- (Photo: Reuters / Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen)
The attacks that shocked the world in Norway have also led to much needed debate about the stereotyping of the “other” that has become quite a common reality since two airplanes crashed into New York's twin towers in 2001.
Breivik, the admitted orchestrator of the massacre that killed 77 people in Norway, is being dubbed everything from a 'Christian Terrorist' to a 'Christian Right Wing Extremist' to 'Christian Fundamentalist,' and it has sparked a global debate about the use of religion as way to define the acts of a fanatical extremist.
Bill O'Reilly said on his news show, "Breivik is not a Christian. That's impossible. No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder."
However, scholar Mark Juergensmeyer wrote an article that linked Breivik's actions to those of Timothy McVeigh calling them, "Self-enlisted soldiers in an imagined cosmic war to save Christendom… both were Christian terrorists."
Juergensmeyer argues that so long as we label people like Osama Bin Laden an "Islamic Terrorist" we should label Breivik a "Christian Terrorist" as well.
Debates on the label of "Christian Terrorist" run the gamut with some Christian leaders believing the label is fair, even though they point out that he has lost his connection with “true Christianity.”
Others argue that labeling Breivik Christian is incorrect and misleading due to the fact that Breivik himself differentiated his version of Christianity, one based upon social and cultural affiliation, from the religious aspect of faith, and a relationship with God, which he did not maintain.
In his 1,500-page manifesto that was put online prior to the attacks Breivik stated, “If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.”
Some critics find that although Breivik may consider himself a “social” Christian who is fighting a battle for Christianity that he has made up in his mind, he is no different from other extremists that are labeled as “Muslim Terrorists.” But advocates argue that neither groups are acting out the true tenants of their alleged faiths.
Thus the death and devastation that Breivik has brought about has ushered in a new debate on the appropriate label for a terrorist. The new debate seems to place more emphasis on the question of stereotyping that the world has grown accustomed to.
The labeling debate is so heated and strong that it is unlikely a consensus will ever be reached by all on what to call mass-murderer Anders Breivik.
However, the important thing is that it is sparking debate, and people are forced to reassess the affects stereotyping and labeling can have on groups. One thing is becoming increasingly clear; that terrorists can come from any country, any socioeconomic background, and can call choose to label themselves as from any religion – however, does just an outside label confirm what is true on the inside?