphs explaining why it was probably linked to Islam in some way. One link? "Some Middle Eastern groups may have held meetings there, and and the city is home to at least three mosques." I believe they call that a smoking gun.

It turns out that the only Islamic link to the Norwegian tragedy is Anders Breivik's hatred of the religion and its followers. Not Norway's ISAF involvement, not the possible deportation and charges filed against an Iraqi cleric, and certainly not a six year old cartoon that didn't even originate in Norway. In fact, Breivik's ideologies align more with rabid conservatives (railing against immigration, secularism, the academic left) than anything else. Should we have hearings on right-wing extremism headed by some Democratic crank? Maybe some drone strikes over Nordic countries?

The answer to these questions should be obvious; unfortunately, at least when Islam was concerned, they weren't. I have a funny feeling, though, that for the white right-wingers out there it will be business as usual and will take more than one homicidal terrorist bent on killing innocents in the name of some ridiculous creed to bring the kind of scrutiny the Muslim community has dealt with for the past decade. Hopefully it never comes to that.

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