Wednesday, April 17, 2013
  On Boston
I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, and joyfully celebrated Patriot's Day, retracing the steps of  Acton's minutemen as they marched to confront the British in Concord. I went to grad school in Boston, living a few blocks from where the blasts tore apart the finish line of the Marathon. My first child was born in Boston. My politics are decidedly in the best of the liberal Boston tradition. It's a place I call home, despite having lived in the Midwest for the better part of two decades. The part of me that recognizes Boston as foundational to my being is grieving over the heinous bombing of the Boston Marathon. As a mother, I grieve for the young boy who lost his life and his sister who has lost her limb, and for the others injured or killed.

As a moral, political person, I believe that terrorism is not only evil, but also ineffective and stupid. Killing innocent people who have nothing to do with the cause you are supporting is wrong. Not to mention that it doesn't work; it only creates animosity and diminishes the possibility of negotiation. Killing in the name of politics, ideology, and for the sake of gaining power (whether done by individuals or states) is wrong. I grieve that there are people in the world who believe it is better to kill than to settle disagreements through negotiation, who believe that taxes are so evil, or a piece of land so precious, or God so narrow-minded, that we should kill one another over it.

As a Muslim, I worry that the young Saudi man who was running from the scene (a sensible thing to do when another bomb might explode at any moment) has faced unwarranted scrutiny, if not outright discrimination, on the basis of his nationality and his religion. I haven't been able to bring myself to listen to the talk radio shows, the commentators on TV, and their coverage, knowing how Muslims in general are no doubt being tarred and feathered with the supposed guilt of this young man. So far, he hasn't been charged with any crime, and in this country you are innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, we long ago rejected the notion that entire families, clans, ethnicities, nationalities, or religious groups, are responsible for the actions of isolated members of that group. Even if it turns out this young man was involved in the attack, that is no justification for attacking all Muslims.

I see my fellow Muslims admitting that their first thought when they heard about the bombings was, "please don't let the perpetrator be a Muslim."  This saddens me in so many ways. It speaks to the intolerance that has come to mark certain segments of American culture. To the fact that our country has permitted a hostile atmosphere to be built up around people who not only are innocent of any crime, but who are as horrified by it as the next person. It speaks of the inability of the people who are victimized by that hostility to express their solidarity with the victims of a crime they deplore... they are proscribed from the free expression of the grief they feel because they feel they must address the collective scapegoating and potential backlash that may affect them. This is a sad way for our country to treat people.

Most sad of all, I do not see it as a particularly unique form of discrimination. For far too many Americans, all Latinos are viewed as probable illegal immigrants, and likely involved with the drug trade. All blacks are viewed as down and out, prone to violence, misogyny and fits of temper. All people of oriental background are smart and studious; even Asian jocks, like uber basketballer Jeremy Lin, graduate from Ivies. And, of course, white people are just people.

Finally, I am saddened by the lack of historicity in our analyses. People are carrying on over how violent Islam supposedly is, ignoring centuries of Christian military adventurism and ongoing intolerance on the part of many who call themselves Christian or Catholic. They overlook the violence between Tamils and Hindus, between people of different African animist traditions, between Jews and their neighbors of other faiths in Israel and the occupied territories, and pogroms carried out in the name of communism, Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot.

Most important, they overlook the violence of our own country. America was founded through a war, one that I celebrated regularly as a child, one whose "terrorists" are glorified as heroes, one whose success is marked in part by the Boston Marathon. Until we accept where we came from, and how we continue to employ violence to achieve our political, economic and social aims, we are not likely to be able to break the cycle of violence or to stem the loss of innocent life.

Update: "Law enforcement sources told CBS News a Saudi Arabian man who was being questioned by investigators is not considered a suspect at this time, and it appears he was a spectator who was injured in the attack." (source: http://www.local12.com/news/local/story/CNN-Boston-Marathon-Bombing-Suspect-Identified/PJFSyYjreESeP1rPphm62w.cspx ) So yes, the Saudi student who was tackled by a fellow race viewer was an innocent bystander, whose terror could only have been multiplied by the racial, ethnic and religious profiling he experienced. While it might be appropriate, I doubt the Muslim community will get an apology from those who are busy whipping up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment. People like Senator King who said we need to reexamine how we issue student visas, referring to this Saudi student in particular. (http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/345691/after-boston-congressman-urges-caution-immigration)  Will Senator King extend an apology to this student? I doubt it. Will the pundits who have been raving about the Muslim threat admit they rushed to judgement. I doubt that too. How sad that a sad day in American history is made so much worse by our own actions. 
 
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Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.


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Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too.
MoveOn.org. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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