HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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Reactions to Boston Bombings in Gaza


As you all may have heard about already, the April 15 bombings at the annual Boston marathon have shocked the nation in the most agonizing way. This tragic event which caused much pain and agony over what should have been an exciting day is finally being wrapped up by the F.B.I. as they have charged the last living suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with using and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. Tsarnaev will probably be facing the death penalty if and when convicted, according to LA Times.

The suspects (two Russian brothers) are doubted to be affiliated with any radical Islamic group, yet it is interesting to note that some social scientists believe that the same bomb making techniques that were being advertised by al-Qaeda were used in the making of the bombs that were used during the Boston Marathon. Three years ago the group published how to make a bomb using a pressure cooker, nails, and other materials in their magazine, Inspire.


Tamerlane Tsarnaev, Dzhokkar’s older brother, was killed as he was running away from Boston police in a deadly gun battle. Despite the doubts, law-enforcement officials (according to Wall Street Journal) are looking into whether or not Tamerlane and his younger brother were turning towards ‘radical Islam’ since they gathered from investigating that they were newly (and highly) devoted to Islam.

As I was researching more about the case, I happened to notice a strange phenomenon occurring in the Middle East, especially in the Gaza strip. There were celebrations in Gaza in response to the Boston bombings. I found claims by the Israeli News Agency in their article Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah Celebrate Boston Terror Attack stating that Islamic Jihadist groups, Salafi groups, Hamas, and others were the ones who were out there cheering. Some sources said these celebrations were of Muslims, others say Gaza Arabs, and others say Gaza Palestinians.

Passing out candy

The Israeli News Agency mentions several quotes and actions of the celebrations, including cheering, and passing out candy in the streets. They also mention that Mohammad al-Chalabi, a head of a Jordanian Salafi group, said that he was

“Happy to see the horror in America after the explosions in Boston. America blood isn’t more precious than Muslim blood. Let the Americans feel the pain we endured by their armies occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and killing our people there.”

Be this as it may, the INA didn’t seem to put into perspective the larger majority of the Muslim population who do not condone acts of terror as part of their beliefs. Also, there is no sign or any concrete proof pointing to any of these groups even if they might be somewhat true.

The accuracy of these claims of any political/religious affiliation I believe is questionable. In either case, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israeli President Peres have denounced the attacks on April 15.

Even local Muslim leaders in America feel like they are responsible for speaking out against violent extremism. Salam Al-Marayati, the executive director of the L.A. based Muslim Public Affairs Council said that

“It’s very disturbing to us all that our faces are being dragged into the mud by Muslim extremists and how we have to explain to our children what Islam is really about, and we have to explain to the American public what Islam is really about… We’re not responsible for what happened in Boston but we are responsible for speaking out against violent extremism. ”

It is true that America has witnessed the devastation of September 11, and has also noticed a similar pattern of celebrations in Palestine. Several groups of young people in the Palestinian area were celebrating but aren’t placing a particular group as the leader of the celebrations to be questioned?

This time, we do not know yet who is out there happy about the attacks, and even if jihadi Islamists, Hamas, Salafi groups, Hezbollah, or others were related to these attacks, the reason for their celebrations probably might be that they believe that they honestly thought they were receiving some bit of reconciliation from what Mohammad al-Chalabi mentioned above, what we mentioned in class about the UAV drone attacks and US occupation. US resentment is very high in many parts of the Middle-East, so of course this reaction is to be expected.

This led me to start thinking about what we were talking about in our class, the subject of jihadi Islam. In this form of Islam, we already know that violence is resorted to frequently. But celebrating violence that your own extremist Islam group did not commit? Is this a form of responsibility? Is this phenomenon that we see in Gaza just a form of jihad or is this just a public backlash against the grievances faced by U.S. occupation in the Middle East? Why it is that news sources are blaming Islam, if it weren’t for the subject of jihad? How should we interpret these reactions and avoid misunderstanding a religion despite everything we see in the news?




  1. John Girata says:

    It seems pretty reasonable to me that a group of people who preach the death of Americans would cheer any time Americans are terrorized, regardless of who actually did it.

    I think it is just as likely that this is about religion as it is about nationalism or personal grievances.

  2. The reactions seems to me to be a little bit more anti-American sentiment than religion. Of course the reasons for being Anti-American are wide and varied, could be based on personal grievances, political motivations, or a religious view as America as morally corrupt, etc. but this seems to me to not be jihad but more anti-American sentiment. Jihad seems to be based on ideology, violence justified as a ways to struggle against the oppressor, while if the violence in Boston doesn’t have radical Islamic ties then it would be the work of terror, the work of a sick individual. (Although I thought that there were some ties to jihadi islamism?) So any support for the outcome of the attacks would be supporting violence for violence’s sake and not jihadi Islam. Ultimately I think it’s all very sad, it’s been a while since there’s been a terrorist attack and I hope this doesn’t increase anti-Muslim sentiment.

  3. Kaitlyn Johnson says:

    Obviously I believe its dreadful that anyone would cheer for the death and injury of innocent people, but if the stereotype in that community/within that individual about Americans is that we are all horrible ‘warmongering’ individuals then I guess its understandable. Though the events in Boston were a form of domestic terrorism, they don’t seem to be tied to Jihad (regardless of the fact that the bombers were not Muslim), just very strong anti-American sentiment.

  4. chai164 says:

    I’ll let this image do the talking:

  5. mjuren3 says:

    If anything, I think the people of the Middle East are feeling like what the image linked above portrayed, wondering why the whole world spends days and weeks following stories about Americans being killed by terror attacks when this happens everyday all over the region and no one outside the region stops to mourn the victims or follows the story beyond a headline talking about a car bomb or a mass killing. So I can see why the resentment is there and how there would be the possibility of some people getting a sick, twisted enjoyment out of America getting a taste of what to them is a daily horror. They’re confused why when it’s Americans who die, people care but when it’s them no one even pays much attention. How are American lives somehow more precious or important than theirs, and why do the news outlets give more extensive coverage when events like this happen in the US? And why is it that way? I think it has to do with the fact that this is sadly in some areas of the Middle East a daily occurrence for them, so the world’s news outlets see nothing novel in reporting about yet another outbreak of violence or civilians being killed in the Middle East while in America terror attacks are very rare and isolated events that represent a huge deviation from the norm.

  6. tnatoli3 says:

    Timely blog and something I wanted to look into myself. It is sad to hear that people are cheering the death and pain of completely innocent bystanders. I know we don’t cheer the death of innocent Muslims that die in the war. We cheer the capture of political leaders and terrorist leaders. Though I am American, I can understand if they won a battle and were cheering; however, cheering on the deaths of marathon runners and their family is just sad.

  7. kolson223 says:

    It is awful to think that people would support and celebrate such a terrible event. As many commenters have said, many of the people who are celebrating the attacks are probably doing so because of their anti american views, or extremist religious views. As you mentioned in your blog, events like this carried out by Muslim extremists can have a huge negative impact on the rest of the Muslim community. People who are Muslim feel like they are sometimes being unfairly associated with such events, and people just assume that they are all the same. My uncle teaches in Boston and one of his students “came in with his beard trimmed in an uncharacteristic style last week. He said he was afraid that Muslims were behind the bombing, so he’d gone to a Dominican barber and asked for a Dominican look.” (From his blog a few days after the event before the apprehension of the suspects). Just have to remember that it is only a small minority of extremists who celebrate awful events like this.

  8. There are people in many societies celebrating the death of Americans. Actually, even if a Chinese girl is killed in the event, many Chinese celebrate her death (because they think the girl stole their money to study abroad, and I they hate me and other Chinese student in the U.S. as well) along with other Americans’. However, these are people who have problems about everything, so it is not right to blame the society if some of its member celebrate the event. If the Muslims should be blamed in this event, then Chinese should be blamed, too. People can say that these two killers are from Russia and Russia used to be in the same camp with China, so they were actually a part of the “Communist jihad”. Further more, Chinese people are celebrating the event! No, it is obviously not the case. In my opinion, these people who celebrate the event should not be tagged with any affiliation, because every societies have those kind of people. I believe there are also many people in the Middle East who hate this type of extreme actions, but they are not caught by the press.

  9. shaimsn says:

    This can be changed.

    Why am I so sure?

    The majority of the Muslim population is against terrorism. Without a doubt. If about 20% of the population of the world supported terrorism, we would be in a very different world. Saying the opposite would be stupid. This is an incredible strength that can be used further to repress these extremist groups.

    How can this reality be changed?

    I don’t know right away. I wanna talk about it tomorrow with you guys and see what you think.

  10. mitch7991 says:

    Man, that’s messed up. But, I’m glad that you pointed out that the majority of the population in the Middle East was not involved in this celebration and actually denounces these malicious acts. And it just goes to show, just as we were talking about in class before you even wrote this blog post, that these extremest regimes, jihadi groups, and oppressive governments are the roots that are keeping chaos, international misconceptions of Islam and the Middle East, and anti-Western sentiment alive in the region. It’s funny though, when the news of the Boston bombings first got out, I’m sure everybody had that question in the back of their mind, “Did these extremest groups from the Middle East just commit another terrorist attack??” I know I did.

  11. kledbetter6 says:

    “Mjuren3” took the words right out of my mouth. I don’t detract in any way from the tragedy of Boston – any injury, any death is the worst tragedy conceivable for those involved, regardless of the statistics. And I’m sure that certain groups are indeed celebrating because American/non-Muslim blood was shed. But I have to think that some people are seeing a “silver lining” in this, in a way. Perhaps they hope that the U.S. will now be more empathetic to the terrorist attacks that they undergo everyday. It’s as though you were diagnosed with a rare disease, and you spend years trying to raise awareness. If a celebrity is diagnosed with the same illness, the awareness of the disease skyrockets immediately. Perhaps some are celebrating because if the disease of terror infects such a powerful player in the world, terror across the board will get more attention. I don’t agree with this reaction, of course – I don’t think “schadenfreude” is an appropriate reaction to tragedy – but I can see how it’s a possible reaction.

  12. sstephenson3 says:

    It is quite easy to understand these reactions going on in Middle East, seeing as the region tends to classify western powers, particularly the USA, as the “far enemy” and the most evil set of civilizations on the planet. Unfortunately, we are not blameless in this affair, seeing as our drone strikes and preemptive attacks against potential threats tend to make us live up to the name. That being said, anyone, majority population or not, who celebrates the deaths of innocent noncombatants, even for revenge, is wholly morally bankrupt and, to me, no different than an ape. However, it is nice to see that some Muslims are speaking out against this kind of behavior, even though they apparently only feel safe to do so from literally halfway across the globe.

  13. marymsherman says:

    This event was pretty personal for me. As a marathon runner, I relate to the peoples’ pain and also understand that this act of “terror” picked possibly the most resilient and united group to terrorize. As the family member of a very pregnant sister who works down the street from the bombings and seven miles from the location of the manhunt and shoot out, I can’t imagine the amount of pain and anger I would feel if she were hurt in any way. Terrorists are evil everywhere. It doesn’t matter what nationality or religion they come from, what they did was intended to hurt a lot of people, and for what purpose? It’s terrible things like this happen every day in other countries because it has the danger of making it more commonplace and acceptable.

  14. akranc3 says:

    The people celebrating is definitely from personal anguish. They had to suffer from the United State’s war in the Middle East for years. With America knowing what it feels like to be bombed, there is cause for celebration in their minds.

  15. nathenj65 says:

    I agree with akranc3 these people were celebrating because they felt like this was a retribution for what they perceive that we had done to them and on what we allowed them to go through. I don’t think that this is in any way a result of them accepting responsibilities for the actions of the two brothers. And the point made that these are the same type of bomb used by the taliban thus making it connected to them in some way is not very feasible. I think that they had just found a video in which they could make a bomb whether it was made by the organization or not makes little difference.

  16. ojanus3 says:

    I was wondering if anyone was going to write a blog on the Boston bombings. In the aftermath I have seen a website with people’s racist tweets- blaming the Middle East for the bombings before anything was figured out. I know we are at war so this is where our blame automatically goes, but I think it is sad that Americans can be so ignorant and uniformed about the issues that are going on to write the things they did on the internet. These celebrations are a good example of the Islamic extremists making a bad name for the religion as a whole when in actuality they are a minority group.

  17. jbholleman says:

    While the celebrating Palestinians may have a point on how Americans don’t have an understanding of what goes on over there and that the Boston bombing brings Americans that understanding, celebration is the wrong way to go about it. Just like rubbing it in someone’s face that you have it worse than someone else is the wrong way to go about bringing awareness to your situation. There is a lot of resentment in the Middle East toward America and if the people there want that to change they need to educate others, not reciprocate that hate.

  18. nholdaway3 says:

    I agree with John’s comment (the first one), but I think that only speaks for some of the people. Others, like what akranc3 and nathen said, are just wanting some retribution against America. Honestly thought, what irritates me the most are Americans who falsely believe anyone who is Muslim or Middle Easter are terrorist. These attacks, whether they be from extremest or not, fan the flames of persecution toward that demograph.

  19. drippykins says:

    It’s difficult not to react this in anger, but I always try to take the perspective of the other side. In this case, consider that they have been in a war torn region for decades. And regardless of motives or reasons, we (the US) have been there helping, or actually killing people and destroying homes for a significant amount of that time. If I was them I’d be mad about it too, and who’s to say I wouldn’t be happy if the same people who bombed my village had a little taste of war themselves.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m condoning any kind of terrorism or public violence here, but when you take into account what a lot of these folks have been through, religious, extremist, or whatever, you can see why some of them act they way they do.

  20. phillipscheng says:

    I think there are always extremes in reactions. But I think the most frustrating thing is the labeling that goes on in the states where people label Middle easterners as terrorists, or jihadists when really – most of these events are perpetrated by those in the far ends of the spectrum.

  21. mnicholas6 says:

    It’s disappointing that these other Muslim groups are forced to keep explaining “what Islam is really about.” The constant defense of your religion, and similarly race or gender, because of someone else’s foolishness can be very tiresome.

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