The Norwegian terrorist who murdered more than ninety innocent civilians – many of whom were teenagers – did not act alone. Or rather, he acted within a cultural and political context that legitimises his fearful and hate-infested worldview. It is now clear that Anders Behring Breivik was exposed to large amounts of right-wing propaganda. This tragedy underlines the urgency with which normal people around the world must combat fundamentalist nationalists and chauvinists wherever they may be. But it also demonstrates the extent to which reactionary bigotry has infected mainstream thought.
Many reacted to the news from Oslo with wide eyes and a pointed finger. The most animated reactionaries took to the pages of the New York Times comment section to issue sweeping proclamations about the Clash of Civilisations and something called “the cult of death”. In many ways, readers were merely reinforcing the paper’s woefully editorialised reportage. As Glenn Greenwald helpfully pointed out, the editors of the NYT – America’s allegedly liberal newspaper – reserve the word “terrorist” solely for use in conjunction with the word “Muslim”.
When news emerged that the perpetrator of the murders – the terrorist – was a man whose religion and skin pigmentation closely resembled those of the editors of the NYT, the story changed. The terrorist became a deranged “Christian extremist” whose tactics clearly mirrored “Al Qaeda’s brutality and multiple attacks”. In that way, the paper linked the terrorist with Muslims, despite his strong antipathy for them.
Blame for the Western media’s panting pursuit of a non-existent Muslim triggerman quickly focused on the feckless, credulous, overeager and inept source of the NYT’s journalistic failure. Will McCants – proclaimed by one of his acolytes to be at the top of a “list of five terrorism experts you can trust” – was quickly discredited. In his defence, he only sought to affirm the confirmation bias that he and the editors of the NYT suffer from. The meme that underpins their worldview goes something like this: “Muslims are bad. When bad things happen, Muslims are responsible.” This is a mainstream view in the US today; it cuts across party lines.
Shaping both sides of the narrative
That the purported American left maintains this bigoted outlook is an indication of how successful the right has been at constructing the stage upon which public debate is conducted. Two main anti-Muslim talking points are now taken for granted in this country: First, all terrorists in the West are Muslims; second, we are in the midst of a global civilisational war. These are the dual planks upon which Uncle Sam squats in his Afghani outhouse.
Objective sources have done an excellent job of discrediting the first of the two claims that inform the 21st century American experience. The second point however – that we are engaged in a war of civilisations – is one that I agree with. But the combatants are not Islam and the West. Instead, the war is between the normal, sane people of the world and the right-wing zealots who see doom, destruction, hellfire and God’s Will at every turn.
Anders Behring Breivik, Mohammed Atta and Baruch Goldstein are all cut from the same rotten cloth. Anwar Al-Awlaki and Glenn Beck – the peddlers of the faith – all share the same core afflictions.
These men are insecure, violently inclined, and illiberal. The outside world scares them. They hate homosexuals and strong women. For them, difference is a source of insecurity. Their values are militarism, conformism, chauvinism and jingoism. Worst of all they seek to pressure us into compliance while they work frantically to destroy themselves – and the rest of us with them.
The war continues
All indications are that the hate-mongers – who are on the same side of this war, irrespective of religion – are winning in America. The unreflective, superficial, wan editors of the NYT are an indication of just how successful the right wing has been at eviscerating the left.
But not all liberals are created equal.
It is a credit to the Norwegian people that their prime minister did not respond to the terror attack with scorched-earth rhetoric or a carpet-bombing campaign. A real liberal with strong principles, he did not succumb to fear or vicious speculation.
Instead, he pledged to strengthen Norwegian democracy. This is what he said shortly after the terrorist attacks: “Our answer is more democracy, more openness to show that we will not be stopped by this kind of violence.” His words illustrate the difference between a society that takes liberal principles as a foundation and one that treats them as an inconvenient luxury.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s words make it clear where Norway stands on the global war on right-wing extremism. Where does the US stand?
Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American freelance journalist based in Cairo. He was born in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
New York (CNN) — A city official married the first couple in New York City to wed under the state’s new law allowing same-sex marriage Sunday.
Phyllis Siegal, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, were married in a chapel at the city clerk’s office as a crowd of onlookers cheered.
The two, of New York, have been together for 23 years. Kopelov left the clerk’s office in a wheelchair, but used a walker to approach reporters.
Hundreds of same-sex couples heard the news Friday that they made the cut in the marriage lottery that New York state instituted for Sunday, the day that the state’s Marriage Equality Act took effect.
“These are two independent people who are joining together because they can see and they can feel how much better their lives will be,” city clerk Michael McSweeney said as he married Siegal and Kopelov. “We are grateful that they are allowing us to share this truly momentous ceremony with them.”
The New York City clerk’s office has been flooded with more than 2,600 requests for marriage licenses since the wording on the online application was changed from “Groom and Bride” to “Spouse A and Spouse B.”
The office could handle less than a third of those requests — gay or straight — on Sunday, according to a press statement the city released earlier in the week. The lottery was set up to allocate 764 slots for couples who want to obtain marriage licenses and/or be married at city clerk’s offices on Sunday.
Couples began lining up outside the clerk’s office before the ceremonies began Sunday. Some women wore wedding gowns, while some men wore suits or tuxedos.
If all 764 weddings actually take place on Sunday, it will set a one-day record for the city.
“Marriage equality is alive and well in every borough of New York City right now,” said Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council, who is also gay. She said watching the weddings “sent a chill up my spine.”
Marcos Chaljub and Freddy Zambrano were married after Siegal and Kopelov. The two tearfully said their vows as friends hovered and snapped pictures. “You’re married!” one declared as celebratory hugs were exchanged afterward.
Chaljub and Zambrano conducted last-minute preparations Saturday for their wedding, picking up bouquets of wildflowers for their bridesmaids and champagne for a family brunch afterward. The couple has been together for five years.
“I have certain people in my life, they’re not totally OK with it, but they accept it, and just the fact they respect us because of that, it’s really the most that I can ask for,” Chaljub told CNN’s Susan Candiotti.
The two have been wearing rings for five years, and said they don’t plan to exchange new ones. “We’re just going to polish them up and exchange them again,” Chaljub said.
New York Rabbi Shaaron Feinbaum of Beit Simchat Torah congregation, who has lobbied for legalizing same-sex marriage, set up a station for couples desiring a religious ceremony after the civil one.
New York legalized same-sex marriage in June. The Marriage Equality Act was a priority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo after winning election in November. The law was passed under a Republican-led Senate after days of delays and negotiations between the two parties.
Quinn announced that a drawing will take place Monday to award a honeymoon package to one newly-married couple in each borough. The package will include two nights in a Manhattan hotel; dinners; tickets to a museum, the Empire State Buidling, a Broadway show and Cirque du Soleil; and Macy’s gift certificates.
Quinn told CNN that New York is the place where the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement was born, and a place the world looks to.
“All eyes are upon it, and I believe it is going to help propel this movement forward faster than any of the other states have,” Quinn said.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire also allow same-sex marriage, as does the District of Columbia.
CNN’s Jesse Solomon and Steve Kastenbaum contributed to this report.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — An 8 year-old boy was hanged by militants in Afghanistan’s Helmand province after the boy’s father — a police officer in the southern city of Gereshk — refused to comply with militants’ demands to provide them with a police vehicle, officials said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the hanging, saying “this action is not permitted in any culture or any religions,” according to a statement Sunday, which provided details of the incident.
Karzai said he has ordered local authorities to root out the militants and arrest them “as soon as possible.”
The boy was kidnapped Friday. It was unclear when he was killed.
The incident comes amid a recent wave of attacks on local officials who are considered anti-Taliban. Less than two weeks ago, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Karzai’s half-brother and a provincial council chief in neighboring Kandahar, was killed in his home by a longtime bodyguard.
Elsewhere on Sunday, formal ceremonies marking the handover of security to Afghan forces took place in Kabul and Panjshir province.
They are the fifth and sixth areas to be transferred to national forces.
Last week, the capital of Helmand province — Lashkar Gah — was transferred to local control as NATO begins a drawdown of troops.
The area was a scene of heavy fighting and stiff resistance last year as a coalition “surge” swept southward in an effort to drive Taliban forces from their traditional heartland.