These are the thoughts running through most minds in America, Muslims included. Yes, we Muslims were praying for the perpetrators to not be Muslim, but deep in our hearts, we had a suspicion that the chances of the perpetrators being Muslim were pretty high. Most of us are worrying about reactions from non-Muslim Americans who range from impressionable (by bigots), neutral folks to those who want us all out of our country, to those who would rather just pick up their guns and “get rid” of us…thanks to self-promoting fear-mongering bigots like Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Stephen Emerson, Pamela Geller, Bridgette Gabriel and scores of others.
The two Muslim boys/men are from Kyrgyzstan, originally part of Chechens who had been mass-deported there from Chechnya by Stalin. They had grown up in the US and were quite the normal kids, good students with friends. So, what happened? Obviously, we will not find out unless the younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (probably derived from ‘Jauhar’…Jewel) is captured alive and decides to talk, but I can speculate.
The following is a generalization and does NOT cover all Muslims or, ALL non-Muslim Americans, but part of the reason is that our Muslim communities locally are almost entirely first-generation Muslims who still identify with the Old country. In itself, that is not so bad, all new immigrants from overseas do this. Our folks have one mental leg still “Back Home”, they keep talking about how they will return there and they never quite get comfortable in this new society.
As our children grow up, they are identified more and more as Muslims from the Old Country, our Mosques contribute greatly to this sense of separation from the US, our ONLY country. The Muslim leaders that most of us look up to, our imams, our scholars and even a number of our respected leaders, keep telling our kids that they are Muslim, as if that were exclusive of being American. Our leaders keep discouraging our children from participating in aspects of this country that I feel are crucial to the integration of Muslims in America; the children and the men are told that we are in a non-Muslim country and as such, we may not help this new country by participating in Law-Enforcement agencies, joining the military or working in the political arena.
The sense of disenfranchisement grows, as does the sense of helplessness in affecting any US policies. This is a self-feeding cycle where we get frustrated by what the US is doing to Muslims in this country as well as abroad, but we do not participate in the workings of this country and so, there is nothing we can do about it either…and the frustration grows.
The cycle also works from the outside; non-Muslim Americans regard us as outsiders are not REALLY American, they treat us as people not to be trusted and every time something bad happens they feel their sense of alienation from Muslims in America is justified and they further bear down on us.
In case some readers are taking this to mean EVERY Muslim in America is like this, they would be wrong; MANY families rear their children as “normal” Americans whose children grow up as “normal” as the family next door. MANY Muslim families’ children grow up to not feel they are anything but REAL Americans even as they also recognize they have exotic heritage.
Nevertheless, this cycle of alienation MUST be broken and from BOTH sides of this imaginary but potentially deadly divide.
Our Mosques have to start thinking they are preaching to Americans who are Muslim, instead of the thought that they are preaching to Muslim who are here almost unwillingly. Our imams MUST start telling Muslim kids and young adults that it is not only okay, it is also urgent, that they join to police, the FBI, the military and the Political fields of America.
Our adult leaders, the members of the boards of Mosques and Muslim community centers must echo this sentiment loudly and often and so must all Muslim leaders and people of influence.
Simultaneously, members of the law-enforcement agencies, members of the various government agencies and our political leaders MUST look to Muslims as Americans and not feed the myth that “Muzlems” are the greatest threat to the US and the West…as is actively being done even as this is being written.
The need for change has to come from all sides and it has to be conveyed urgently within all circles of society. People attempting to separate Muslims from America…whether they are Muslims themselves or not…must be rebuked and the message changed immediately. We cannot as Muslims, stand silently as other Muslims seek to tell us we are not Americans and we cannot as Americans stand silently as other Americans attempt to tell us that Muslims are not really trusted Americans.
It has to start now.