Saturday, July 23, 2011

Norwegian Terrorist and Our Stereotypes about Sources of Violence

Turns out that Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian man said to be responsible for the horrific violence and death in Norway yesterday, is--this according to Elisa Mala and J. David Goodman in today's NY Times--a right-wing Christian anti-Islamist.  But from the moment the attacks occurred, the blog of my state's independent newspaper, Arkansas Times, lit up with rants about Muslims and the obligation of the Islamic community worldwide to issue an apology for the attacks (and see also here).

Now it looks as if those who were so confident we were witnessing a repeat of 9/11 have some 'splainin' to do.  Or some apologizing.

Or, if they're capable of it, some thinking for a change.  Thinking about how they've been jerked around for some years now by political and economic players who want to foster ugly stereotypes about all Muslims in the world, and who want us so embroiled in anti-Islamic hatred that we can't see we're being robbed by an obscenely wealthy elite who now pull all the strings in our nation's political life.

It's perhaps time for a little thinking about how those simplistic binary tropes--we good, they bad; Christians right, Muslims wrong--never work out so simply and beautifully in real life.  And so they deform us, in our ability to think carefully and critically about what's going on in the real world, as they make us sitting ducks for those who need to massage our prejudice in order to divert our attention from how they're using us.

It might also be time for conservative Christians everywhere in the world to start doing some hard thinking about our religion's own decidedly murky and often bloody history--about our propensity for doing violence to others, in the name of God.  A propensity that has hardly diminished in our time, since, as Dom Hélder Câmara and other Christian theologians analyzing the problem of violence have often noted, violence comes in many forms, and can be both the "hard" violence of guns and bombs, and the "soft" violence of discrimination, economic injustice, and social oppression and marginalization.

I see what the Christian religious right does, over and over again, to gay and lesbian people in the name of God as a form of violence.  I classify George Reker's maleficent twisting of the psyches of little children who appear not to conform to his gender stereotypes as a violent assault on their souls.

Violence comes in many forms.  And most religious groups in the world would do well to admit their complicity in various forms of violence and apologize for it--not Muslims singularly.

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