The brothers suspected of committing the Boston Marathon bombings appear to be self-radicalized men, on a jihad against enemies of Islam.
But Muslims say Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s alleged views and actions don’t accurately represent their faith, and people should be wary of stereotypes about Islam.
"I think that a lot of stereotypes are that Muslims are violent or terrorists or criminals," said Rugiatu Conteh, the communications and outreach director for the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. When a suspect in a crime or act of terrorism is Muslim, she said, "I think for a lot of people, it kind confirms those stereotypes."
A few days after the marathon bombings -- before the suspects had even been named -- two Muslim women outside of Boston, both wearing hijabs, were assaulted while walking with their children.
Heba Abolaban told Malden Patch that a man punched her shoulder and began shouting: "He was screaming 'F-you, Muslims! You are terrorists! I hate you! You are involved in the Boston explosions! F-you!'"
No reports of discrimination or vandalism at mosques have surfaced in the Philadelphia region since the bombings, Conteh said. She said area Muslims are “concerned about what could possibly happen” but hopeful that no incidents will occur.
Fears of a backlash against Muslims began immediately after the explosions, which killed three people and injured more than 200.
Just hours after the explosions, one Muslim woman posted on Twitter, in a message that has now been retweeted hundreds of times, "Please don’t be a 'Muslim.'"
The bombings are contrary to Islam’s teachings, York imam Majahid “Rick” Ramos said at a service last week, according to the York Daily Record.
"It is prohibited for Muslims to kill anybody," he said. "Justice should be administered by the people in authority. It is not for you to take that matter into your own hands."
He later told the newspaper that such an event "solidifies the stereotype" that Islam is a violent faith.
National organizations, too, are cautioning people to avoid stereotypes.
"We strongly urge all Americans to reject scapegoating groups or targeting innocent Americans based on their racial, ethnic or religious identity," Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, said in a statement.
Conteh said her organization is doing outreach to counter such beliefs.
"Just because there is some sort of association to being Muslim, that doesn’t mean you can really generally say that Muslims are violent," she said. "People just need to be aware that there’s good and bad people in all faiths."
Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or email@example.com. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.
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