Norway: Essential vs Erroneous Lessons

By Tawfik Hamid

The recent terror act in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik is -without doubt- a heinous and an evil act. This attack cannot be ignored as it may herald the very early stages of serious communal conflict or worse in Europe. At the same time, what conclusions does it merit?

The attack does illustrate the reality that deranged individuals can justify acts of terror by hyper-devotion to any belief system.  At the same time, the attack does not merit equating this heinous act by one individual with Islamic terrorism.  While acts of violence against innocents all wreak similar havoc, from a quantitative point of view the Norwegian tragedy and Islamic terrorism are incomparable.   Worldwide Islamic terror acts number in thousands while the number of political extremist and/or what some would refer to as “Christian” terrorism can be counted on one’s own fingers. Western resources for fighting terrorism must be directed in proportion to the real magnitude of the problem.

The purpose of Islamic terrorism is Jihad, that is, the establishment of Islamic dominance.  By contrast, the Norway terror act was focused on a defensive concern, the spread of Islamic populations throughout Norway who live by rules that are contrary to Western values. Why was Mr. Breivik was concerned about Islam more than other religions?  Why did he not see a threat to his culture from other faiths such as Buddhism or Hedonism?

As with most paranoid ideologies, Mr. Breivik’s fears might have a kernel of rationality.  Islamic Sharia laws oppress women, limit religious freedom, and promote using violence to spread the faith.  The value system on which these laws are based directly contradicts Western values of equal rights for women, religious tolerance for all faiths, and peaceful co-existence with, rather than domination over, others who are different.   Islamic orientation toward dominance has become an invasive species that could choke off Norway’s culture of tolerance. While Mr. Breivik’s methods were abominable, his concerns may be seen by many as having an element of validity.

Western values with regard to tolerance actually have been constraining European and American ability to correctly diagnose a growing danger.  To stop an extreme allergic reaction such as the response of Mr. Breivik the West must open its eyes to correctly identify and counter the allergen itself.

A recent NY Times Op-Ed has suggested that the attacker could have been influenced by authors in the US who have exposed the dangers of Islamic values. The problem however is not the messenger but rather the phenomenon itself.  Hatred toward Islam could be engendered by merely observing the facts on ground: the non-assimilation by Islamic populations of European values, and by-contrast Sharia-inspired beheadings, amputations of body parts, hanging gays, honor killings, and stoning of humans until death. Rather than blaming writers like Robert Spencer for exposing the realities of Sharia Law we need to address the failure of the Muslim world to modernize its theology.  Until Muslim religious leaders explicitly reject inhumane Sharia laws, negative reactions toward Islam and its teachings are inevitable.

Alas, apologists for Radical Islam describe Islamic Sharia Law- which promotes the formerly mentioned violent values- as “peaceful.” This ‘irrationality’, invite other forms of ‘irrationality’. The latter may occasionally manifest itself as extreme reactions of emotionally unstable people like Mr. Breivik. The denial of the realities of Islamic Sharia teachings invite those like Mr. Breivik to commit dramatically violent acts to draw attention to the threats he to an unfortunately large extent correctly perceives. If we truly want to stop the rising of more irrational behaviors against Islam we need first of all to stop irrationality in dealing with the problem.

To conclude, Islamic terrorism is still radically more prevalent and pervasively more dangerous than the ranting and violence of a lone Mr. Breivik. Modifying mainstream Islamic teachings by providing new interpretations that reject anti-female, anti-gay, anti-tolerance, anti-slavery, anti-equality and pro-violent elements of Sharia Law would be an appropriate response by the Muslim community to Anders Behring Breivik’s violence.  Finally; Islamic apologists need to stop their irrationality in addressing Islamic Sharia to stop the development of other forms of irrationalities that may turn into violent reactions.


Dr. Tawfik Hamid (aka Tarek Abdelhamid), is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who became later on the second in command of Al-Qaeda. Dr. Hamid is currently a Senior Fellow and Chair of the study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

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