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Please don’t generalize. April 24, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Silence Dogood here. The rest of the world may be too busy dealing with its own daily acts of random terrorism and violence to have paid overly much attention to the Boston Marathon bombings, the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil since 9/11. But if you’re American, like us, you’re probably still reeling. The sweet face of the dead Chinese student, the 8-year-old boy, the young woman; the accounts of shrapnel blasting bodies, of legs blown off, a mother losing both legs, two brothers each losing a leg—these aren’t likely to fade soon from the public awareness.

Sadly, the perpetrators of this crime were a radical Islamist and his unfortunate brother, just 19 years old and a sophomore in college. Like 9/11, this act is likely to set off a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment and action in our country. And it is here that I beg all of you not to make generalizations. After 9/11, Indian Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, Lebanese and Syrian Christians, anyone who happened to look “Muslim” was apparently considered “the enemy” and fair game for attack. I myself was horrified to witness a drunk white woman verbally abusing an understandably perplexed, dark-skinned Portuguese man in a convenience store.

My best friend is a professor who is Pakistani, and Muslim. She and her two little boys were living in Brooklyn on 9/11. Seeing the hatred being meted out and terrified for her sons, my friend did something brilliant: She bought a cute little puppy. When she walked down the street with her boys, everyone stopped to ooh and aah over the puppy and left her family alone.

Now my friend is back in Pakistan and her boys, American-born to an American father, American citizens, are in college here. Nobody seeing them on the street would think “Muslim!” and attack them. But they are Muslim, and their names make that very clear. These are smart, sweet, kind, caring, talented boys. They are not terrorists, they are not violent, they are not delusional, they are not fanatics. Should we turn on them because of their faith, because of their name?

I myself am Catholic. If some ultra-conservative Catholic fanatic decided to express his displeasure over Pope Francis’s reforms by setting off bombs at, say, New York’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, would I expect America’s shocked and outraged citizens to blame me because I happened to be Catholic? Of course not. So why should we turn on the Muslims who have come to this country for the exact reasons our own ancestors did, freedom from persecution, a chance for prosperity, education?

Most crimes of terror, most random acts of violence, in this country are done by mentally ill people who are delusional, self-aggrandizing, or paranoid. I don’t know if background checks on the mental history of prospective gun buyers would cut down on the number of incidents of random violence, but it would certainly be a start. No, it wouldn’t keep a fanatic and his little brother from setting off pressure-cooker bombs. Yes, it might stop mass murders at schools and malls and movie theaters.

Please, everyone, let’s not generalize this time. All of us are immigrants or the descendents of immigrants, from the First Americans who crossed the Bering Straits to the latest waves from around the world, seeking safety and prosperity. Whether your people arrived on the Mayflower or an illegal boat from Cuba, you have a right to make a life here, as the Statue of Liberty attests. The tide of public and Congressional sentiment even seems to have turned regarding illegal immigrants.

This time, let’s not let a fanatic and his impressionable teenage brother make us judge an entire faith, an entire community, on the actions of two people. Yes, the Boston bombings were horrible. No, the Muslim community didn’t do them. Please live up to your legacy as Americans and show the acceptance, warmth, and welcome to our Muslim neighbors that has made our country what it is. If you’d like to delve deeper, there is a book, The Muslim Next Door, that might help you better understand how very much we have in common with our Muslim neighbors. Check it out on Amazon or B&N.com.

‘Til next time,




1. William - April 26, 2013

I have studied Islam since I was 12; this makes it around 30 years of study for me. You make valid points about hatred and acts of violence. Even though I would not seek out people in an act of revenge or hatred, I can not agree with commonality of Islam and Christianity or me. Islam relates more closely with a different ideology. No, not all Muslims are hateful people.

Thanks, William! You’re so right, not all Muslims are hateful people, and the same is true of all people, however hard it is for us to understand them.

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