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Following Norway’s terrorist atrocity, Gerald Caplan underlines the egregious double standards around discussing terrorism.

A clear double standard exists when discussing terrorism committed by Muslims and terrorism committed by white, European, American, Christian terrorists.

There are several things we must grasp if we're ever going to understand what motivated Anders Breivik's murderous rampage in Norway. As is well known now, Breivik was a devotee of those many strident voices on the web who accuse the Norwegian Labour Party and its ilk of treason for being too soft on Muslims. For him, the logical response was to slaughter the children of the ‘traitors’ in huge numbers.

The first thing we need to understand is the all-important difference between Muslim terrorists and European terrorists like Breivik and American terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber and Jared Loughner (killer of six in Tucson, Arizona, and attempted killer of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords). Here's the difference: Apparently Muslim terrorists terrorise because they are Muslims and that's what Muslims do. White, European, American and Christian terrorists terrorise because they are psychotic loners who represent nothing besides themselves.

Besides McVeigh, Loughner and the Unabomber, there are many other American terrorists in the same category of psychos who represent no one but themselves. Nor do they only want to terrorise Muslims; some, with broader aspirations, are also dedicated to terrorising African-Americans, Jews, feminists, liberals and people with freckles. There are in fact far too many of these deranged loners to record here. But they include, for example, white supremacists, whom the Department of Homeland Security warned about in a 2009 report called ‘Rightwing extremism,’ which was naturally withdrawn by the Obama administration because it offended conservatives.

Then there's the Hutaree, a Christian militia in Michigan accused last year of plotting, in the name of Jesus, to kill police officers and plant bombs at their funerals. They had accumulated an arsenal of weapons larger than that of all the Muslim plotters charged in the United States since the 9/11 attacks combined. Hutaree is said to mean ‘Christian warrior’, comparable to being a Muslim jihadist. But while jihadists are Muslims, Hutaree devotees are apparently not real Christians.

Add to the list of non-Muslim terrorists in America the other 126 armed extreme right-wing racist militias identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organisation that tracks hate groups nationwide. And let's not ignore those all-Americans who have committed direct and deliberate crimes against American Muslims for being Muslims.

These cases exemplify a widely held claim for Muslim-haters: that while all Muslims may not be terrorists (we can't be sure), all terrorists are Muslims (except the ones named above). This would also include the three young Muslim men who were killed in Birmingham, England, this week trying to protect a gas station from vandals.

According to former Fox News megastar Glenn Beck, 10 per cent of all Muslims in the world are terrorists. That's more than 150 million Muslim terrorists around the world, as counted personally by Beck. Clearly the rest of us infidels are doomed.

Americans obviously face a special challenge, since American Muslims now constitute 0.8 per cent of the US population (yes, less than 1 per cent) – very possibly a tipping point. Fortunately, America's major political leaders grasp the Muslim threat. Sarah Palin warns that Sharia law, now rapidly spreading nowhere in the US, could be ‘the downfall of America’ while president-to-be Michele Bachman believes that ‘totalitarian control’ by American Muslims is alive and well and living in the White House – just remind yourself about his middle name, and you'll know.

Canadian Muslims, meanwhile, comprise 2.8 per cent of the Canadian population, which is why certain extremist Christian groups and certain conservative media outlets have taken to warning us about the looming Muslim threat to the Canadian way of life.

Which brings us back to truth number 1. In all the cases where terrorists plot in the name of Christ, they are simply nut-bars and not real Christians. When Muslim terrorists claim to be acting in the name of Islam, they are in fact acting in the name of Islam. It seems we can trust Muslims to speak the truth, but not European or American Christians.

Truth number 2 follows logically. None of the long list of Muslim-haters in Europe and North America who Breivik specifically says influenced him actually influenced him. He's whacko and has no idea what he's talking about. In fact no one influenced him and no one is responsible for the poison in his soul. That includes the extreme right-wing Muslim-hating political parties thriving across Europe who are not to blame for creating an atmosphere that might have influenced Breivik and others like him. Nor are those mainstream centrist-conservative European political leaders – Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy – who actively appease Muslim-haters for shabby reasons of political expediency.

Also not responsible for anything bad are those gutless European leftist parties that have failed to condemn the scape-goating of minorities or to stand up for the rights of all people against the common enemy – market fundamentalism, inequality, poverty, joblessness, fear of the new and unfamiliar, a bleak, precarious future. Nor are those many European bigots who have somewhat belatedly discovered that the Jews are no longer ‘the enemy of civilisation’. Now it's Muslims, with 3.2 per cent of the population of Europe – surely an imminent tipping point, no? – who are conspiring to Islamise Europe, turning it into ‘Eurabia’.

Among those Breivik frequently cited as his influence in his manifesto – a carefully assembled 1,518-page document that must be scrupulously ignored, having been prepared by a crackpot – are sources familiar to Canadians. These include Mark Steyn, formerly a star columnist for Maclean's magazine, and Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician who has been given great prominence in Canada by Ezra Levant, a conservative associated with the Sun media chain.

Levant's dozens of fans know him as a courageous fighter for the rights of free speech for anyone whose speech he approves of, like Wilders and Steyn, not to mention Ann Coulter, who has called Muslims ragheads and ‘absolutely insane savages’. For some reason best known to himself, Levant also insists on his own right to assert that President Obama was born a Muslim, even though a moment's research shows that it's not true.


* This article was first published by the Globe and Mail.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.