The speedy apprehension, public identification and incriminating right wing, white supremacist rants of alleged Norwegian mass murderer A nders Behring Breivik partially doused the red hot fire building to launch yet another anti-Muslim witch hunt. The operative word is partially, because despite the steadily mounting evidence that Breivik 's anti-Muslim hatred was a prime motive for the rampage, it didn't stop the avalanche of chatter on blogs, websites, and reader comments, that there had to be a tie somewhere with Islamic terrorism. This has been the reliable code word for fanning anti-Muslim hysteria. The pattern has been well established since the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing in 1996.
At the time, then President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno had the good sense not rush to judgment and scapegoat Muslims.
The swift arrest of McVeigh squelched the building mob mania against them. But it didn't squelch public suspicions that all Muslims were potential terrorists. The federal building bombing propelled Clinton's 1996 Antiterrorism Act through Congress. Civil rights and civil liberties groups had waged a protracted battle against the bill. The law gave the FBI broad power to infiltrate groups, quash fundraising by foreigners, monitor airline travel, and seize motel and hotel records and trash due process by permitting the admission of secret evidence to expel immigrants. The implication was that present and future attacks would likely be launched by those with an Arab name and face rather than by men like McVeigh, or in the case of the alleged Norway terrorist, Breivik .
President Bush, as Clinton, took the high ground after the 911 attack. He did not reflexively finger-point Muslims. The Bush administration publicly assured that profiling was reprehensible and violated legal and constitutional principles, and that it would not be done. But the attack stirred tremors among Muslims that they would routinely be targeted, subject to search and surveillance, and profiled at airports.
The profiling alarm bells went off again after a soldier with a Muslim name Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot up the military base at Ft. Hood in November 2009. The Council on American-Islamic Relations wasted no time and issued a loud and vigorous denunciation of the mass killing. That didn't stop the pack of Fox Network commentators, conservative radio talk show hosts, writers, and some officials from again openly shouting for even tighter scrutiny of Muslim groups.
The scrutiny has taken two major forms. One is the persistent clamor to profile Muslims, those with Muslim sounding names, or those who appear to fit the stereotypical type of what a Muslim supposedly looks like. More than a few congressman led most notably by New York Congressman Pete King and GOP presidential candidate Michelle Bachman have openly called for profiling of Muslims or strongly hinted that there should be special attention given to them at airports, train, and bus stations.
The second major hit against Muslims has been the indelible stamp in the public mind that Al Qaeda, or other assorted, unnamed Muslim terror organizations or individuals perpetrate every act of mass violence in the world. The Norway massacre was a textbook example of how deep and dangerous the Muslim equals terrorist thinking is buried in the public consciousness. There was absolutely no reason to instantly finger-point Al Qaeda for the bombing of the government buildings or shooting up the summer camp. At peak Norway had 400 troops in Afghanistan as part of a UN mandated peacekeeping mission. It pulled the relative handful of troops it had in Iraq out years ago. It has passed no restrictive laws or actions as in Germany or France against Muslims. The closest it came was the revoke of a ruling in 2009 that permitted a Norwegian Muslim woman to wear her hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women, as part of her police uniform.
Norway's benign foreign and domestic policy, and its non-military involvement in the Middle East still stirred mounting fear and hatred among many Norwegians toward Muslims, They brand it the sneak Islamization of the country.
The Progress Party has been especially strident in demanding tougher immigration laws and enforcement, and has criticized government leaders for a too tolerant attitude toward Islamic law. A poll in 2009 found the percent of the public that backed the Progress Party had skyrocketed to more than thirty percent of the respondents. At the same time, the Labor, Socialist Left, and Center Party, support had dropped. Breivik was a Progress Party member.
Breivik may be every bit the whacked out, maniacal nut job he has been characterized as. But that doesn't change two things. One is that his deranged, horrific hate driven act of mass carnage was a grotesque aberration, but the hate and fear that drove him to it is not. And if Breivik hadn't been quickly fingered as the culprit, his mayhem would have fanned yet another full blown Muslim witch hunt. Even so it still was enough to stop the Muslim bashing.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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