CAIRO – Guilty until proven innocent was the first thought that came to Muslims after Oslo attacks, receiving shocking initial blame reports from the right-wing websites and counter terrorism experts who were quickly to point fingers to Muslims worldwide.
"This is predictable and something that we have come to expect, but it is sad," Safaa Zarzour, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, told Los Angeles Times on Sunday, July 24.
At least 100 people were killed in twin attacks on a government building and a youth training camp in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, on Friday.
Immediately after the attacks, right-wing websites quickly pointed the finger at "jihadis” on the top of which came Pamela Geller, publisher of the website Atlas Shrugs and executive director of Stop Islamization of America.
Geller wrote on her site: "You can ignore jihad, but you cannot avoid the consequences of ignoring jihad."
A few hours later, Anders Behring Breivik, described by police as a "right-wing Christian fundamentalist", was arrested over the double assault.
A vocal opponent to immigration, Breivik is known for his criticism of Islam.
In comments from 2009-2010 to other people's articles on website www.document.no, which calls itself critical of Islam, Breivik criticized European policies of trying to accommodate the cultures of different ethnic groups, reported Reuters.
Norway has traditionally been open to immigration, which has been criticized by the Progress Party, of which Breivik was for a short time a member.
Giving a sigh of relief, Muslims say they were hurt by the initial blame, usually forwarded to Muslims, consolidating their sense of stigmatization.
"For most Muslims, it is a confirmation of how they already feel, that they are guilty until proven innocent," Zarzour said.
Warning of a rising far-right, Muslims worry that the impulse to blame Muslims could lead to further inflaming anti-Muslim sentiment and fueling anti-Muslim platforms.
"I really view it as a wake-up call," Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, told Los Angeles Times.
"Violence comes from all groups, and singling out one faith community as a target, as much of our society appears to have done, makes us more vulnerable."
The double standard in describing the attack, using the word “terrorism” only with Muslims related attacks, was also worrying many Muslims.
Yet, when attackers are not Muslim, the attack often is not given the "terrorism" label.
People think, " 'Oh well, it is an isolated incident, or it is a deranged gunman,' whereas in the case of a Muslim, there is an immediate impulse to understand the person's faith or ideology," Khera said.
Right-wing parties in several European countries played the Muslim immigration card to make election gains.
In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party won 27 percent of vote in regional polls last October 2010 through an anti-Muslim campaign that included an internet game allowing players to shoot at virtual mosque minarets.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity has plummeted over climbing unemployment and painful spending cuts, have worked hard to court the far-right supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Sarkozy’s ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party started a debate last April on the role of Islam in secular France.
The debate tackles a host of issues such as the building of mosques and financing to the Muslim worship places.
The French government held a country-wide debate on national identity in 2009-2010 that preceded the full face veil ban.
Many Muslims criticized the debate, saying it turned into a forum to stigmatize them and let people air biased views about Islam.
In the Netherlands, the right-wing party of anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders secured promises for a clampdown on immigration and a face-veil ban in exchange for supporting the formation of a new government.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stirred controversy last year after insisting that attempts to create a multi-cultural society have failed.
Italy also saw the rise of anti-immigration Northern League, which is a vocal opponent to the construction of mosques in the southern European country.
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