"Please God, don't let the Boston Marathon bomber be a Muslim," were most certainly the first thoughts of many American Muslims the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. On Facebook, rumors flew, first about the oft debunked "Muslim background" of President Obama, and the supposed "Muslim" background of the unidentified bomber. As of today, on the NBCNews Facebook page, these rumors were still flying, particularly when it was discovered the suspects are from the Chechnya Republic, a state that is predominately Sunni Islam. Commenters on the Facebook page voiced surprise the new suspects looked white:
–more attacks by a MUSLIM, and the MUSLIM president will NOT call them out because he IS one..
–Wow… they are Caucasian… and I only thought terrorists were grouped in bias to be islamic, hispanic, or african americans
–hey probably are not really caucasian i would guess in family history.. Chechens are mostly muslim and are decendants from other countries.. Does skin.color really matter. you are being racist. Educate yourself.
The Religion News Service informed readers that Chechnya is predominately Muslim, and a breeding ground for terrorism:
Predominantly Muslim, Chechnya declared independence from Russia in November 1991. A full-scale separatist war broke out in 1994 and lasted through most of the 1990s. It was only after a second wave of Russian military action in the early part of the last decade that Chechnya fell under firmer Russian control.
A 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service said in 2007 Russian security forces ran 850 sweeps through Chechnya that involved surrounding entire villages and searching every house. “Critics of the operations allege that the troops frequently engage in pillaging and gratuitous violence and are responsible for kidnappings for ransom and ‘disappearances’ of civilians,” the report said.
Of the region’s almost 1.3 million residents, ethnic Chechens make up about 95 percent, according to Russian government statistics. The rest are a combination of ethnic Russians and other ethnic groups from nearby countries and regions.
Militants from Chechnya and neighboring provinces have launched a long series of terror attacks in Russia, including a 2002 hostage-taking raid in a Moscow theater, in which 129 hostages died, a 2004 hostage-taking in a school in Beslan that killed more than 330 people, and numerous bombings in Moscow and other cities.
Although the above may be the facts, the facts about the bomber(s) still have not been fully divulged pertaining motive, or intent. Adam Ericksen on "God's Politics" on Sojourners raises a good point–returning violence for violence in the pursuit of justice has not worked for us in the past, nor will it work for us in the future. White or Muslim, terrorism is terrorism. If the perpetrator is white and Christian, they don't get a free pass on the "mentally ill" train. They are a terrorist, white and Christian or not.
In an editorial in the Seattle Times today, Arsalan Iftikhar reminded America of its bigotry and hatred towards the Muslim people, saying that white Christians can be terrorists too:
People seem to forget that before Sept. 11, the worst terrorist attack to ever occur on American soil was when a white man named Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.
There is a double standard when it comes to American Muslims and acts of terrorism in the United States.
If the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be a Muslim, we will witness the repeat of history. First, every major American Muslim organization will rightfully issue public statements, if they have not already done so, condemning the terrorist attacks.
Right-wingers will take to the airwaves and blogosphere, talking about how Muslims never condemn terrorism and how this is just another sign of the impending Islamic Sharia takeover of America.
We will probably then see another uptick in anti-Muslim hate crimes, which will probably result in drive-by shootings at mosques and brown cabbies getting attacked, which happened after other terrorism attacks.
I could go on.
Now, if the Boston Marathon bomber is not a Muslim, we will probably see a wholly different response. First, these same right-wingers who would shout “terrorism” from the rooftops if the bomber was a Muslim will likely avoid using the T-word. They will characterize this non-Muslim terrorist as a crazy kooky loner whose undiagnosed mental-health issues probably led to the attacks.
Somehow, if a white Christian like McVeigh does these things, they seem to get a "free pass" from the Christian right. Already the Christian right are claiming that the reason this violence happened is because the United States needs to return to its "Judeo-Christian roots" by putting Christianity in the schools and inferring that Christianity needs to be the state religion of this country. This from Charisma News today:
You can get rid of all the guns in the world, but until humanity connects itself back to the image of God, people will continue to abort babies and find ways to degrade and murder their own until whole societies and people groups collapse under the weight of their own sin.
The only way to reverse this culture of death is to move our nation back toward its Judeo-Christian roots and to embrace a high value of Scripture in public schools and homes. Only then will narcissism and the self-centered ideals that objectify fellow humans be eradicated from mainstream culture so that young people will value loving their neighbor as they love themselves as one of their highest ideals in life.
Fearing violence from the American public, Muslim leaders in Boston have cancelled Friday prayers, and condemned the bombing. In a country that has a proud tradition of religious freedom, this sort of fear is unconscionable. USA Today reports:
The Cambridge mosque's web site specifies: "We practice and promote a comprehensive and balanced view of Islam. We strive to embody the 'middle path' to which the Qur'an calls – a path of moderation that is free of extremism. We believe that the core teachings of Islam are universal and timeless, providing guidance and instruction for all times and all peoples."
The mosque is affiliated with the The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in nearby Roxbury but neither could be reached for comment. The Cultural Center religious leader, Imam Suhaib Webb, a native of Oklahoma, posted on his Facebook page, "We are all Bostonians -we mourn with the city."
The website for the center in Roxbury explained: "After the terrible and sad events of last night, the criminal of the bombings on the loose, and the strong recommendations of our Governor, the ISBCC will be closed until further notice."
The site also said the imam recommended that all pray at home rather than attend local mosques. "Please be safe and pray for our city and state," the Web page concluded.
We would do well to remember that the actions of a few do not define an entire religion. We do not know if religion was behind the bombing. We do not know anything about the bomber. After all the misreporting of the last little while, we would do well to be cautious regarding forming opinions before facts come out. Just because one bad representative of any faith does something evil, doesn't mean the entire religion is evil. We need to check our biases at the door.