I wasn’t at the office when it happened on Friday evening. But on Saturday, the office wasn’t abuzz with the usual, slightly maddening buzz of the weekday, and you could hear the collective pregnant pause shortly after the Norway attacks as staff members prayed for the suspect not to be Muslim.
As gruesome and insensitive as it sounds, there was a collective relief when the alleged attacker turned out to be 32-year-old Nordic Anders Behring Breivik, the blonde with the single tweet of July 17: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.”
Somewhere in a newspaper like the New York Times, a newsroom of BBC and CNN and other news outlets, there seemed to be a collective disbelief that there were absolutely no links (at the time of writing) to anything remotely Muslim.
Jamal Dajani, a producer and blogger with Huffington Post, tweeted: “At least 3 so-called terrorism experts on CNN blamed Oslo massacre on Al Qaeda.”
Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New America Foundation, was in such a daze that he told the New York Times that even if Islamic terrorism was completely ruled out from the Norway attacks, whoever did it was “learning from what they see from Al Qaeda.”
Many newspapers, including New York Times, reported that the attacker was a Christian right-wing fundamentalist, others cited him as political extremist, but the word terrorism was largely used in reference to Islamic – i.e. that this wasn’t the work of a Muslim terrorist, yet.
No one in our newsroom seemed surprised except me because I suppose I expected some level of pretense – even if for five minutes.
What next, asked someone in the newsroom: Will President Barack Obama offer Norway aid in fighting Christian fundamentalists by drone strikes?
How many Christian fundamentalist leaders have disavowed the actions of the attacker and distanced themselves from his “beliefs?”
This anger is most visible on social media forums and highlights just how wide the gulf is between sanity and insanity.
Since time immemorial, everyone has had an opinion; today we just have more platforms to express them on. The consequences, thus, are far reaching and sadly do little to serve any cause – be it the Muslims or not.
(Muna Khan, Senior Correspondent and Columnist for Al Arabiya English, can be reached at email@example.com)