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Ahmed Charai Headshot

We Are All Americans

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Again, people of good intent across the world grieve. The heinous terrorist attack on runners in the Boston Marathon is a sad reminder -- for those who had moved on, whether in the United States or elsewhere -- that the scourge of terrorism endures.

Here in Morocco, the news that America has again fallen under attack stirred and angered the population and its leadership. Our king, Mohammed VI, was the first foreign head of state to send prayers and condolences to U.S. president Barack Obama and the many who mourn. Words of bereavement from a distant Muslim country are to be sure a loaded message for the world's superpower: Though it remains unclear at this writing whether the attack emanated from overseas, the memory of September 11 and America's strained relations with parts of the Muslim region naturally engender mixed feelings about Muslim condolences. Yet for Moroccans, the visceral identification with America transcends religious difference. We were the first nation to recognize the United States -- and our continuing alliance, from matters of diplomacy in the Arab world to counterterrorism cooperation in the Horn of Africa, carries a sacredness all its own.

For us and for so many other societies, the Boston Marathon in particular highlights one of the many qualities that attract us to America: It is a magnet for international excellence. Though historic Boston is a city of hills, it is at the same time a level playing field for robust competition among athletes from every continent. In regions of the world where fairness and justice do not reign, Boston during its marathon remains a symbol and a model. And amid uncertainty about the future of revolutions in Cairo, Tunis, and Tripoli, Arabs know that Boston was once the cauldron of a revolution that did not fail. There is a hunger to better understand America's early years: How did a nation in the throes of radical change blaze a path to independence that ensured civil society and the rule of law? We know that much of the answer lies in Boston.

What may have motivated the terrorists will become clear as clues in the unfolding investigation mature into facts, evidence, and, God willing, arrests. But for the moment, as the world waits in suspense, it is perhaps worthwhile to reflect on two possibilities:

If, on the one hand, the attack emanated from overseas, questions may reemerge for the United States about its unique role in the world and relations with a distant other. With economic uncertainties and a lost appetite for war, the challenge of mediating the distaste for conflict with desires for retribution will be agonizing; the legacy of September 11 and its aftermath will lead, perhaps, to new forms of introspection.

On the other hand, if a domestic terror group turns out to be the culprit, Americans will face questions that could be even more agonizing. As Muslims, we know this all too well: In recent years we have suffered thousands of fatalities from Islamist terror groups targeting our very own societies. We are the victims of ideologies that twist the religious and cultural tenets of which we are most proud. Our own historic "Bostons" -- whether Baghdad, once a torchbearer of civilization; or Damascus, one of the oldest cities in the world -- have become battlefields. Those of us who struggle for peace in these troubled lands have found inspiration in the United States for its capacity to look inward and think self-critically. As the dust begins to settle in Boston, I know that Americans will continue to inspire us, and pray that my country and region will go on to inspire them.