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Boston bombing: US Muslims react with fear, frustration, and new resolve

While Muslim Americans have condemned the Boston bombing, there's also been frustration with the perceived need to explain and apologize for the suspects. Some are emphasizing increased engagement by mosques.

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“I don’t care if you call yourself Muslim," Ms. Abu-Jubara says. If you just killed innocent people, "in my eyes you’re not Muslim,” she says. “True Islam does not call for acts of violence, especially not ones on innocent people.”

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Adds Yusufi Vali, executive director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, in an interview with CNN: “I don't care who or what [the alleged] criminals claim to be, but I can never recognize [them] as part of my city or my faith community.”

In fact, at least one Boston cleric, Imam Talal Eid, has refused to bury the elder Tsarnaev according to Islamic rites. “I would not be willing to do a funeral for him," he told The Huffington Post. "This is a person who deliberately killed people. There is no room for him as a Muslim.”

Still, the Muslim community appears to understand the need to confront radicalism within its ranks.

“Radicalism is a problem because even if it recruits one person, that’s one person too many,” says Mr. Al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “Some 0.1 percent of radicals are relevant to American society, whereas 99.9 percent of Muslims remain irrelevant. We have to change that equation.”

In fact, according to a Muslim American Public Opinion Survey, religious Muslims are actually less likely to engage in anti-American extremism, and “mosques and religiosity are associated with high levels of civic engagement and support for the American political system.”

A potential way forward

Such increased engagement by mosques – both with their congregants and with the larger community – represents a way forward for American Muslims, says Professor Khan of the University of Delaware.

He calls for mosque leadership to cast a critical eye on any suspicious activity within their own communities and to reach out to government officials and interfaith leaders to create transparency. He also advocates that mosques hold town-hall-like meetings to discuss issues that typically upset American Muslims, such as drone attacks abroad. Doing so, he says, “releases the pressure of these issues so upset Muslims don’t go into basements and on the Internet and find forums to become radicalized.”

It's important to find appropriate avenues for dissent, says Shaik Ubaid, New York co-chairman of the Muslim Peace Coalition USA. "The Muslim leadership must put in place programs to teach American youth peaceful ways of showing dissent," he says. "American Muslim leadership must break this cycle of terrorism, demonization, and more terrorism."

Al-Marayati adds that in the US, the battle against extremism has moved from mosques to the Internet.

“Now we’re not dealing with mosques anymore; they’ve rejected Al Qaeda’s ideology,” he says. “The Internet, that’s where the battle is now [and where we] need to put more of our resources.”

“American Muslims are not part of the problem,” he adds. “We’re part of the solution. We are the ones that can take the battle of ideas against extremists and have the authenticity within our communities.”

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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
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