Erroneous linking of Norwegian attacks to Islam was ‘revealing’ – UN rights expert

Makeshift memorial in Oslo, Norway. Photo: Johannes Groedem

26 July 2011 – A United Nations human rights expert on freedom of religion said today that initial media reports on Friday’s mass murder in Norway which implied a possible connection with Islamist terrorism were “revealing” and “embarrassing” examples of prejudice.

Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said: “The way in which some public commentators immediately associated the horrifying mass murder in Norway last Friday with Islamist terrorism is revealing and indeed an embarrassing example of the powerful impact of prejudices and their capacity to enshrine stereotypes.

“Proper respect for the victims and their families should have precluded the drawing of conclusions based on pure conjecture.”

At least 75 people have died as a result of twin attacks – an explosion in the centre of the capital, Oslo, and a shooting at a nearby island where a youth camp was taking place.

Many initial media reports focused on Norway’s contribution of troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and implied that may be connected to the bombing and shooting. Yet the suspect in the massacre is a non-Muslim.

Mr. Bielefeldt is an independent, unpaid expert who reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.


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