News & Politics

Boston Bombing Is a Tragedy, But Let's Not Rush to Blame Muslims or People of Arab Descent

It's normal to be scared, but it's worth recalling what happened after 9/11.

As the bloody and shocking images of the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday spread, so too did the fear of Islamic terrorism as media rumors and news leaks, from the NY Postand CBS-TV, alleged that a Saudi national was under guard at a Boston hospital.

Almost immediately predictable hysterical right-wing voices jumped into the debate -- and surprisingly were featured on liberal -- including the anti-Muslim media hound Pam Geller, who immediately blamed a Jihadi for the bombing. Right wing blogger Jennifer Rubin sarcastically called it a "local crime story" in reference to the totally inaccurate right wing trope that the liberal media didn't cover Kermit Gosnell, the abortionist on trial in Philadelphia for murder and malpractice. Salon also featured conspiracist Alex Jones, who went totally in the other direction called the Boston explosion a government conspiracy.

Even if it is confirmed that the horrendous attack on the people of Boston and their heralded Marathon, was committed by a person or persons of Muslim descent, it should not cast aspersions and drum up fear and hatred on the millions of peaceful and law abiding muslims living in America. After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the same Islamophobic accusations were made. The bomber was a white American, a man who hated the federal government and took up an armed struggle on his own: Timothy McVeigh.
But as the LA Times reported then, such media finger pointing leads to real violence against innocent people who are racially profiled—judged guilty by the color of their skin or clothes that they wear. Americans are supposed to better than this in the 21st century, but some of the media organizations with big megaphones are not.

In Washington, D.C., cooler heads were prevailing, because as President Obama said a few hours later, whoever was behind the Boston attacks is still unknown.

“Earlier today, I was briefed by my homeland security team on the events in Boston. We’re continuing to monitor and respond to the situation as it unfolds,” he said. “We don’t yet have all the answers. But we do know that multiple people have been wounded, some gravely, in explosions at the Boston Marathon.”

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, said that the attack had all the hallmarks of a terrorist operation, but she did not know by who. “It could be foreign, it could be homegrown,” ABC New’s live blog reported.

In the meantime, the federal and local governments did what they always does in unfolding moments of crisis—it pulls out the stops to be cautious. Boston cellphone service was temporarily shut down to prevent remote detonations. The Federal Aviation Administration shut down airspace in Boston. New York City deployed 1,000 cops to possible targets. Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed. Nuclear plants upped their security.

The bombings will doubtlessly have an impact in Congress, when border security comes up in the immigration reform debate. But whether or not the Boston bombings will lead to a lingering but disproportionate reaction by government security agencies remains to be seen. We know how Islamophobic media will respond, but let's hope the public and government knows better.


Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018