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.
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?