Norway is still reeling over the despicable, cowardly attacks last week that left more than 70 people dead. Thirty-two-year-old Anders Behring Breivik — a Norwegian man motivated by political views that range from extremist to incoherent, and perhaps also by mental illness — admitted to shooting to death scores of people at a youth camp and planting a bomb that killed eight more in Oslo’s main government building.

While it has since come to light that Breivik worked alone in what he told a Norwegian judge was an attempt to save Europe from a Muslim takeover, original suspicion focused on the al-Qaeda terrorist group. Interestingly, some who publicly expressed this suspicion soon found themselves accused of anti-Muslim bias. Why, critics asked, do these bloggers and pundits think every large-scale terror attack is the work of Islamist extremists?

In fact, the speculation that al-Qaeda might be responsible for these attacks was well-founded. A key al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist, Mullah Krekar, was recently found in Norway and charged by Norwegian authorities, and his deportation is imminent. The Danish cartoon crisis and Norway’s participation in the war in Afghanistan have put the country on al-Qaeda’s hit list. The two-pronged attack last Friday — targeting a government building and a youth camp — is a hallmark of al-Qaeda. 

Thus, as journalist and blogger Jeffrey Goldberg wrote, “It is not perverse or absurd for normal people to think of al-Qaeda when they hear of acts of mass terrorism. It is logical, in fact, to suspect al-Qaeda. The Norway catastrophe does not negate the fact that the majority of large-scale terrorism spectaculars by non-state actors over the past decade have been committed by Muslims.”

There is a lesson here. Certainly, we must be vigilant against the rise of all evil, and aware that all cultures and nations give rise to deranged people like Breivik who do evil things. At the same time, we must never forget the fact that, in today’s world, the forces of radical Islam are engaged in a sustained and coordinated battle against free nations everywhere. If bombs detonate in Mumbai, or London, or Jerusalem, there is a very good likelihood that radical Islamists are responsible — as they have been in the past. To say so publicly — while being careful not to be alarmist — is not an expression of anti-Muslim bias. It is, sadly, all too reasonable.

My friends, even as we commit to remaining clear-eyed about the threat radical Islam poses to our societies, let us first remember the people of Norway. Pray that the loved ones of the victims of these attacks will be comforted in their time of grief. Pray that Anders Behring Breivik will be swiftly brought to justice. And let us all pray for the day when God will bless the entire world with his most precious gift of shalom, peace.

With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein,
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews