Relief may soon be at hand for victims, their families, American and the world as Law Enforcement and the media have already pursued and killed one of the Boston Marathon terrorists and surrounded the other. My heart and prayers go out to all those personally affected and though the capture and killing of these terrorists will not bring back loved ones or repair injuries, the solace that the criminals are receiving justice is at least one step closer to our eventual healing.
Like so many others I was shocked, disheartened, and unnerved when news of the attack broke. I wondered who could and would do such a thing and what it all meant. Candidly, I along with so many other American Muslims were afraid and very concerned that the terrorists would turn out to be Muslims. In fact, the thought prominently echoed across the nation and the world was “Please don’t let this be a Muslim”. As we witnessed prior to any facts being released, we saw a rash of statements condemning all Muslims, a victim of Saudi national origin was questioned and his name plastered across the media, a local teenager of Middle Eastern descent was harassed as he was misidentified as being one of the suspects, and there have been reports of hate mail, incidents in public, and other attacks against Muslims in the hours after the tragedy.
These behaviors, statements, and actions are precisely why Muslims are always on edge and pray that the terrorists are not Muslim. It’s not that we wish them to belong to another community as we hope that no one is ever subject to terrorism, but we know from experience that unlike any other group ethnic, religious, or otherwise, that when something of this magnitude occurs Muslims as a whole are targeted, blamed, and often persecuted for crimes we did not commit.
This is why as we are now on the cusp of some sort of resolution, American Muslims and Muslims the world over are disheartened to learn that these terrorists affiliate themselves with Islam. Though all the facts have not come out, what is being reported is that at least one of the attackers has a history of internet postings stating and supporting ideas and ideologies that are extremist and intertwined with messages often associated with Islam.
For many in the Muslim community this is our nightmare come to life again. We know that unfortunately our fellow citizens will use the actions and beliefs of these terrorists as a catalyst for behaviors against us that are morally reprehensible in light of our shared values. Many will react out of fear and still many others will use this tragedy as a catalyst to fan the flames, promote their personal ideologies of hate, and help fund their organizations and or to maintain a measure of celebrity.
The problem is that when we resort to collective blame, condemnation, and undue scrutiny in the media and elsewhere, very real people who’s only remote association with these criminals is a supposed shared religion, can and often get hurt. We should not let our emotions get the best of us and should not use this tragedy as a means to begin another. Terrorism should not beget terrorism. Now is a time for calm, patience, dialogue, and peace.