Is it fair say that Osama bin Laden ruined Islam’s reputation in America? Or that Americans are just ignorant of worldly affairs? It’s fair to say that both are probably the case, but the latter is much more disconcerting and difficult to understand.
Columnist Kevin Cullen’s article, which appeared in the Boston Globe earlier this week, described the backgrounds of brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two Boston bombers. His article is a ripe example of the problematic prevalence of prejudice against Muslims in this country. Cullen’s article is one-sided, marking Tamerlan as the ultimate terrorist who brainwashed his brother, Dzhokhar, into carrying out the attacks. The nature of this article is a perfect exhibition of the stereotypes that Americans have of Muslims.
The tone of the article only exacerbates the problem. Cullen uses phrases such as: “Last Monday, tough guy Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother left bombs on the sidewalk on Boylston Street,” and “It takes a tough guy to pack a bomb with ball bearings and nails and purposely put it in a crowd so that it will kill and maim men, women, and children.” Cullen, of course, is not using “tough guy” in the literal sense, but rather the author is using “tough guy” to demean a Muslim immigrant from a war-torn region.
Cullen’s description of the brothers only fortifies the bastion of the prejudices against Muslims that is doing its best to find a sturdy foothold in the country.
According to Cullen, the Tsarnaev brothers were born in Kyrgyzstan, which is “one of the poorest countries spawned by the breakup of the Soviet Union,” and that “hundreds of thousands of its 5 million people bugged out of there in the years that followed the collapse of a system of government built on repression and corruption.” The author gives the reader reason to understand that due to the bombers’ tough upbringing, the brothers might deserve just the slightest bit of sympathy. But, no, Cullen doesn’t stop there.
Cullen follows his description of their upbringing with their move to Cambridge: “Cambridge is probably the most tolerant patches in these United States”, and “People in Cambridge go out of their way to be nice to, and genuinely supportive of, people like the Tsarnaev brothers.” Descriptions like these that paint Cambridge as the quintessential New England town, versus the doom and gloom of Kyrgyzstan, which only makes Americans believe that the brothers were awful human beings.
What angers me is the way the American media reports the news to the American public and how it only enhances Americans’ prejudices of Muslims. Cullen’s article is a prime example.
His facts may have well come from credible sources, but as it was seen, the media deluge that followed the bombings many news outlets didn’t have their facts straight. Cullen’s overly biased portrayal of the bombers as malicious jihadists only fortifies the prejudices that Americans have.
The political response to the Boston Marathon bombings suggests that we live in an age of shrink-wrapped, prepackaged opinions,” said EJ Dionne Jr. Dionne elaborates that as soon as the news first broke that there were bombings on Boylston Street, “there was an immediate divide between those who were sure the attack was a form of Islamic terrorism and those just as persuaded that it was organized by domestic, right-wing extremists.”
The 9/11 attacks established a prejudiced and, most importantly, stereotypical culture in the United States that automatically pins Muslims as the culprits of such horrific terrorist activity. I’m sure no one predicted that the attacks would come from two Chechen brothers. As Dionne explains, “Chechnya was not on anybody’s radar screen — and it does not appear that the conflict in that rebellious Russian republic actually had much to do with the actions of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that day.” This here is proof enough that Americans are struggling to grapple with the notion that all bad people are not Muslim.
Don’t get me wrong. Maybe if and when the country is presented with all of the facts of the Tsarnaev brothers, Americans can start to make proper judgments about their history, but for right now, let’s gather the facts before we further enhance the subliminal “War on Islam.”