Horror In Norway
Yesterday, the news media was full of speculation that this attack might be linked to Al-Quaeda, or some other Muslim terrorist organisation. Today, we learn that is not so. The man responsible for this outrage apparently considered himself a Christian fundamentalist. Now, lest I allow myself to become guilty of hypocrisy, I had better admit right here that I certainly found the suggestion yesterday that this was an attack inspired by Muslim fundamentalists perfectly plausible. I'm ashamed to say that, but it is the truth.
So what can I learn from this? I already knew all Muslims were not terrorists, and considered any such assumption absurd. But I did allow myself to forget that not all terrorists were Muslims, and in so doing, I was still unfair to peaceful Muslims everywhere. If you are a peaceful Muslim, and are reading this, I apologise to you.
I consider myself a Christian, and I certainly know that all Christians are not terrorists. But I am shocked and humbled to discover that anyone who considers themselves a Christian could resort to this type of violence. I can only repeat my own version of what Muslims have struggled to remind everyone for the past ten years. Those who use such measures are not following the teachings of Jesus Christ.
In my own shock and my own pain, I understand much more today of what Muslims everywhere who did not support the terrorists who used their religion as an excuse must have been feeling for the past ten years and more. Again, I apologise. I have never believed that you should be persecuted just for what you believe, but I have failed to appreciate just what a terrible burden you were struggling under.
We all need to remember that not everyone who can be lumped under any label deserves to be judged by the actions of the worst among them. We all need to remember that treating any person who does not themselves resort to violence or actively support the use of violence in the same way as those who do is to make ourselves no better than the worst among us. And, most of all, we all need to be united in one basic certainty: blowing up, shooting, or otherwise killing and maiming innocent people in the name of any cause, any belief, any goal, is wrong. And we all need to avoid blaming those who share the beliefs but not the willingness to resort to such tactics.
Every time we assume that one group must be responsible for violence, even before there is any evidence to prove anything beyond the simple fact violence has occurred, we encourage all groups to resort to violent tactics. By viewing them with suspicion, refusing to trust them, and treating them unfairly, we push members of the group we fear toward extremism as their only option - and, in so doing, we share their guilt. And by pointing a finger at that one group, we encourage the extremists among every other group, those who are just waiting for an excuse, to believe they are justified in their attacks. And, in so doing, we share their guilt.
Violence is wrong, whoever resorts to it. But isolating a single group, and presuming that is the only group capable of unjustified violence, is just as wrong. The man who killed so many people in Norway yesterday knew what we would think at first. He felt even more strongly than we did about Muslims. But in sharing his feelings, even in part, we encouraged him.
I can argue that my own part in that was tiny, and it was. But that doesn't make any difference, because I did have some tiny part in it. Just because I was in the back of the mob, and wasn't shouting as loudly as the leaders at the front, just because my own slogans weren't as broad or as harsh as those others were using, doesn't excuse me. The only excuse would have been if I had been standing against that mob, urging them to calm down. Every time I heard of a new explosion, a new shooting, and agreed, "Yeah, it was probably Muslim terrorists", every single time I did that, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the mob and failed to oppose it. And, for that, I am very sorry. It isn't enough, but all I can do now is try not to do it again.