WashPost Suggests It's Not the Tsarnaevs That Are Sick, But Islamophobic Americans

The Washington Post tried to turn the camera lens around on the violent Tsarnaev brothers. Their arrogant liberal assumption: the real question is what this says about us backwards Americans, not about the bombers. The headline in huge type was “Who do we think they are? The answer says a lot about who we are.”

What we are, apparently, is a sad gathering of “Islamophobes,” because the story is a collection of quotes from Muslim activists and authors who tweeted “please don’t be a Muslim” and feared that Muslim assailants would spur Americans to practice “discrimination or retaliation or shame.” Even after the Tsarnaevs were found, the Post reported “Brown Muslims” were relieved:

Embedded in the misunderstanding [of Caucasian Muslims] is the stereotype that to be a Muslim, one must be a darker-skinned person of Middle Eastern descent.

Asra Nomani, a Muslim writer [and former Wall Street Journal reporter], noted that some members of the larger Muslim American communities with Middle East or South Asian roots expressed relief when they saw photos of the accused bombers.

“‘Brown’ Muslims were like, ‘Whew, it’s not one of us,’?” she said. “And then people felt that would protect Arabs or Indians or whomever from being targeted. It’s like a sigh of relief.”

That "Brown Muslim" quote was put in bold type inside the Style section. The first paragraphs of this mass psycho-analysis by reporters Krissah Thompson and Michelle Boorstein suggest that apparently, Americans can’t evaluate who the Tsarnaevs are without satisfying some deep psychological need to police our “in-group” boundaries. It began:

Chechen? American? Immigrant? Citizen? Muslim?

Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may be all of the above, but how we attempt to come to grips with the attacks allegedly perpetrated by the brothers has much to do with how we identify them.

The brothers “don’t neatly fit into pre-existing boxes,” says Peter Spiro, an international law professor at Temple University. “It is a very complex picture,” challenging the psychological need to “set the boundaries of the in-group and treat others differently.”

Could we start with the “in-group” being people who don’t favor murdering innocent people?

Spiro isn’t a psychologist, but he is a leftist law professor who wrote a book called Beyond Citizenship arguing that nationalism and citizenship are dying concepts. He fits the Post’s attempt to confuse perfectly.


Their online headline is “Boston Marathon bombing suspects elude labels.” On page C9, the Post story continued under the headline “Two suspects fall between a lot of labels.” The label to be avoided is apparently "Islamic terrorist."

There are also these Muslim voices the Post brought in to speak to American small-mindedness:

– “American Muslims face being labeled collectively guilty more than any other minority group in America today,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, senior editor at the Islamic Monthly. “As an American, I have a great deal of confidence in the American public and am hopeful that people will understand that Islamic extremists are about as ‘Muslim’ as the Westboro Baptist Church should be considered ‘Christian.’”

Dalia Mogahed, author of “Who Speaks for Islam?,” acknowledged the human need to try to make sense of something as inexplicable as the marathon bombing by creating categories of a person, and a profile...“I wonder,” Mogahed said, “had these brothers been American-born white kids, would the talk be about violent sports like boxing and wrestling? That would be what we’d be discussing!”

...Mogahed said many Muslim Americans were alarmed that the alleged bomber’s legal status was being discussed and that questions were raised about whether he should be tried in federal court, with full legal protections, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. To some Muslim Americans, “they can only hear one thing: That Muslims are not full Americans,” Mogahed said. “Why is he being treated different than other despicable domestic terrorists? I think we all want to see him punished and rot in jail and get the justice he deserves if he’s convicted.”

Jihad Saleh, a government affairs representative with the aid agency Islamic Relief, understands the fear, the defensiveness, the feeling of collective guilt when a self-identified member of one’s community commits an act of terror. When he heard news of the Boston bombing, he braced himself for the news that a Muslim was involved. It was a feeling he’d felt before.

“As an African American male, when I hear about a shooting in Southeast, I think: ‘Please don’t let it be an African American,’” Saleh said. “That’s a reasonable reaction.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis