Zahar: Should we view the Oslo attack as an arbitrary act or as a reflection of wider political and religious extremism?

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2 August, 2011
By: Marie-Joëlle Zahar
Professor of political science, Université de Montréal

Although the act itself seems to be the work of a single individual, it would be dangerous to deny that it does not reflect wider political and religious intolerance of Muslims in Europe. The perpetrator’s manifesto says as much. Recent controversy over Islamic symbols in European countries historically perceived as respectful of diversity also highlights the point; let us remember that three mosques were perceived to be sufficiently threatening to provoke a successful referendum to ban mosques altogether in Switzerland. Muslims have often claimed that Western powers implement a policy of “two weights and two measures” when it comes to matters related to Islam. They stand to be proven right if we accept to call the horrendous Oslo attacks an arbitrary act committed by a rogue killer rather than admit that this is the unfortunate expression of broader extremism that needs to be tackled. Let us not commit the error of calling Muslims who shoot others terrorists whilst calling non-Muslims who do the same rogue killers. The taking of innocent lives to make a political point, what Anders Behring Breivik did, is an act of terrorism that reflects an intolerant ideology. We owe his young victims the intellectual honesty of saying that much.

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