Home / News / Religious bigotry heavily influences perceptions of Boston Marathon bomber before suspects were divulged; even worse now
Religious bigotry heavily influences perceptions of Boston Marathon bomber before suspects were divulged; even worse now

Religious bigotry heavily influences perceptions of Boston Marathon bomber before suspects were divulged; even worse now

"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.

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • Deborah_B

    Good piece and good advice that I agree with, Dakota.

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  • Is it still bias when Muslims do in fact commit acts of terrorism in such volumes that the modern-day atrocities of every other faith pale in comparison? http://moralcompassblog.com/2013/04/20/are-muslims-being-treated-with-suspicion-probably-unfairly-so-probably-not/

    • Is it still bias when Christians commit acts of terrorism? I think we need to look in the mirror here. The Ku Klux Klan, a self described Christian group, committed acts of terrorism for years on people they didn't like. The Army of God committed acts of terrorism on abortion clinics, and doctors across the US, killing people to forward their cause (Dr. George Tiller being one of their victims). A group called Concerned Christians were deported from Israel after conspiring to commit acts of terrorism on holy sites in Israel. The Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996, as well as subsequent attacks on an abortion clinic and a lesbian nightclub, were made by Eric Robert Rudolph; Michael Barkun, a professor at Syracuse University, considers Rudolph to likely fit the definition of a Christian terrorist, Hutaree was a Christian militia group based in Adrian, Michigan. In 2010, after an FBI agent infiltrated the group, nine of its members were indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit on charges ofseditious conspiracy to use of improvised explosive devices, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.On March 28, 2012, the conspiracy charges were dismissed.Terrorism scholar Aref M. Al-Khattar has listed The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord, Defensive Action, The Freemen Community, and some "Christian militia" as groups that "can be placed under the category of far-right-wing terrorism" that "has a religious (Christian) components. So yes, it is bias when we ascribe to one religious group, the entire group acts of terrorism that the whole group is not responsible for and even condemns. Just because individuals within a group decide to commit acts of terrorism does not mean the entire group are terrorists. Nobody in the US would say that ALL Christians are terrorists. So yes, there is a religious bias in this country skewed against Islam because Americans know nothing about the religion, because we are blinded by our own fear of it (fear is lack of knowledge).

  • samsenseone

    Unless I misread, only the Quran urges kill the non believer. It is opposite most of the world's other religious philosophy. It is difficult, therefore, to be surprised when a Muslim commits an act of terror. It is natural, if not entirely justified, that we consider the non-Muslim terrorists as deranged.

    • Actually, the BIble also has God sending the Israelites to kill non-believers as well, using Israel as the "sword of God." Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)
      You should not let a sorceress live. (Exodus 22:17 NAB)

      If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives. (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

      A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)

      If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

      A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)

      Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed. (Exodus 22:19 NAB)

      They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)

      Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

      If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)

      Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)

      Cursed be he who does the Lords work remissly, cursed he who holds back his sword from blood. (Jeremiah 48:10 NAB)

      • samsenseone

        In reply to Dianne Yoder, the difference between old testament and Quran is that " kill the infidels, gays, non believers" is not taught or acted upon by old testament followers whereas Muslim, aka Quran believers still follow and act upon.

        • And you are twisting words in order to make one religion more superior to another. Right now American evangelists are using the Old Testament to help pass laws in Uganda so that gay people can be killed, among them Lou Engle. So please don't come to me with this crap about how one religion's holy book demands that non-believers be killed when the Christian Bible advocates the same damned thing–people who could not be converted or who worshiped any gods other than Yahweh God instructed to be killed, their women raped, and their cities pillaged. And not ALL Muslims act upon such beliefs and to say so is the same demonstration of religious bigotry that was discussed above.

          • samsenseone

            Sorry, Diane,
            Spent much time in Uganda, have you?

        • gfross

          No, it is Islamists who do these terrorist acts, not traditional Muslims. Read_The Islamist_by Ed Husain.

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