Criminality has no religion or ethnicity; the tragic Boston attack must not been exploited to unfairly target a single community
President Obama’s sobriety after the Boston marathon bombings reassured America. His words were measured and statesmanlike. He told Americans that the perpetrators would be hounded and held accountable, justice would be pursued and they, the Americans, would not be terrorised. Most importantly, he urged his listeners not to ‘jump to any conclusion’. It set a totally different tone to former President George Bush Jr’s declaration of a ‘global war on terror’ in the aftermath of 9/11.
Americans appeared to have taken the message well: apart from some warmongering comments by a few right-wing commentators vilifying Muslims for this latest atrocity, the overall mood after the Boston bombings “seems one of sadness and horror, but not one of anger or ramped-up patriotism”, according to the BBC’s Mark Mardell.
The Muslim community, meanwhile, was praying to God that the perpetrators were not Muslim.
But alas, the two suspects are of Muslim faith from Chechen origin. After a massive manhunt one, the 19-year-old younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured on 19 April; the older sibling,Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed the previous day in a shootout with police.
The FBI is now trying to untangle the motive behind this attack. The two brothers were living in Boston itself for a decade or so and the older one was known to the FBI. Some members of the Tsarnev family have disowned the brothers, but the suspects’ mother has claimed innocence of her sons in a video message, saying she is ‘100% sure that this is a set up’, as her oldest son ‘was controlled by the FBI for years.’ No-one knows how much will be revealed of this murky world of intelligence.
However, US Muslims are still haunted by the spectre of the 9/11 experience; major organisations have unequivocally condemned the Boston Marathon bombings and urged Americans of all faiths to join them in praying for the victims and their families. An integral part of American society, they felt it their religious obligation to do so – to give a message to the Islamophobes that when it comes to patriotism the US Muslims are not behind others plus to let criminals know that they do not represent the Muslim community.
This has been possible with a new style of governance from the Whitehouse since 2009. Some keen observers now see that even news and online articles have toned down a little in commenting about Muslims. Ordinary people are gradually getting to understand that not all Muslims are bad and like any other community the state of the Muslim community is mixed.
There is a fear, though, that the gradual healing of the relationship between Muslims and others could be easily undone by incidents like Boston bombings – even though ‘no soul should bear the burden for another’ according to the teachings of the Abrahamic faiths. But in a real world where politics is partisan or divisive narratives of events would differ. There are powerful opinion formers in the American Right who would take advantage of the religious background of the Tsarnaev brothers and try to bring religion itself in the forefront of the debate.
Terrorists and criminals do not have any religion or ethnicity. In a civilised society the law of the land is applied evenly to bring them to justice, irrespective of race or religion. The world has gone through a temporary phase of injustice in the heat of 9/11 for the last decade; in this phase, terrorism carried out by a non-Muslim was seen as an individual aberration or described as mental illness, whereas if it were carried out by someone from the Muslim community the whole people were vilified. Under these new rules of the game, Muslims have been under the microscope in Europe and America for too long.
However, things should (hopefully) change; the world has seen the folly of this selective justice. What we need now is a massive culture shift in America and other developed countries. No individual or community should be seen as guilty unless proven through judicial process; no community should go through the trauma of vilification for the misdeeds of a few aberrant individuals form their community.
Recently an email ended up in my inbox from a highly acclaimed business consultant who lives in Boston; such was his worry and fear about Muslim Americans that he feels the next few years would be even more challenging for Muslims because of the recent bombings. He pleaded that we “keep them in our prayers”.
Why should people undergo such emotional trauma for the criminality of others in this day and age? I hope and pray that America does not go back to its post-9/11 era again.
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