Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer, author of the blog, The Muslim Guy, and a senior editor at “The Islamic Monthly,” said when the news broke about the bombings in Boston that he, like millions of Muslims in America, had one overpowering thought: “Oh God…Please don’t let it be a Muslim.”
In the “Islamic Monthly,” Iftikhar noted, “The majority of American Muslims always seem anxiety-ridden that any future act of terror will be committed by a brown dude with a Muslim-sounding name and lead to another vicious chapter of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crimes around the country.”
The fact is an act of terror that can be committed by any one of any color. Just ask the folks in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., or Oklahoma City.
White men were responsible in each of those horrific incidents, but we have been so trained by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, that the words “terrorism” and “terrorists” instantly lead us to think of Muslims, especially from the Middle East, as potential suspects, even before we have one iota of evidence to support that view.
Iftikhar also quoted from a story in “The Washington Post” in which Max Fisher, a foreign affairs blogger, said, “People in the Muslim world are often keenly aware of the American reflex to associate bombing attacks on U.S. citizens with Muslim extremists. A certain routine has emerged, in which some Muslims seem compelled to make clear that they denounce the violence and consider it a violation of Islam — often even before the attacker’s religion is determined.”
And just because American Muslims are feeling a bit paranoid, it doesn’t mean that no one is out to get them.
Fox News contributor Erik Rush tweeted right after Monday’s blasts that Muslims “are evil … Let’s kill them all.”
Great, that is just what this country needs, hatred – shaken and stirred.
In our great haste as a nation to get instant answers in this 24-7 media world, it’s all too easy to encourage speculation and profiling. So far the news media have, for the most part, exercised restraint. But as the hours go by with no answers from the FBI, ATF and local law enforcement officials about the source of the violence or what the evidence suggests, however, it becomes more a question of when, than if, that controlled and measured façade will crack.
On Wednesday CNN, reported that a “dark-skinned” person had been arrested in connection with the bombings. An hour later, it reported that the information was incorrect.
Tom Fuentes, an assistant FBI director, later said in an interview there had been no arrest or suspect identified.
A day earlier, Foreign Policy magazine reported that a Saudi national, who had been injured in the blast and described by law enforcement officials as “a person of interest” – a term that has no legal standing – had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
“It’s far too early to speculate and it does the American people no justice to make those speculations,” Iftikhar said in a radio interview with Voice of Russia on the media’s need for cultural sensitivity when covering the incident.
“It’s important to keep in mind that there were Muslims and Jews and Christians and Hindus and people of all faiths or no faith that were injured at the Boston Marathon and our thoughts and prayers are with those people and the families affected by the tragedy,” he said.
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”