Op-Ed: What the Boston attack means for Muslim-Americans

As new details emerge about the identities and motives of the Boston Marathon bombers, the Muslim-American community will be under greater scrutiny than it has been at any period since the 9/11 attacks.

And as an American-born Muslim, I treasure the spirit of tolerance that allows me to cultivate my passion for my faith and pride for my country’s rich history and culture. I have no doubt that it will continue even if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect of the Boston bombing, attributes the cause of his violence to political Islamic ideology.

As the hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers began, Muslims throughout the United States not only prayed for the victims of the bombings like the rest of the country, but they also hoped that the suspects would not turn out to belong to their faith community.

The situation leaves Muslims in this country enduring backlash from a justifiably angry American public. But that backlash – aimed at a group of people who did nothing wrong – is unwarranted.

The Muslim-American community cannot be subjected to generalizations. It is multi-ethnic and socioeconomically diverse. This diversity is clearly evident on the streets of this campus, where Muslims come from various locations within the U.S. and around the world. You may see them eating at the halal food trucks outside the library, or at Bobby’s Burger Palace. They may wear hijabs – traditional Islamic headscarves that demonstrate modesty – or shorts, because the weather is getting warmer. Some may offer weekly prayers in Miriam’s Kitchen on Friday afternoon, and others may sleep in after partying the night before.

Whether they wear Islam on their sleeve or keep it within their heart, the fact is that all Muslims at GW benefit from the spirit of openness on campus.

How long will it take until the menace of extremism stops spreading chaos? How long until the media’s portrayal of Islam focuses on something other than violence, intolerance and cultural decay? The majority of the Muslims in this country hope the answer to these questions is “soon.”

But in the meantime, I ask Muslims who feel offended by negative narratives about Islam to think about how blessed we still are to be part of a country that derives its strength from its tolerance and inclusiveness. I also ask non-Muslims who are fed up with radical elements of the religion to recognize that radicalism itself is not an epidemic in the Muslim community, but rather a manifestation of destructive ideas that have no place in the mainstream.

I identify with all Americans regardless of their religion or ethnicity, and I pray that as time passes, they gradually view the Muslim community with the same tolerance.

The writer is a sophomore in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

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