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

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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.”

 

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Patience…..


The two bombs that ripped through the 2013 Boston Marathon  re-opened wounds that had begun to heal since 911 and no where was this fresh scab more apparent than in the airwaves and bandwidth of Main Stream Media.  Throwing aside conventional wisdom which includes waiting for things to reveal themselves, pundits began almost immediately with speculation about whodunnit.  It didn’t help matters that a young and innocent Saudi student was tackled at the scene of the blast and scooped up by authorities who had to admit after a period of time that he was just as much a victim as everyone else who was in the vicinity of the blast, media trumpeted the interest authorities had in him as if he was the main suspect who was about to be charged with the crime.  Media didn’t bother to wipe the egg off their collective face when Boston and no doubt federal authorities admitted the young man was not a suspect or player in the events of that dreadful day….they just simply ignored their faux pas and moved on, but the tension their errant speculation caused revealed the problem with America today and the obsession too many have with placing collective blame on people and especially those who are Muslim.

Over time this has produced an opposite and equally repulsive reaction from Muslims who start condemning acts of violence as if there life depended on it.  In today’s America it probably does since the knives of Islamophobes are sharpened with the venom of  their own special brand of racism which they hope will drive America into an apocalypse whose goal is grander and broader than anything Hitler imagined in pre WWII Germany. Eric Rush’s tweets of ‘kill all Muslims’ within hours of the bombings are the most nerve racking and persistent sentiment voiced by ‘phobes and it has America’s Muslims ready to do and say anything to distance themselves from any tragedy.  Explosion at Boston marathon

About this tendency to obsequiously deny acts of violence ad nauseum, Tasbeeh Herwees had this to say

This is modus operandi for any Muslim organization in the U.S. after a terrorist attack: condemn, condemn, condemn. This is how we’re expected to respond. It doesn’t matter that no Muslim or Arab has been implicated in the attack. It is inconsequential that no other religious organizations are called on to do the same. In a post-9/11 world, Muslims and Arabs have become the default scapegoats for all terrorist plots, hence the pre-empting of the accusations.

Muslims for the present are the only group expected to make this kind of absolution; they require it from themselves as much as their non-Muslim citizens.  It has become their role in today’s America to assure people even when such assurance is not required that they are against an act of violence that may be attributed to one of them.  Muslim America has accepted the cloak of collectivism whereby any one person no matter how heinous, villainous, obnoxious the act may be, no matter how reprehensible and outlandish can be even remotely connected to the body and thus equal in guilt.  No other group in today’s America has taken or accepted that mantle.

white privilegeIn today’s news cycle we’ve heard of a prison official in Colorado gun down in his home by a white supremacist; a young mass murderer who took revenge against a school that housed people who bullied him many years before and a husband and wife team who killed Texas prosecutors for some perceived  injustice they felt murder was the appropriate punishment, yet not one white male or Christian group has volunteered to condemn the actions of this body of people who share their ethnicity.  Their silence, in the face of this news onslaught was defeaning and caused me to tweet on 14 April, ‘white males need to be profiled’  in order to bring attention to the fact that real crime does occur at the hands of people other than swarthy complexioned people with strange accents; that there are terrorist minded white people in places of close proximity to us who are just as lethal and scary and perhaps we should keep a closer eye on them than we have in the past. Of course no such thing will happen and Tim Wise in a very nice piece says why

As the nation weeps for the victims of the horrific bombing in Boston yesterday, one searches for lessons amid the carnage, and finds few. That violence is unacceptable stands out as one, sure. That hatred — for humanity, for life, or whatever else might have animated the bomber or bombers — is never the source of constructive human action seems like a reasonably close second.

But I dare say there is more; a much less obvious and far more uncomfortable lesson, which many are loathe to learn, but which an event such as this makes readily apparent, and which we must acknowledge, no matter how painful.

It is a lesson about race, about whiteness, and specifically, about white privilege.

I know you don’t want to hear it. But I don’t much care. So here goes.

White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in white folks generally being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.

White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stackand George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Robert Mathews and David Laneand Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page andByron Williams and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus andRaymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers andFrancis Grady and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker, among the pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize and kill, but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

And white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed above — indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names — let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes.

White privilege is knowing that if the Boston bomber turns out to be white, we  will not be asked to denounce him or her, so as to prove our own loyalties to the common national good. It is knowing that the next time a cop sees one of us standing on the sidewalk cheering on runners in a marathon, that cop will say exactly nothing to us as a result.

White privilege is knowing that if you are a white student from Nebraska — as opposed to, say, a student from Saudi Arabia — that no one, and I mean no one would think it important to detain and question you in the wake of a bombing such as the one at the Boston Marathon.

And white privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Belfast. And if he’s an Italian American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.

In short, white privilege is the thing that allows you (if you’re white) — and me — to view tragic events like this as merely horrific, and from the perspective of pure and innocent victims, rather than having to wonder, and to look over one’s shoulder, and to ask even if only in hushed tones, whether those we pass on the street might think that somehow we were involved.

It is the source of our unearned innocence and the cause of others’ unjustified oppression.

That is all. And it matters.

The next time a crime is committed that captures the public’s attention perhaps the first thing we should do is turn off the television, radio and laptop and just wait for the dust to settle.  If we can’t do that then we should demand that every group in America who has a member that has committed a violent crime in the past should take turns collectively condemning and distancing themselves from an unknown perpetrator.  We certainly cannot expect any ONE group to continue to carry this burden.  It’s not just so fix it, America!

hat tip to @ZahraBilloo

The cry babies of the “Right” OUTED!


Kudos to investigative, now op-ed journalist Robert Parry for nailing what’s behind the Right’s new victimology game being played out during the Obama Administration. Everyone is NOW up and arms about TSA and their behavior at airports around the country. Strange I never heard such outrage when TSA was ransacking through our luggage during the Bush years. Parry

the wallowing in “victimhood,” especially among relatively privileged groups like white American Christian conservatives, can be particularly dangerous because these groups hold substantial political and media power. Thus, they are largely insulated from the consequences when some unstable individual carries out violence in reaction to their angry propaganda.

We saw this in 1995 when right-wing anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City federal building. Though some on the Left linked that terrorist act, which killed 168 people, to the hateful rants of right-wing radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, the mainstream Washington press corps quickly rallied to Limbaugh’s defense.

Similarly, within hours of the Tucson shooting, which left Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition with a bullet hole through her brain, former Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz was out with a commentary establishing a defensive perimeter around former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who had put Giffords’s district in a rifle’s crosshairs.

Like others on the Right, Palin also has favored violent rhetoric in discussing the need to strike back at Democrats who supported health-care reform during the last session of Congress, as Giffords had done. “Don’t retreat, RELOAD!” Palin urged her followers.
While deeming Palin’s language and imagery “highly unfortunate” and “dumb,” Kurtz absolved Palin and other right-wingers of any responsibility for the Tucson slayings and termed any linkage a “sickening ritual of guilt by association.”

“It’s a long stretch from such excessive language and symbols to holding a public official accountable for a murderer who opens fire on a political gathering and kills a half-dozen people, including a 9-year-old girl,” Kurtz wrote from his new perch at TheDailyBeast.com.

We can only imagine how different the reaction would have been if a Muslim political activist had made inflammatory comments toward members of Congress and one of those targets had been gunned down. The U.S. government would be devising novel legal theories to lock the Muslim up along with many of his friends.

You can find the entire article here and I strongly encourage you to read it!

Islamophobe of the Week


The entire cast at FoxNews, or rather the Republican Television Network, can win this award because of the constant racist rhetoric they are allowed to get away with over the American airwaves.  Bill O’Reilly was owned by Whoppie Goldberg and Joy Behar who walked out on him during his appearance on their show, The View.  That confrontation appears below

 

There’s so much wrong with what he said on so many levels…..did anyone catch his dig to Behar about learning something from him….that’s after he told her to shut up.  Classy guy, eh? So O’Reilly, a Fox employee was clear why the two hosts walked out and the very next day………

Brian Kilmead, another Fox employee makes the following statement, ‘Not every Muslim is an extremist, a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim…..You can’t avoid that fact. And that is ridiculous that we got to keep defining this — the people that equate Timothy McVeigh with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization, which is growing and a threat that exists.”  Of course this remark was an explicit approval of O’Reilly’s comments made on The View a day before and there we have two Fox employees engaging in racist commentary on a national platform.  I had this to say in the comments section here

The double standard is in your face…I mean Sanchez gone, Octavia Nasir gone, Helen Thomas gone. None of them were given a chance to clarify their statements which were far more harmless and not pejorative as this Fox guy’s. In his one idiotic statement, ‘Not every Muslim is an extremist, a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim’ substitute any other ethnic group and tell me he would survive one hour after going off the air. Let’s see, ‘not every Jew is a terrorist but every extremist, terrorist is a Jew’…or how about ‘not every African-American is a murderer/rapist but every murderer is black’. Or how about ‘not every blond woman is dumb, but every dumb woman is a blond’ or not every Polack is stupid but every stupid person is a Polack… I mean this is like looking at or hearing an episode of Archie Bunker’s Place all over again. That Kilmead moron makes his comments because he can get away with it; his bosses let him, maybe even encourage him because it’s good for ratings and perhaps even revenue and that’s the history of our country. Whatever sells works, despite evidence to the contrary. So 94% of terrorism committed from 1980 to 2005 according to the FBI, not Fox, was done by other than Muslims gets spun into 100% with a stroke on the keyboard because those people committing 94% of terrorism resemble the folks who make the decisions at FoxNews. Amazing how that works, isn’t it?

Brian Kilmead, one of  your racist Islamophobes on the Fox channel.  Do we really want an America where we are all at one another’s throats because of the lies of people in the media.  For an excellent analysis of who’s doing what in the world of terrorism, run over to the thread here.  It’s very revealing about who is and isn’t a terrorist in the real world.