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"A Knight Templar, But No Madman"

Aug 03, 2011 — Categories: ,

As Muslims begin the celebration of Ramadan, I can hardly imagine what my Muslim friends and colleagues might be reflecting upon in light of the bombing and massacre in Norway.

As Muslims begin the celebration of Ramadan, I can hardly imagine what my Muslim friends and colleagues might be reflecting upon in light of the bombing and massacre in Norway.

Ramadan is the Muslim period of prayer and fasting in thanksgiving for receiving the Quran, the sacred text of Islam.  It is a time for personal reflection on patience, humility, peace and compassion as well as for acts of charity.  Ramadan for Muslims is somewhat similar to Lent for Christians.

So as Muslims begin Ramadan this year, I expect that they are reflecting on the meaning of Breivik’s hate crimes in which he explicitly targeted political leaders and their children whom he sees as promoting multiculturalism.  From his Manifesto:

“Multiculturalism, as you might know, is the root cause of the ongoing Islamisation of Europe which has resulted in the ongoing Islamic colonization of Europe through demographic warfare (facilitated by our own leaders),” wrote Breivik.

Breivik’s fear and hatred of Muslims is the foundation of his carefully planned and implemented strategy to save Norway and Europe from Muslims by attacking those whom he blamed for allowing Muslims to immigrate to Norway.  It is ironic that he did not direct his attacks at Muslims in Norway.

Breivik describes  himself as a defender of Europe's Christian heritage.  Norway is now an increasingly diverse nation, where more than 12 percent of the 5 million residents are immigrants or children of immigrants — about half of them from Asia, Africa or Latin America, including Muslims who represent 2-4% of the population. The echoes of Nazi Germany are obvious as are the echoes of white supremacy in homegrown U.S. terrorism. Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism expert at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment: "The [Manifesto] mirrors al-Qaeda ideology in a few important ways. The principal aim is to expel Muslims from Europe, just as al-Qaeda wants to expel Westerners from the holy lands." Extremism is extremism regardless of the target of the hatred.

We would like to think that such tragically aberrant behavior is insane.  That view provides us with a box to put it in and lock it away.  This will obviously be an issue for Norwegian legal proceedings in the next months as they try to deal with crimes that reach beyond their ordinary legal system.  

But beyond that, I would argue that Breivik, based on the evidence of his own actions and statements, is not insane.  He knew exactly what he was doing; he carefully planned and executed his plan based on his political agenda and with complete disregard for the humanity of those he targeted.  This is essentially how evil works.  

In an open and tolerant society, he may have every right to his opinion and to publish his Manifesto.  But he has no right to take the lives of innocent people because he doesn’t like their politics or the color of their skin or their religious preference.  Extremist ideology is no less evil because it is wrapped in religious rhetoric.  In fact, it may be more so.

May Ramadan be a time of blessing and strength for Muslims and a time of reflection also for those of us who are not Muslim.  All of us, together, are facing increasingly challenging times.  So we remember these words from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

 “When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune

The tragic murders recently in Norway raise fundamental questions for many people of faith:  why is there suffering?  or  why does God allow such things?
In our first FaithTrust Roundtable, I will discuss these questions with my colleagues Rabbi Mark Dratch and Zen Buddhist teacher Jan Bays.  We will dialogue with each other and with you. 
Please join us.

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