I am not the Tsarnaevs


Salon.Com

Wajahat Ali

The Tsarnaevs have nothing in common with me or other Muslims. But don’t tell that to the political opportunists

we_mourn-620x412

So, the Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are Muslim.

When the news broke, snarky Twitter trolls – are there any other kind? – launched the rhetorical gauntlet of questions, those predictably designed to confirm a biased, flawed narrative that casts “Islam” as the quintessential anti-American antagonist in the endless “War on Terror.”

First, I was asked how I felt knowing “Islam” was behind the bombing?

I felt the same way I did before the suspects were identified: devastated and saddened at the needless loss of life and the chaos that paralyzed a nation for a week. I prayed that the capture of the alleged suspects brings much needed peace and catharsis to the victims, their families and the entire city of Boston.

As far as Islam goes, I’ve never met Islam.

Islam has never asked me out on a date.

If it did, one day it might take me to eat Hyderabadi biryani followed by chai and kheer as dessert. Another night I might be treated to fried chicken, collard greens and bean pies. Islam might even try to make a move at the end of the night or abstain from all physical relations until marriage. Islam might toast me with a glass of champagne or order an overpriced, non-alcoholic mojito. Islam might ask me to pray the late-night Isha prayer or skip ritual acts of worship altogether and go to the local club to holler at some women (or men, or both). Islam might listen to Jay-Z before playing Nusrat or renounce music considering it haram and recite Quran instead. In fact, Islam might want to kick me to the curb for being a heathen because I don’t sport a beard, or label me a fundamentalist for fasting during Ramadan and not eating ham sandwiches.

Islam doesn’t speak – Muslims do.

The Tsarnaev brothers’ criminal and perverse actions do not speak for me or the overwhelming majority of Muslims. I am not compelled to apologize for them or explain their actions. Muslims are not a monolithic, Borg-like collective, who possess a shared consciousness, specializing in counterterrorism knowledge with a telepathic understanding of the perverse mind-set of radicals in their “community.” This is like asking Republican Christians to apologize for Timothy McVeigh or expecting young white males to explain why individuals like Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner and James Holmes used assault rifles to unleash terror on innocent civilians.

Before brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were even identified as the Boston bombing suspects, the media announced the usual villains: a “dark-skinned suspect,” a 21-year-old Saudi “jihadi” whose only crime was to run away from a violent explosion, and a 17-year-old Moroccan high school track star who attended the marathon carrying a bag. There was also a clarion call from conservative columnist (and sometime Fox News guest) Erik Rush to murder all Muslims.

We now know the suspected brothers were born in Kyrgyzstan, are ethnically Chechen, and lived in America for several years. They are literally Caucasian since their family originates from the northern Caucasus region. Neither of them were dark-skinned, “Saudi,” bearded or brandished a fiery red trident or horns on their head.

The profile of these two brothers highlights the conclusions of the British Intelligence Agency MI5 report that states Muslim terrorists in the West “are a diverse collection of individuals, fitting no single demographic profile, nor do they all follow a typical pathway to violent extremism.” In the words of Olivier Roy, a French scholar on Islamic societies, “the process of violent radicalization has little to do with religious practice.” In fact, most Islamic fundamentalists are “religious novices” and “there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalization.” A MAPOS study found that Muslims’ religiosity curbs anti-American extremism and “that mosques and religiosity are associated with high levels of civic engagement and support for the American political system.”

Undeterred, the Twitter tribunal persisted and asked why Muslims do not renounce and actively discourage violent extremism? Well, 40 percent of all extremist plots in America were thwarted as a result of Muslim American help. Also, Muslim Americans continue toaid law enforcement, are more likely to reject violence than any other U.S. religious community, and overwhelmingly renounce the extremist ideologies of al-Qaida. A Muslim American community in Virginia proactively tipped off the FBI and turned in five radicalized youths. A Senegalese Muslim vendor was the first to mention the burning car bomb in New York’s Times Square incompetently engineered by Faisal Shahzad.  Muslims in Orange County received a restraining order against a mosque attendee who advocated jihad against America. Ironically, he turned out to be a mosque crawler: Craigh Monteilh, an FBI informant, who said he was paid to infiltrate the local community and entrappotential radicals.

Just three months ago, Tamerlan was kicked out during Friday prayer at the Islamic Society of Boston Culture Center for acting “crazy” by standing up and shouting at the imam whose sermon praised Martin Luther King Jr. as an example worth emulating. U.S. imams are currently debating whether to hold Islamic funeral services for Tamleran. “This is a person who deliberately killed people. There is no room for him as a Muslim. He already left the fold of Islam by doing that,” says one Boston imam.

Last Monday, before the brothers’ capture, a few friends and I wondered what the reaction would be if the suspect was a white Muslim. I often joke with my white Muslim friends that they are like the vampire superhero Blade, known as the “Daywalker,” gifted with “all of our strengths and none of our weaknesses.” As long as they hide their Muslimyness, their Whiteness serves as a protective cloak that mainstreams them as “American” shielding them from public interrogations regarding their loyalty and “otherness.”

The emotional press conference with Ruslan Tsarni, the suspects’ estranged uncle, proved that the privileges of Whiteness are lost when the individual is Muslim or born abroad. We all empathized with the uncle who said the suspects brought “shame” to his family. He volunteered to passionately defend his ethnicity, religion and patriotism in front of a sensationalistic court of public opinion for the alleged misdeeds of two family members,whom he called “losers” and not deserving to live on Earth. A reporter then asked, “What do you think of America?” – a question never posed to family members of white criminals. Tsarni passed the loyalty test by responding, “I respect this country. I love this country.”

Muslim mass murderers excluded from “Whiteness” are usually labeled “terrorist” as opposed to being categorized as “lone wolf,” “lone radical/gunman ” or “deeply disturbed.” The latter applies to white men, such as mass murderers Wade Page, Jared Loughner, Adam Lanza, James Holmes and Anders Breivik.

This raises the legitimate question: What’s the difference between the “terrorism” of the Tsarnaev brothers and the “lone radical” violence of white supremacist Wade Page, who shot and killed six Sikh Americans at their temple? What are the definitions and standards for “terrorism”? Who decides?

Apparently, it’s new media, which covered the police hunt for the brothers as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel scripted by amateur Hardy Boys and “CSI” aficionados. Overnight, the world witnessed the birth of a great career opportunity for self-proclaimed experts on Chechnya, jihad, radicalization and counterterrorism, who emerged instantly using Google and Wikipedia to obtain their dubious scholarship.

This includes Chuck Woolery, self-identified conservative and a relic of ’80s game shows, who displayed brilliant, evidence-based, sociological insights with this helpful tweet: “Muslims can’t seem to live in peace with anyone. Even each other. FACT.” He continued his love connections with Muslims by adding, “All Muslims are not terrorists. Most, if not all terrorists are Muslims. Please dispute that.”

Sure, Chuck, I will. In the U.S., 56 percent of terrorist attacks and plots have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, 30 percent by eco-terrorists and 12 percent by Islamic extremists. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported the highest number of extremist hate groups ever recorded in U.S. history, with the sharp rise attributed to massive growths in white supremacist, anti-immigrant and radical anti-government groups. Anti-Muslim hate groups have also increased by 300 percent.

No one denies that radicalized Muslim violence is a problem, as evidenced by Nidal Hassan Malik, the unhinged Army major who killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood and injured 31, and Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber.

When minority groups highlight double standards in language, labeling, media representation and government prosecution, we are accused of whining and espousing victimhood. However, Mr. Woolery, a privileged white male, implies America is still more oppressive to white, Christian Republicans: “If these guys [Boston bombing suspects] were white southern, christian, conservative, tea partiers we would know what they had for breakfast 3 yrs ago on May 16th.”

That explains why Daryl Johnson, a former counterterrorism expert for the government, submitted a study on the rise and danger of right-wing extremists and white supremacists only to be pressured, criticized, repudiated and ultimately sidelined by conservative members of Congress and the Department of Homeland Security.

However, Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King exploited the Boston tragedy to justify his five congressional hearings that focused solely on the rise of radicalization in Muslim communities. Last week, he rejected “political correctness” and pushed for “increased surveillance” of Muslim communities despite Tamerlan Tsarnaev having already beeninterviewed and released by the FBI in 2011. Furthermore, King’s inflammatory hearings were criticized by law enforcement officials and counterterrorism professionals as being misguided, ineffective and potentially dangerous. Apparently all acts of terror are not equal to Mr. King in light of his past rationalization and defense of IRA terrorism.

Republican Rep. Steve King also exploited the tragedy to delay immigration reform,referencing the national origin of the bombing suspects. If King really cares about national security, then he should insist on profiling and deporting several angry, white males in light of numerous recent shooting massacres.

There are significant casualties in moments of national panic and tragedy. As history has reflected, people would sacrifice the rights and civil liberties of minorities, and in turn their own freedoms, for the illusion of safety. We don’t need more policing, we need effective and intelligent policing that does not automatically transform millions of its Muslim citizens into perpetual suspects.

This includes dangerous and ineffective racial and religious profiling and wasteful andbroad surveillance and spying of innocent Muslim communities by the NYPD. In addition, there is now a 50 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims, nationwide protests against mosques, and introduction of anti-Shariah bills to 31 states, which are a solution in search of a problem.

The casualties also wear a human face, ones that are often not “Muslim.” The first post 9/11 hate murder was of Balbir Singh Sohdi, a Sikh American, whom the murderer chose because he was “dark-skinned, bearded and wore a turban.” This past week a Bangladeshi man was beaten up by Latino men outside a Bronx Applebee’s restaurant. In Massachusetts, a man shouted, “F_ you Muslims! You are terrorists! I hate you! You are involved in the Boston explosions! F_ you!” to a Palestinian American woman. Also, new media is to law enforcement investigations what Scooby Doo’s Mystery Inc. is to detective work: messy, ad hoc, prone to mistakes, but sometimes reliable and effective. Like so many others, I retweeted unverified information by Reddit and news agencies falsely identifying missing Brown student Sunil Tripathi as a suspect. I sincerely apologize to him and his family, who are still searching for Sunil and have launched a new Facebook page requesting supporters to write messages of encouragement.

The Boston Bombing tragedy highlights our intense obsession to know a suspect’s ethnicity, religion and “Americanness” to profile and cast them in our reductive but reliable War on Terror narrative. The resulting collateral damage, aside from thousands killed, includes hysteria, scapegoating and the voluntary exchange of our liberties and freedoms for the transient feeling of safety.

However, the tragedy affords a nation of many faiths and ethnicities an opportunity to pen a new narrative that recasts its diverse citizens as fellow protagonists committed toward healing and mutual understanding. Our actions must live up to the hopes and opinion Uncle Ruslan has of America, his emigrated homeland:

“This country, which gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being. That’s what I feel about this country.”

 

Ali Abunimah’s-Obama’s rush to judgment: Was the Boston bombing really a “terrorist” act?


From The Electronic Intifada

by Ali Abunimah

President Obama has repeatedly claimed that the Boston Marathon bombing was an “act of terror” and that its alleged perpetrators are “terrorists.”

It may seem pointless to quibble with this description: after all what could be more “terroristic” than setting off bombs at a peaceful sporting event killing three persons, one a child, and injuring or horrifically maiming dozens more?

But in fact how the act is described is very important in determining government, media and wider societal responses, including ramping up racism and bigotry against Muslims, Arabs or people of color.

There can be no doubt that the Boston Marathon bombing was a murderous act, but does it –– based on what is known –– fit the US government’s own definitions of “terrorism”?

It is important to recall that other, far more lethal recent events, including the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and the school massacre at Sandy Hook, Connecticut have not been termed “terrorism,” nor their perpetrators labeled “terrorist” by the government. Why?

Obama’s changing descriptions

In his first statement shortly after news emerged of the bombing in Boston on 15 April 2013, Obama pointedly did not describe the attack as “terrorism.” The term is totally absent from his statement. He does say, “We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts.”

It was only the next day on Tuesday, 16 April, that Obama first called the bombing an “act of terrorism” after media had pressed the White House on the issue.

Last night, after 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured by police, Obama made a statement declaring: “We will investigate any associations that theseterrorists may have had. And we’ll continue to do whatever we have to do to keep our people safe.”

In his weekly video address today, Obama reaffirmed, “on Monday an act of terrorwounded dozens and killed three people at the Boston Marathon.”

Official definitions of “terrorism”

The US government has no single definition of “terrorism” but the National Institute of Justice at the US Department of Justice points to two influential standards that are in use, one enshrined in law and the other provided by the FBI:

Title 22 of the U.S. Code, Section 2656f(d) defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Both definitions of terrorism share a common theme: the use of force intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal. In most cases, NIJ researchers adopt the FBI definition, which stresses methods over motivations and is generally accepted by law enforcement communities.

What was the “political” or “social” goal of the Boston bombing?

Based on these definitions, what distinguishes a “mass shooting” such as Aurora or Sandy Hook on the one hand, from an act of “terrorism” on the other, is that the mass shooters have no political goals. Their act is nihilistic and is not carried out in furtherance of any particular cause.

So far, however, absolutely no evidence has emerged that the Boston bombing suspects acted “in furtherance of political or social objectives” or that their alleged act was “intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal.”

Nor is there any evidence that the two suspects are part of a group. Indeed, on Sunday,The Boston Globe cited Boston officials to report that, “all evidence thus far indicates they were acting alone and were not part of a broader conspiracy.”

Neither of the suspects is known to have made any statement of a political or other goal for their alleged action and there has been no claim of responsibility. Obama, in his statement last night, admitted as much:

Obviously, tonight there are still many unanswered questions. Among them, why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence? How did they plan and carry out these attacks, and did they receive any help?

So why is Obama calling them “terrorists?

Since Obama has no idea why the alleged suspects may have resorted to violence and no one else has offered an evidence-based explanation, why is Obama already labeling them “terrorists” when he himself warned against a “rush to judgment?”

The only explanation I can think of is the suspects’ identification as ethnic Chechens and Muslims, even though there is no evidence that they acted either in relation to events in their ancestral homeland or were motivated by any Islamist ideology.

True, Obama did switch to calling the Boston attack “terrorism” before any facts were known about the identities or backgrounds of the suspects, but it was also before anynew relevant facts were known. Once those identities became known, Obama’s statements have only fed careless, prejudiced assumption so common on cable television: they’re Muslims, so they must be “terrorists.”

This may be the easy and populist way of looking at it, pandering to prejudice as Obama so often does, but it is irresponsible and violates official US policy that Obama seemed, at least on the first day, willing to observe.

How acts are labeled is highly political: recall the controversy over whether Obama was quick enough to label the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September as “terrorism,” and the continuing demands that the government designate the November 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, allegedly perpetrated by Major Nidal Hasan, as “terrorism.”

All of these cases reinforce the widely noted observation that acts of violence, especially mass shootings, carried out typically by white males are immediately labeled as the acts of “disturbed individuals” while the acts of a person identified as “Muslim” are to be labeled “terrorism” regardless of the facts.

These are unsafe assumptions and foreclose the possibility of full understanding. Moreover, by reinforcing popular stereotypes, they give new force to the anti-Muslim backlash that seems only to be growing stronger and more poisonous as the 11 September 2001 attacks recede into the past.

It is also important to note the contrast between Obama’s eagerness to label the Boston attack as “terror” and its alleged perpetrators as “terrorists” – without evidence – and his reluctance to label last August’s mass murder at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin as “terrorism” despite the identification of the shooter as having a history of white nationalist and supremacist activism.

Perhaps the first serious consequence of labeling Boston a “terrorist” attack was the Obama administration’s decision to deprive the suspect who was captured of his constitutional right to receive a Miranda warning on arrest, a further thinning of the already threadbare pretense of “rule of law” in post 11 September 2001 America.

Could this be another “Columbine?”

Let’s consider another possibility. Exactly 14 years ago today, 20 April 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold executed a carefully-planned attack on Columbine High School in Colorado, using guns and bombs.

The two seniors murdered 12 fellow students and one teacher before shooting themselves.

Like the Boston Marathon bombing allegedly was, the Columbine attack was carried out by two persons, and it involved some of the same methods: homemade explosives.

But the Columbine attack is remembered as a “school shooting” or a “mass shooting” – perhaps the most iconic of a sad litany of such events – but not a “terrorist” attack.

In his essential 2009 book Columbine, Dave Cullen tells the story of the attack in meticulous detail, debunking many of the popular stereotypes that persist to this day that the attack was meant to avenge bullying by “jocks.”

The evidence that emerged is that Harris was a clinically sadistic sociopath who had no ability to empathize with other human beings. Klebold was a depressive whom Harris was able to manipulate. These facts lay at the heart of what happened.

It is definitely not any more desirable in the wake of such atrocities to have a media frenzy stigmatizing all people with mental illness as potential killers any more than we want them to stigmatize all Muslims as potential terrorists – in fact people with mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else, and are indeed more likely to be victims of violence. And contrary to popular stereotypes fed by the media it is exceptionally rare for Muslims to become “terrorists.”

What we do need is patient, serious and informed analysis: could the relationship between the Boston suspects be similar to those of the Columbine killers? What other factors are at at play? I don’t know, but I cannot rule anything out.

Just like President Obama, I do not know what drove the alleged Boston bombers. What I do know is that when the media and the government, egging each other on, rush to judgment, the possibility of alternative scenarios is ruled out and getting to the truth is harder.

If Boston was “terrorism” based on the little that is known, then we must be able to answer these questions: can only white or Christian males be sociopaths, or suffer from other mental illnesses that under certain conditions lead to violence?

Can only two white Colorado high school students act as a pair without “terrorist” motives? Can “Muslims” or ethnic Chechens, or Arabs never be subject to the same kind of conditions or analysis?

Surely the survivors and families of the Boston bombing deserve no less of an accounting of what happened than the victims of Columbine?

We cannot and should not rule out that evidence will emerge that the alleged Boston bombers had a political motive. But it hasn’t so far.

What we have seen is the usual rush to judgment that has left Muslims and many people of color once again fearing collective blame and the governmental and societal retribution that comes with it.

Update, 21 April: Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz on Boston Marathon bomb and “terrorism” definition

A few hours after I published this post on 20 April, I heard Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz on the 20:05 GMT edition of the BBC World Service Newshour making some of the exact same points I made in this post, a jarring experience since I usually strongly disagree with his advocacy on Israel.

Dershowitz was responding to members of Congress who called for the government to treat surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an “enemy combatant” and to deprive him of his constitutional rights. Already, the Obama administration has deprived Tsarnaev of his Miranda rights. I have transcribed Dershowitz’s key comments:

Dershowitz: Well if they [the members of Congress] were in my class they would flunk out of law school … It shows a complete and total ignorance of the United States constitution. This is an American citizen being charged with committing a crime on American soil against Americans.

It’s not even clear under the federal terrorism statute that this qualifies as an act of terrorism. In order to prove it’s an act of terrorism they have to prove that they had certain kinds of intentions and motivations. But it’s a perfect trial to try in the civilian courts. There’s no plausible argument that would take this case out of the civilian courts and would put it into any kind of a military tribunal.

BBC: They’ve referred to the US Supreme Court decision Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld which said that there is no bar to the US holding one of its citizens as an enemy combatant. That part they say is certainly established in law.

Dershowitz: Well yeah, an enemy combatant but who’s the enemy here? These are two young men, we have no idea what their motivation was, particularly the young man who was captured alive. As far as we know he has never been in direct contact with anybody from any foreign country. They’re just making it up. And they’re allowing their perception of bias to influence the facts of the case. This case, this will be tried in a civilian court in front of a jury…

It’s been decided-Marathon Bombers were Muslim-Chechen Immigrants


bombingA terrible thing happened on Monday, 15 April at the Boston Marathon.  Three people were killed and scores maimed and injured towards the close of the Marathon by two brothers. The act was atrocious; bodies were strewn everywhere and victims were young, old, male or female and from places all over the country and the world.  To begin this post let us remember the names of the victims, who were Martin Richards, 8 years old; Krystle Campbell, 29 and Lu Lingzi, a Boston University graduate student.  There are others who have been forever damaged by this senseless act of violence; they, corporeally, will never be whole again and neither  will the Nation; scarred beyond recognition despite the slogans of resilience and courage.  No doubt there was plenty of that which was demonstrated that day; people helping and saving the lives of strangers in ways that tested the endurance of both the helper and the victim.  Such displays are what make America great and humanity even greater, we reach across  cultural divides and help those who need it without regard to race, color or creed.

However, just as I began by mentioning the names of the victims of America’s latest tragedy without any regard to where they come from, what they believe and the color of their skin, no such consideration is given to the perpetrators of this heinous crime, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev,19 and his 26 year old brother Tamerlan who have had their ethnicity and faith dragged into the fracas of this brutal and callous act of murder in attempts to further demonize the perpetrators, their ethnicity and their faith. Indeed such identification in today’s American jargon is just as calculated and fatal meant to cut through bone and flesh and spirit as any pipe bomb or drone missile.  Taking a page from age old, proven concepts, words are the first weapon used to denigrate and ease the way towards genocide and cultural extermination and they have been used with precision and skill.

It began with President Obama’s first speech about the bombing where he was remiss in not saying the word “terrorism“.   Pundits, reporters and the general public hung on his every word at the first speech just hours after the bombing and they all made sure to point out that this one word, terrorist was missing from his vocabulary at that time, as if somehow the deaths of three innocent lives was less important without have that word uttered.  Every speech thereafter was flooded with the buzz word enough that it obscured any other point or lesson to be learned  from this latest tragedy and instead returned America to its roots of racist ideology which points to “others” as being unworthy of consideration, or the rights and privileges of citizenship.  Somehow, the purveyors of this brutal form of 21st century America punditry are able to parlay all of what’s negative about our diversity and turn tragedy into a plethora of causes it seeks to push at the expense of our civic cohesiveness.  Terrorism, immigration, radical Islam, government have become piggy back issues detractors have seized upon to push before the deceased have even been accorded their rights to an eternal rest.

Radical Islamic terrorism of course was the first cause which was promoted to an anxious audience before the last bomber was even captured.  That mantle of “radical Islam” was hung around the necks of the two brothers simply because of where they hailed from or what videos they might have added to their YouTube channels and yes it is true there are Muslims who embrace an ideology of violence to address what they consider are injustices but that is not relevant to Islamic beliefs as much as it is to their own personal demons. youth That Muslim organizations the world over denounced for the umpteenth time the brothers’ murderous rampage and the expulsions the older brother faced twice from Muslim masajid in his area because of his virulent rhetoric should speak to the legitimacy of Muslim condemnation of what took place that fateful week.  It’s impossible to find, outside of the imagination of the two suspects any rationality for their murderous impulses, among ANY community much less America’s Muslims.  That seems to go unnoticed however, as the events of the week invigorated a smoldering Islamophobic community that has been practicing its craft since 911.

No one could see that this violence so closely echoes all the other episodes of mass killing that have become sporadic constants  in our lives, borne out of rage and disenchantment with things personal and social?  How could a fan of movies kill scores of people in his object of obsession a movie theater; how could an emotionally dependent young man kill his doting, loving mother on his way to seek revenge on others who were not guilty?  The Boston suspects’ actions sprouted from a rage that began with a Ruslandysfunctional family dynamic that was no more clearly evident than during the “interview” given by Ruslan, the uncle of the suspects.  Even his act of contrition seemed filled with rage……his staccato cadence dripping with anger towards his nephews and family.  Yet the painfully obvious was ignored by most who weighed in on the side of fear and racial animus in describing what happened in Boston.  “He was a Muslim”, declared Tom Brokaw, the implication nothing else matters; to some not even the crime he committed was important absent reference to his faith.  Indeed , even being white offered the two no escape from the curse of being Muslim.  Joan Walsh in one of her pieces for Salon.com noted,

Over its long history America has regularly featured a process of sorting white from non-white, even among European immigrant groups. I’m not a huge admirer of the now-dated whiteness studies academic movement, but those scholars did help illuminate the way various groups of European immigrants, particularly the Irish, but also Jews, Italians and Eastern Europeans, “became” white over time, in a complicated process of determined assimilation, gradually lessening prejudice by existing “white” society, and most important, the arrival of newcomers to take the place of the scapegoated non-white other, alongside the definitive non-white scapegoats, African-Americans. Embracing racism and xenophobia, sadly, could be a shortcut to white status for previously non-white European immigrants.

…..or disavowing one’s faith.  America is in the firm grip of racism and xenophobia towards Muslims.  It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, American, European, Caucasian, Arab, Asian…..you are all lumped into the one category of being a terrorist and therefore the rules of civilization no longer apply to you.

Which brings me to the final point of this tragedy and that is how quickly everyone seems to talk about abandoning the rights we’re given by our Constitution and codified over the years.  The ugly specter of torture and waterboarding has resurfaced….some claiming the younger brother should have been tortured to extract information.  Mention has been made of declaring him an enemy combatant, indefinite detention, not allowing him access to a lawyer, trial by military tribunal in essence making him persona non grata effectively disappearing him from our view.  How many of us know what has happened to Jose Padilla, another American who was subjected to labyrinthine exegesis of a judicial system determined to strip him of his humanity because he is Muslim.  The fear index has produced in all of us this desire to rid ourselves of undesirables by any means necessary, including illegal and unconstitutional ones in order to feel safe.  What’s unfortunate about that is we falsely apply our fear  to groups of  people with a very large bull’s eye on their collective backs while ignoring other groups we’re not so interested in targeting at this time.  DVHonestly, we are a Nation awash in violence.  It plagues our cities and communities on a daily basis.  On the normal scheme of things killing three people is about the average for violent deaths in America.  Not even a week after the Boston bombers were corralled five people were murdered in Seattle, Washington in a domestic violence dispute that barely made the news and we don’t even know who they are or why they died. Moreover after hearing about such news one would not even suggest that we resort to the types of punishment now being mentioned in media that should apply to the lone Boston bomber suspect in custody.   No race, tribe, group of people are immune to the ravages of violence and Muslim Americans are no exceptions, but just like we don’t do in 99% of the violence we encounter as a Nation daily, ascribing a motive to that violence that centers around ethnicity or religious belief or imparting to an entire group of people the sins of some one of its wayward members is as evil an act as any perpetrator of a crime.  Fix this America!