In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, the American political environment is increasingly moving toward placing Islam itself on public trial, not the actions of those who committed the crime. Mainstream American media outlets are increasingly focusing on the suspect’s faith and whether he was radicalized here at home or abroad in Russia. Fox News’ Sean Hannity criticized the Obama administration on his show for not using the term “war on terror” as he placed the “rise of radical Islamists” as the main threat to America’s national security. His guest conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan warned that “what we see is the rise or the resurrection of Islam.” He also added that the “great objective of Islam in that part of the world is to drive out the foreigners, the Jews, the Christians, Americans and imperialists.” Buchanan continued in an angry accusatory tone that “they have one God but Allah whom they are following to create the great Islamic world.”
Needless to say that the statements made by Hannity and Buchanan regarding Islam and Muslims are false, derogatory and are dangerous.
The mainstream American news media has then shifted its attention from the criminal act itself to the ethnicity and the religion of the suspects, in trying to find answers as to what pushed the bombers to commit their crimes. That might appear to be “logical” from the perspective of those who think that the “terrorist “designation is reserved for Muslims only.
But this type of logic is at best racist because it seeks to find evidence to support preconceived notions that terrorists or “jihadists,” a term often used interchangeably with the word “terrorist,” can only be Muslim. This is also akin to saying that other criminals or terrorists who are of other faiths cannot be true terrorists or that their criminal acts — such as mass shooting in a movie theater, or in a school, or a in a Sikh Temple, where scores of innocent people were massacred –cannot be described as terrorism.
Spin-off stories also emerged about concepts that are hardly understood by the average American about “Jihad” or “Radical Jihadists” or “Sharia law.” They feed the American stereotype of a beast — its new evil empire — that it should seek to destroy. Such public discussions have enhanced the public misconception about the foreignness of Islam or Muslims.
The public treatment of Muslims who commit crimes or terrorism acts is often different from those who are charged with the same or even worse crimes and happen to be Christian. The religions of the shooters in Sandy Hook massacre or the mass killing in the Colorado movie theater or the Sikh temple was never a public issue. None of those voices that try to vilify Islam attempted to ask the same questions about Christianity, the religion of those who committed those crimes, which at any event should not be the issue to start with.
Meanwhile some members of Congress, along with conservative pundits, objected to the Obama administration decision to charge the surviving suspect of the Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar Tasarnaev, in US civilian courts. They also objected to reading the suspect his Miranda warning, which gives him the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Instead, they wanted him to be charged with terrorism as a military combatant and in a military tribunal citing public safety concerns or the “ticking bomb scenario.”
The statement also cited the US Supreme Court decision Hamdi Vs. Rumsfeld in support of their argument
What the statement neglected to mention, however, is that Hamdi Vs. Rumsfeld was a sound defeat for the Bush administration, in which the Supreme Court ruled that government has no right to detain an American citizen without meaningful due process of the law. The Boston Marathon suspect, moreover, is an American citizen and arrested on American soil, not on a foreign battlefield. The government ended up not charging Yaser Esam Hamdi with any crime and was released to Saudi Arabia on the condition that he renounce his American citizenship. It is clear therefore that there are people here in America who feel that when it comes to crimes or acts of terrorism that have been committed by Muslims, we should be changing the US constitution around — as if the United States is a third-world banana republic — so they can be convicted regardless of their constitutional rights.
Ali Younes is a writer and analyst based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at: [email protected] and on Twitter at @clearali.