As a media organization born in Boston, The Islamic Monthly is shocked at today’s tragic explosion at the Boston marathon. Our institution has been an appreciative recipient of its tremendous offerings as a city, and earlier today we joined our friends and neighbors celebrating Patriots day and the historic marathon. The tragedy particularly hits home for me; the blasts occurred in the same spot I’ve often cheered many a friend on to the finish line in past marathons.
While we account for friends and loved ones, around the corner is a visceral fear for many Muslims, and my texts, Facebook posts and all other communications reverberate the same breath-holding mumble: “Oh God please don’t let them be a Muslim.” Global Muslims are holding on to every “breaking news” report and every word that follows the phrase, “We have just learned…”
So far, the media has demonstrated remarkable prudence in addressing the questions of who and why, and in this light, we as a country have come far from rushing to judge any particular group of people without proof in the wake of tragedy.
First and foremost, our concerns, thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and friends. But the reality is that these events reverberate in the lives of all Americans, especially those communities that are associated with these kinds of events based on the world today, which is full of contradictions and convoluted realities. In many ways these communities become the secondary victims of this kind of tragedy.
Of course there are crazies, and this fact does not make this tragedy any more bearable, or less disconcerting for all of us. But we, as Muslims, need to change the script, and I would offer as follows: First, until we find out more, I urge all Muslims not to rush to “defend”, or send press releases or blog posts that dish the same, scripted narrative of insecurity: “We Muslims condemn terror.” These kinds of comments play to our (supposed) collective insecurity and its not clear to me they have any real impact. Fight the urge to write anything at all that says anything about “condemning terrorism”, “Islam is a religion of peace”, or the like. Second, the Boston marathon is an important cultural institution of the city. A Muslim presence should have been a part of the run in any fashion before its start, from planned celebrations of all who partake in the run, to offering open doors to people who need a place to stay. This kind of recognition of cultural landmarks of the larger communities in which we live is critical to having any meaningful impact in the wake of these types of tragedies. And this, I argue, is how we can avoid repeating the same script over and over again. Once we’ve offered all we can to help and aid the victims and others in the Boston area, we must take measures to change the script once and for all, before symbolic events and in the event of tragic ones that may follow.
The symbolic nature of this attack will not be lost on the people of Boston nor the United States. Nor, will the ritual sacredness of the marathon that many deeply believe in be lost or forgotten. The Boston marathon is a 117-year-old American tradition that is a quintessential part of the New England landscape and woven into the fabric of what it means to be a Bostonian. This morning we as a community and media institution were united in celebrating Patriots day and the marathon and we are proud of our participation. This evening our thoughts and prayers remain with those who have truly suffered in this tragedy. And that should be all for now.