Don’t Jump to Conclusions

The Boston bombings were a blow to American Muslims already frustrated with the Islamic stereotypes that have emerged post-9/11.

As I watched the saga of the Boston bombings and ensuing manhunt unfold, I was hopeful for the healing of the victims and the healing of the community. I also hoped for something else: that the culprits would not be Muslim. When photos and preliminary information were released, we learned that the two suspects were white, Chechnyan males. Then it was revealed that the two were recent converts to Islam—so much for my hope that this tragedy wouldn’t perpetuate an already damaging stereotype.

Because of the well-publicized acts of a radical few, many in this country distrust the entire religion of Islam. Since 9/11, terrorism has become synonymous with jihad; the stereotypical image of a terrorist has become a turban-wearing, Koran-toting radical. That’s a mistake—the stereotyping, the racism, all of it.

The vast majority of the Islamic world condemns terrorism and radical jihad. Most people wouldn’t want to judge Christianity from the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. Likewise, we shouldn’t judge Islam by the actions of the Boston Marathon bombers. Islam, at its core, is not a violent religion. As with other holy books, the Koran has the potential to be interpreted as justifying just about anything. There was a time where the Bible justified atrocities such as slavery and the Crusades, and even today, it’s still used to justify some kinds of discrimination.

But there’s also a pragmatic reason why the U.S. shouldn’t jump to conclusions about Islam: the Muslim world has the potential to become our biggest ally in fighting terrorism. Especially given the recent wave of change in the Arab Spring, there is a unique opportunity for the United States to form important and lasting friendships in the region. The next terrorist attack could be prevented by a friendly Middle East.

One of the more interesting outcomes of the manhunt was an interview with the uncle of the two bombers. Dubbed “Uncle Ruslan,” the man and his harsh words became famous overnight. When asked about his nephews’ possible motives behind the bombing, Ruslan bluntly stated, “Being losers. Hatred to those who were able to settle themselves. These are the only reasons I can imagine. Anything else to do with religion, with Islam – it’s a fraud, it’s a fake.”

Published by Alex Petros

Alex Petros is a staff writer for The Politic from Lexington, Kentucky. Contact him at alexander.petros@yale.edu.

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