Why Oslo is Our Call to Change

Oslo is everywhere.

As we see bodies recovered and hear stories of young people who survived the massacre, our hearts ache.  But in the last few days, we’ve learned that we are closer to the tragedy than we can imagine.

The killer is not a “Muslim terrorist,” as many conservatives in this country were quick to conclude.  Anders Breivik is a right-wing Christian directly influenced by a small group of anti-Muslim American bloggers and activists who claim that Muslim immigrants threaten western civilization. Robert Spencer, who runs Jihad Watch web site, is cited in his 1500 page manifesto 62 times.  Breivik also cites Pamela Geller, who fomented protest against the Islamic center near Ground Zero last fall and recently attacked multifaith groups for planning peaceful gatherings on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.

The connection shows us what Sikh and Muslim Americans have known for a long time: anti-Muslim speech fuels anti-Muslim violence.  In the last decade, each time there has been a resurgence in anti-Muslim rhetoric since 9/11, Sikh and Muslim communities have faced hate violence on our city streets. Most recently, in the run-up to Congressman Peter King’s first controversial hearings investigating “radicalization” in the Muslim community, Tea Party protesters yelled “Terrorist!” and “Remember 9/11″ at Muslim families at a fundraiser, and two elderly turbaned Sikhs were gunned down in likely hate crimes in Elk Grove, CA.  Another was murdered in Las Vegas.

The horrific slaughter in Oslo is the most recent example of how rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. can inspire mass violence, this time abroad.

Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and the rest claim they did not cause the attacks. However, they must own their role in perpetuating a culture that consistently dehumanizes a people.  They fuel a form of fear and hate that can’t end in anything other than violence.

And they’re not alone.  Congressman Peter King still plans to hold his third hearing this Wednesday, refusing requests that he broaden his investigation to non-Muslims.  There have been nearly twice as many domestic terrorist plots from non-Muslims than Muslims since 9/11, but the profiling persists. From congressmen to bloggers to activists, we live in a culture that views Muslims, and anyone who looks Muslim, as automatically suspect, perpetually foreign, and potentially terrorist.

It’s time to end that narrative.  It’s time for the silent majority to raise their voices as part of a groundswell. As we anticipate the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, the tragedy in Oslo must inspire deep introspection to heal the deep divides in our country — and eclipse extremist voices. The stakes are too high.  We have already lost too much.

Want to join a movement to rise up on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 to overcome fear and division?  Join the Groundswell of Community on 9/11/11.