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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.

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / April 25, 2013

Vehicles pass The Islamic Society of New Jersey on Route 1 in South Brunswick, N.J., in this file photo.

Daniel Hulshizer/AP/File


New York

When the bombs at the Boston Marathon exploded a week ago Monday, a familiar chain of events and emotions unfolded for many in the American Muslim community: shock and grief, followed by an unspoken dread that the perpetrators could be Muslim; condemnation of the attack; fear of reprisals – and of being conflated with the acts of violence; and quietly, an inward examination of what went wrong.

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It is a routine that Muslim communities in America know all too well – having trodden the same path after 9/11, the Fort Hood shootings, and other acts of violence associated with Islam. But it's a routine they've become increasingly weary of, frustrated that each violent act erases years of painstaking work building trust and becoming part of American civil society.

“We strive every day to be positive, useful and energetic contributors to our society, but all it takes is the acts of a couple of deranged murderers to ruin the reputation of 7 million people,” says Asad Ba-Yunus, a lawyer in Peekskill, N.Y., and a community activist, in an e-mail.

“This will put Islamophobia on steroids,” fears Muqtedar Khan, an associate professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware in Newark.

It is, in effect, a fight on American soil for the right to define Islam – with each bomb, shooting, and terrorist plot setting back the efforts of American Muslims to define themselves and to reclaim an embattled faith.

“It is time for us as American Muslims to provide an alternative to Muslim extremism; otherwise, we’ll be defined by it,” says Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council. “That alternative is the moderate voice, the voice for reform, for the theology of life that Islam stands for as opposed to the cult of death that extremists promote through their distortions of Islam in their ideology.” 

After the suspects were identified, the elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a battle with police, and hours later younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was brought into custody, now being listed in fair condition at a Boston hospital. The suspects’ motives have yet to be fully uncovered, but on Monday, the surviving Tsarnaev was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction in the April 15 attack, which killed three people and injured more than 200. 


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