Being Muslim in a post 9-11 world
In the hours after a bomb exploded near government headquarters in Oslo, Norway, followed by a shooter opening fire on youth at an island camp beyond the city, the media didn’t speculate on who was responsible.
Most of the major networks and national newspapers, as well as the experts they invited to make sense of the chaos, thought they knew who had done it: Terrorists.
And in that, the largely unquestioned assumption that it must be Islamist terrorists.
Minutes after news of the explosion made headlines, journalists suggested the attacks may have been related to Prophet Mohammed cartoons that had stirred such controversy several years ago, and had been republished in a major Norwegian newspaper last year
About an hour after the bombing, and an hour before the shooting began, assistant comment editor and deputy blog editor of U.K. newspaper, The Telegraph, Will Haven, posed the question: Is al-Qaeda behind this?
Arguments, such as those Haven made, concerning Norwegian troops in Afghanistan or the Prophet Mohammed cartoons might have been valid, if there had been any indication whatsoever that Muslims were behind the bombing – any indication besides, of course, the Western world’s post 9-11 gut feeling that terrorism and Islam are two sides of the same coin.
Over three hours after the first bomb exploded Norwegian police arrested a suspect on the island of Utoeya. Then the first descriptions of the shooter began to trickle in: A tall, blonde “Norwegian-looking’ man dressed up as a police officer.
9-11. Two numbers that represent that devastating day 10 years ago when 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, spectacularly crashing two into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon. The fourth, also headed toward Washington, crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania after passengers intervened. Nearly 3,000 people died.
Since that day, the religion of Islam has been inexorably married to extremist ideals.
That relationship, one largely created and nurtured in North Americans’ minds and conclusion-jumping, if nowhere else, has come to define many Muslims in Canada and the United States.
Citizens who hold their breath whenever a terrorist attack, like Norway’s, happens. Because they know that many people will have a knee-jerk reaction despite the evidence –or lack thereof. Islam extremists did this.
The day after the Norway attack, a Los Angeles Times headline read, “Muslims feel sting of initial blame”.
“Within the Muslim community there was a sigh of relief that it wasn’t someone connected with their religion, but also a sting at being initially scapegoated,” reads the article.
What do you think of the word terrorism, post 9-11? Is it fair that the word is so tied to al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists?
MSN News is also looking for Canadians to share their experiences as Muslims, or perceived Muslims, since 9-11, for an anniversary feature this September. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in contributing.