As I sat fumbling with my bag in the lobby of a hotel in the Gulf on the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, I was startled by the Filipina receptionist who cried out, "There has been a bombing in Boston!" The television was tuned in to Al-Jazeera. "Where?" the Pakistani doorman asked. "In Boston, America" she responded. "So what!" he said, raising his head to look at the television screen then at her."There are two to three in Pakistan daily," he added emphatically. She looked straight at his face and said rather candidly "The suspect is a Pakistani [Muslim] Man." He did not respond. He looked away, his face calm as he proceeded to continue what he was doing.
There continue to be many theories surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings. Until last Friday, when the suspects were named, too many have weighed in on the Who and the Why behind the bombings. "God please don't let the suspect be a Muslim," a friend of mine pleaded on her Facebook page. When the Tsarnaev brothers, Muslims, were brought to the limelight, many were happy that their theories had been proven correct. The task at hand is now to link the men with a "Jihadist" movement, with frustrations growing as al Qaeda or any of its affiliates have failed to claim responsibility for the attacks.
In the past, I would have felt trapped by these varying views. In the face of tragedy, our emotions swing east and west almost simultaneously. However, I have found that too few of these views are credible. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own views but when it starts to shape public opinion, we are obligated to properly scrutinize them. Between the conspiracy theories, the apologetic messages and the sympathy that the Muslim community has received, I have found very little evidence in public opinion for an alternative and self liberating view.
A few days ago, I read a piece that concluded that there have been more casualties from terrorists of other religions compared to those that identify with Islam. Thanks but no thanks, I am not liberated by these numbers! The Boston Marathon bombings, if perpetuated in the name of any religion, are a crime against religion. For those of us who believe in the enormous potential of religion to advance the cause of humanity, this is disheartening. There is a growing, albeit abstract, movement to create a new moral ethos for society that is devoid of religion. This is frightening.
I see the premise for this approach because in the name of religion, too many have acted immorally. However, the argument is unfair. Religion has provided the basis, the framework, for morality over the course of our history. Many systems of law have their roots in religious laws and principles. Thou shalt not kill sure did not come out of thin air. Why now, because of the actions of a few are we going to dismiss religion from the quest to formulate a new moral ethos that is supposed to advance the human cause?
As a Muslim, I have the basic understand that the objectives of my religion include the preservation of life, intellect, property and honor of the human race. This means that the laws and guiding principles of my faith as manifested in rituals and actions must serve those objectives. Therefore, it becomes mandatory to differentiate actions that do just that from those that do not, in staying true to that faith. The Boston Marathon bombings have as a matter of fact done the opposite. Lives have been lost, property damaged and shame has been brought upon families, nations and a religion. To distance Islam from these heinous crimes, I have employed "deductive reasoning" -- I have weighed facts against their varying interpretations and come to my own reasonable conclusions.
The last time I checked, I lived in a society with people of high moral integrity (they remain interested in the facts) and great intellect (they have the ability shape their reasoning guided by facts). This is a call encouraging them, the religious and non-religious alike, to uphold this virtue. I urge them to practice engaging in this self liberating exercise to understand what this tragedy is and perhaps more importantly what it is not. This is so we remain united in fighting the correct enemy -- terror, not Islam.