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Alex Palombo Headshot

Tragedy, Bigotry, and Hope

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First and foremost, my thoughts are with Boston today. I hope your friends and family were as lucky as mine were to avoid any harm, and my prayers are with those who were not as lucky.

Watching the news was horrific for anyone who turned on a television or browsed the Internet yesterday. But apart from the horrible images and stories I was hearing out of Boston, a smaller part of the coverage was scary. Without any clear evidence, some sources were claiming that the person or team behind the bombing was Muslim.

While the Boston PD and other law enforcement denied anyone being in custody, the New York Post and Drudge Report stirred the pot by saying a man of Saudi descent was being questioned in the hospital following the blasts.

The culturally-sensitive Erik Rush tweeted "Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let's bring more Saudis in without screening them! C'mon! #bostonmarathon," and then when a follower asked if he was already blaming Muslims for the blast, he tweeted "Yes, they're evil. Let's kill them all."

He said it was a joke, intended as sarcasm, and then added "Hypothesis proven: Libs responding to "kill them all" sarcasm neglect fact that their precious Islamists say the same about us EVERY DAY."

Even MSNBC, the supposedly progressive, liberal news network had a commentator allude to Islamic terrorism, saying that the London Marathon was upping security, because they had a "higher population of possible terrorists" than other countries. And today, they continue to speculate about foreign threats.

The Washington Post wrote a piece yesterday in response to the bomb, about Muslims worldwide hoping the bomber was not one of them. The bombing was horrific for everyone, but to see blame needlessly pinned on them was even more frightening, and probably brought back nasty memories of the 9/11 backlash from 12 years ago.

Yes, it is true that a Saudi man was being questioned by police as one of many persons of interest and a search warrant for his apartment was issued. But NBC reported that "nothing of value was found in that search," and no one has been formally named a suspect yet - the police have not revealed why he was a person of interest, only that he was tackled at the run as he was running away (just like every other spectator). And yes, the comments on the news were made in the heat of a crisis, but the circumstances don't make that sort of bigotry okay.

It's repulsive that the media - both mainstream and not - is allowing these sort of Anti-Muslim feelings pervade the coverage of a horrible event. I'm absolutely disgusted with the news right now, both with the writers and "journalists" making these comments, and with their editors and producers for letting them go to print or go to air.

The last 12 years have seen hate crimes skyrocket against Muslims in the US, and saw every television show and action movie casting a Middle Eastern villain fighting "jihad" against the American hero. Fiction is already doing enough to make Americans afraid of Muslims and Arabs. The last thing we need is for our agenda-setters and news media to scare people further with baseless speculation, and encourage the bigotry and fear lingering in peoples' minds from years before.

To its credit, social media has responded in droves in support of Muslims worldwide, save for a few trolls taking advantage of the tragedy to spread hate. Tweets like "Don't be an idiot and know the facts first," and "educate yourself" were among the millions of other tweets of love and solidarity that cropped up across the social network.

Call it armchair activism, but armchair activism did a lot this week.

It's scary not knowing why someone would do such a horrible thing, to hurt and kill innocent people out for a run. But that's no excuse to blame an entire faith, to stir racism and anti-Muslim feelings and dredge up memories of 9/11 to put a villain to a crime. We cannot continue to blame innocents for the work of a few.

The simple fact is, we don't know who did this, and speculating if Islamic terrorists did this is not only untrue, but hurtful to the Muslim community and any progress in religious tolerance we've made since September 11th. But if we keep working together like the first responders and runners and Bostonians who ran towards the blasts to help, we can heal.