On Sunday, a 22-year-old gunman, after killing one person at a cafe in Copenhagen, proceeded to open fire at the city’s Great Synagogue, killing a Jewish volunteer security guard. The killing appeared to be a copycat attack of the kind carried out by radical Islamists on the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, where four Jews died.
The pattern — attacks on those who dare ridicule the Prophet Mohammed, violence against distinctly Jewish targets — seemed apparent to anyone hearing the news. Oddly, however, The New York Times’ early coverage of the attacks focused not on the victims or the motivations of the killer, but on the fact that “[a]nti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment is rising in Europe.” Although “there was no indication who was responsible for the shootings in Copenhagen,” the Times report continued, “Twitter was ablaze with anti-Muslim indictments.”
It was only in the next paragraph that the report acknowledged that “[f]ears are also rising about European Muslims who have become radicalized. Denmark, like many European countries, has seen young Danes going to Iraq and Syria to fight with jihadists. At least 100 Danes have done so.”
Make no mistake — bias attacks on Muslims for the savage acts of a radicalized few are unacceptable. In Paris, for example, Muslims and Jews have been working together to build bridges and fight the common foe of terrorism. And no one of good conscience can endorse a rush to judgment, or trial by Twitter. Tolerance must flow in two directions.
The Times report, quickly revised, is only one small example of a failure by many to properly identify the scourge afflicting many countries in Europe. It is not the scourge of Islam, whose millions of followers live quiet lives and seek only a place in the European mainstream. But from Copenhagen to Paris and now to New Zealand, the scourge does emanate from a faction of the vast religion known as Islam. Pretending otherwise will not make Europe a more tolerant place for Muslims, Jews, or anybody else. And properly identifying the motivations for these attacks — and enlisting Muslim leaders, who have perhaps the best understanding of the distortions that lead to them — is one step toward a remedy