Muslims after Boston
LOS ANGELESI have been on the West Coast of the United States for about a week, but every time I turn on the TV, I see news and comments on something that happened on the East Coast: The horrible bombing at the Boston Marathon which killed three innocent people and injured scores of others.
This terrorist attack was certainly cruel and horrifying. For me, it was also painfully disturbing that the main suspects are Muslims. The two Chechen brothers who were captured by the Boston police – one dead, one half alive – seem to fit into the typical “militant Islamist” category: After leading relatively secular and modern lives in the U.S., at the older one, Tamerlan, at least, seems to have a born-again moment and a “radicalization” process back in the Caucasus.
Of course, nothing is clear yet. It is not even clear whether these two young men are really the culprits of the attack. Yet the unfolding of the events have been enough for the media to conclude that this is yet another case of terrorism in the name of Islam. A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal puts it clear enough: “Make No Mistake, It Was Jihad.”
Therefore, unless a big surprise comes up in the upcoming weeks, the Boston attacks will go down in the record as something related with Islam. And it will make the lives of Muslims living in the West more difficult.
Of course, no extremist can ever represent a whole community, let alone the Muslims of the whole world. That is why we call them extremists. Yet it is inevitable that the crimes of the few, especially since they are committed with some assumed justification from Islam, will raise questions about the attitudes of all Muslims. We Muslims can ask from Western societies that this not be the case, but we should also be realistic about it.
Therefore, it is imperative that Muslims, especially Western Muslims, speak out on this issue of Islam and violence and do so in a reasonable and compelling way.
This rarely happens, though. Hence the West keeps asking, “Why do moderate Muslims not speak out?” In fact, this is sometimes an unfair question, because the Muslims who do speak out are hardly highlighted by the Western media. The media, after all, believes “whatever bleeds leads,” and whoever is radical and disturbing should make the news.
However, the problem is not only limited to the biases of the Western media. On the Muslim side, here is what I see: Among the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims, some 10 percent, give or take, sympathize with the terrorist attacks on Western societies. They see them as a justified retaliation against what the West has done to Muslims, real or perceived.
The rest, say 90 percent of all Muslims, believe that indiscriminate violence has no place in Islam. (So, they are the “moderates.”) But most of them have another persuasion as well: They believe that all this rhetoric about “Islamist terrorism” is created by the West for imperialistic goals. Every instance of such terrorism, from Sept. 11 to Boston, in this view, are conspiracies crafted by the CIA, Mossad, or some other imagined evil.
In other words, these mainstream moderate Muslims just cannot accept that there can be Muslim fanatics who do genuinely believe in Islam, but who do horrible things in its name. Yet that is exactly the reality that we have in the world today. And it will be much better if we face it honestly and self-critically, without opting for denial and conspiracy.