Anders Breivik's Christian Terrorism in Norway: Are Pamela Geller and other anti-Islamist bloggers responsible?

How you look at things.
July 25 2011 8:53 AM

Christian Terrorism

If Muslims are responsible for Islamic terrorism, are Muslim-bashers responsible for the massacre in Norway?

Read Slate's complete coverage of the tragedy in Norway. 

Blogger Pamela Geller.
Blogger Pamela Geller

On Friday, anti-Islamist blogger Pamela Geller pounced on news of a massacre in Oslo. "Jihad in Norway?" she asked. She posted a second item—"You cannot avoid the consequences of ignoring jihad"—and linked to a previous one: "Norway: ALL Rapes in Past 5 Years Committed by Muslims." As the Oslo body count grew, she piled on: "if I hear another television or radio reporter refer to muhammad as 'the Prophet Muhammad,' I think I am going to puke. He's not your prophet, assclowns."

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Then things went horribly wrong. It turned out that the suspected terrorist in Norway wasn't a Muslim. He hated Muslims. And he admired Geller.

In a manifesto posted online, the admitted killer, Anders Behring Breivik, praised Geller. He cited her blog, Atlas Shrugs, and the writings of her friends, allies, and collaborators—Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, Islam Watch, and Front Page magazine—more than 250 times. And he echoed their tactics, tarring peaceful Muslims with the crimes of violent Muslims. He wrote that all Muslims sought to impose "sharia laws" and that "there are no important theological differences between jihadists and so-called 'peaceful' or 'moderate' Muslims." He reprinted, as part of the manifesto, a 2006 essay by "Fjordman"—a blogger whose work appears frequently on Geller's site—which argued that "radical Muslims and moderate Muslims are allies" and that because Islam teaches deception, no Muslim who claims to be moderate can be trusted.

Scan Geller's blog and her friends' sites, and you'll see how thickly these ideas pervaded Breivik's online world. Jihad Watch says "Islam is intrinsically violent." Islam Watch asserts that "terrorism … is the real Islam," that "Islam is beyond alteration," and that "it needs to be emasculated, marginalized or eliminated altogether." Geller has published Fjordman's views—"I do not believe that there is such a thing as a moderate Islam"—with her own proud note that "I have long derided the 'moderate Islam' meme as a theory with no basis in reality or history." Four days before Breivik opened fire, she posted an item headlined, "Moderates vs. Radicals—What's the Difference?" She joked that "one straps one on, and the other covers for jihad." She concluded that "there really is no difference between muslims and radical muslims."

Geller has pursued this line of attack most aggressively against Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who wants to build an Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. Abdul Rauf, accused of radicalism  by Geller and Republican politicians, has done everything possible to refute the charge. He has denounced al-Qaida as un-Islamic. He has said, "I condemn everyone and anyone who commits acts of terrorism. And Hamas has committed acts of terrorism." He has invited the U.S. government to vet potential funders of his center. He has rejected the idea that Sharia overrides civil laws. And when U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, the imam declared: "I applaud President Obama for his resolute efforts in the war against terror, including bringing Bin Laden to justice."

Despite these statements, Geller continues to depict Abdul Rauf as a terrorist sympathizer. Her evidence is a series of secondhand, thirdhand, and nonexistent connections. "Rauf is an open proponent of Islamic law, Sharia, with its oppression of women, stonings, and amputations," she asserts, falsely. He "was a prominent member of the Perdana organization, a leading funder of the jihad flotilla launched against Israel in 2010 by the genocidal Islamic terror group, IHH." One of his books was supported by the International Institute of Islamic Thought and the Islamic Society of North America, which are "Muslim Brotherhood fronts," and ISNA "was named an unindicted co-conspirator" in a "Hamas terror funding case." Another Abdul Rauf book was promoted in Malaysia at a meeting of an organization that's been banned in some countries.

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You can use this guilt-by-association tactic against anybody. To take the simplest case: President George W. Bush sent Abdul Rauf to the Muslim world  as an informal ambassador. That makes Bush a supporter of a supporter of terrorism. But the new poster child for guilt by association is Geller herself. She has been implicated in the Norwegian massacre.

On Friday, Charles Johnson, an anti-Jihadist blogger, posted a headline calling Breivik a "Pamela Geller fan." He cited evidence that Breivik was influenced by Geller and Spencer and had given "a great deal of money to the far right 'counter-jihad' movement." Next came an item titled, "Oslo Terrorist Linked to … European Branch of Pamela Geller's Hate Group." Then a sharper accusation: "Breivik is a product of the groups and causes Pamela Geller continues to promote." Johnson concluded that "in the Norway atrocities, the responsibility is far more evident and direct. People like Fjordman and Pamela Geller and the right wing blogosphere who spew apocalyptic rhetoric and refuse to denounce the extremists among them now have the very real blood of children on their hands."

Geller is outraged. "Attempts to link us to these murders on the basis of alleged postings by the murderer mentioning us are absurd and offensive," she writes. Breivik "is responsible for his actions. He and only he." She adds: "Watching CNN and BBC coverage about Norway, I found very disturbing to hear the number of times they use the word 'Christian.' They would never dare refer to religion when it is jihad, and this attack had nothing to do with Christianity."

Now you know how it feels, Ms. Geller. When the terrorist is a Christian—in his own words, a "Crusader" for "Christendom"—and when the preacher to whom he has been linked is you, you suddenly discover the injustice of group blame and guilt by association. The citations you didn't create, the intermediaries you didn't recognize, the transactions you didn't know about, the violent interpretations you didn't condone—these exonerating facts suddenly matter.

And the hypocrisy doesn't end with Geller. It permeates the Republican presidential field. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich agree with Geller that no mosque should be built near Ground Zero. Herman Cain, in the style of George Wallace, just went to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to support local bigots who want to stop the construction of a mosque there. Rick Santorum told a Christian school audience: "The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical." And Michele Bachmann defended a congressional inquiry into Muslim violence by pointing out that recently,

Two of our soldiers were gunned down in Germany, and the fellow who shot them shouted "Allah Akhbar" before he did that. And just the week before that, we had a 20-year-old from Saudi Arabia, here on a student visa in Dallas, who had accumulated all of the chemicals necessary  to create a bomb on the order of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing. … If we don't understand that there are Sharia-compliant terrorists in our midst … we will make ourselves more vulnerable.

Well, now we have a Crusade-compliant terrorist who has accumulated explosive chemicals, blown up a federal building with a bomb on the order of Oklahoma City, and gunned down scores of civilians. Don't hold your breath waiting for Bachmann or anyone else in Congress to investigate the Christian angle.

The vindictive part of me wants to blame Geller and her ilk for what happened in Oslo. But then I remember something Abdul Rauf said: "The Quran explicitly states that no soul shall be responsible for the sins of another. Terrorism, which targets innocents who had no part in a crime, fundamentally violates this Quranic commandment." That principle—that no one should be held responsible for another person's sins—is the moral core of the struggle against terrorism. It's the reason I can't pin the slaughter in Norway on bloggers who never advocated sectarian violence. I just wish those bloggers, and the politicians who echo them, would show Muslims the same courtesy.

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