Experts Say Norway Suspect Islamaphobic Person

  • Fri Jul 29th 2011

Some experts say his actions are the manifestation of extremist ideas that often bubble just under the surface, not only in Europe but here in United States, and around the world.

32-year-old Anders Breivik has confessed to setting off a car bomb in Olso killing eight people and then attacking a summer camp massacring 68 more victims- mostly teenagers.

He is a self-proclaimed defender of Christian values who wants to bring attention to what he calls the hordes of Islamic immigrants invading Europe.

For many experts in religious tolerance, he fits the classic definition of a Islamaphobic person.

“We do have a problem in America and Europe and a lot of people don't want to recognize it. That is, there is an increased anti-Islam, anti-Muslim environment,” said Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, John Esposito.

In his manifesto, Breivik admitted he follows European and even American bloggers who have been labeled Muslim haters, his ideologies consistent with many in right-wing extremist circles.

The leader of a British far-right group with which Breivik claims a link stopped just short of defending the extremist views that drove the gunman to act.

"People should look at Oslo and think: 'God look at how desperate some people are getting'. Not that in any way do I want to belittle what he has done, or justify what he has done. I don't think anyone else will ever do something so extreme but you suppress people's rights to have their say, you suppress that voice, you could create a problem in which people go underground," said Stephen Lennon, leader of the English Defence League.

"What we're doing as an organization is trying to build a platform, build a voice, harness the anger, channel it in a democratic way - which is our right to freedom of assembly and our right to protest," he added.

But when that type of thinking leads to hate, dangerous reactions can follow.

“I've always maintained that once you start hating a religion or race, it's a slippery slope. Because today we're after Muslims, tomorrow you're after some other religion or other race,” said Akbar Ahmed, Chair of Islamic Studies at American University.

And the fact is, Muslim populations are growing worldwide and need to be respected in different communities just like any other group.

“The Muslim world population is one and a half billion people. 57 nations have muslims. So it's not a tiny population or marginal population. But even if it's tiny, we must be sensitive to each other. One-forth of the world's population is Muslim. It makes no sense to antagonize it and anger it," Ahmed added.

Breivik's goal was to create an “awakening” of the masses – creating a war between the West and Muslims. But the experts say Muslims see past that.

“Muslims were asked in an open-ended question, what do you admire about the West? They showed they admire a lot about the West. When they were leery, it was about foreign policy and they could distinguish between U.S. and other countries, but when asked what they resent, the first thing they say is the denigration of Islam and Muslims. And the sense that Muslim life is cheaper than non-Muslim life,” Esposito noted.

John Esposito says the term “Islamaphobia” has been spoken around Europe for a few years now, but if the word begins to slip into the American vocabulary, that could signal that people here and around the world recognize prejudice against Muslims does exist and now they are ready to do something about it.

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