The horrific bombing attack on the Boston Marathon this past week left us a whole set of painful questions. These are questions that, at least right now anyway, don’t have easy or satisfying answers. We don’t really know who the Tsarnaev brothers were. We don’t know why they placed bombs at the finish line of the marathon. No one knows why they decided to bring death and suffering to so many people.

I feel compelled to say this because of a rumor campaign that began almost as soon as the suspects were identified. Some people began to murmur about the brothers’ origins and alleged religious beliefs, and they implied that maybe we ought to adjust our laws and our way of looking at the world. Insinuations like these are to be expected in the wake of an event such as this, but what made them especially troubling is that many of them came from some of the most influential institutions in our society.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, argued that the attack highlights the “gaps and loopholes” in the United States’ immigration system. Though both brothers were in the country legally, and though the younger one had recently received naturalized citizenship, their origin in the violent and troubled Russian Republic of Chechnya drew the interest of some lawmakers, who claimed that we might want to reconsider our criteria for allowing individuals to immigrate. Liberal comedian and political commentator Bill Maher lost no time highlighting the alleged faith of the two brothers. As soon as evidence surfaced that they were Muslim, Maher took a moment on his show to state that this was the latest piece of evidence that there is something about Islam that makes its adherents prone to acts of violence.

These comments focus on different facets of this tragedy, but they share the same despicable worldview. In essence, they contend that we can judge a whole nationality and an entire religious tradition by the actions of two individuals. What makes this type of thinking so destructive is that it implies that we can trace the motivation for what they did to their religion and to their ethnicity. Suddenly these two troubled, hateful individuals cease to be human beings with a unique set of motivations. Instead, they become thoughtless cogs in the machinations of their faith or their nationality.

What is most appalling about these insinuations is that their logic is backwards. These two brothers didn’t commit these heinous acts because they were adherents of Islam; they were able to do so only by violating every tenet of a faith that is every bit as peaceful, just, and complex as Judaism or Christianity. Islam is no more responsible for the actions of these two individuals than Judaism is for the racist preaching and terrorist acts of Meir Kahane and his Jewish Defense League. When we attribute the motivation of these actions to something inherent to Islam or the brothers’ place of birth, we commit the double sin of impugning the morality and humanity of millions and detracting from the accountability of these individuals. They made these choices because of the lives they chose to live, not because of the faith or nation into which they were born.

We cannot allow ourselves to begin to presume guilt because of what someone is or where ze is from. These two brothers, if indeed they are guilty, did not commit this heinous act because they were Muslim or from Chechnya. This deed should reflect solely on these two individuals, not on the nameless millions who share the fragile connection of religion or ethnicity. It might be easy to tell to what religion someone adheres, or what hir ethnicity is, but it is far harder to tell what motivates hir life. The sooner we realize that what matters isn’t what someone is, but how ze acts, the sooner we’ll place the responsibility for this tragedy on the shoulders of these two brothers, and not on their faith or ethnicity.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a difference between the Muslim religion and Islamic jihad. The family admits it was pushing hardcore religion on the older brother to keep him away from partying and women. Facts are facts.

  • Anonymous

    “Some people began to murmur about the brothers’ origins and alleged religious beliefs…”

    Is your last name reflective of the blinders you choose to wear?

    You’re like the monkeys: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

    Wake up, Blinderman, the evil is starring you in the face.

  • Anonymous

    “Maher took a moment on his show to state that this was the latest piece
    of evidence that there is something about Islam that makes its adherents
    prone to acts of violence.”

    Gosh, what a shocking suggestion! Just because Islam is unique among all other religions in that its prophet was a violent man, a sexual predator, a megalomaniac and a thieve why would Bill Maher have the temerity to suggest something like that?

    How awful of him to speak the truth. Doesn’t he understand we live in a PC world where being polite and ignoring reality is far more important than speaking the truth?

  • Anonymous

    “…they contend that we can judge a whole nationality and an entire religious tradition by the actions of two individuals.”

    Really, Danny, this statement says more about you than it does about reality.

    If you want reality go visit the Religion of Peace website. Specifically visit the section that keeps tabs on the daily Islamist terrorist attacks across the globe.

    Danny, it is not just two isolated brothers. Earth to Danny…come in please.

  • Anonymous

    Danny, when did you become a water carrier for Islam?


    The Muslim Game:

    other religions down to the level of Islam is one of the most popular strategies
    of Muslim apologists when confronted
    with the spectacle of Islamic violence. Remember Timothy McVeigh, the
    Oklahoma City bomber? How about Anders Breivik, the Norwegian killer? Why pick on Islam if other religions have the same

    The Truth:

    they don’t.

    of what his birth certificate may or may not have said, Timothy McVeigh was not
    a religious man (in fact, he stated explicitly that he was
    and that “science” was his religion). At no time did he credit his deeds to religion, quote
    Bible verses, or claim that he killed for Jesus. His motives are very well
    documented through
    interviews and research. God is never mentioned.

    so-called “members of other faiths” alluded to by Muslims are nearly always just
    nominal members who have no active involvement. They are neither inspired
    by, nor do they credit religion as Muslim terrorists do – and this is what makes
    it a very different matter.

    Islam is
    associated with Islamic terrorism because that is the association that the
    terrorists themselves choose to make.

    Muslims who
    compare crime committed by people who happen to be nominal members of other
    religions to religious terror committed explicitly in the name of Islam are
    comparing apples to oranges.

    Yes, some
    of the abortion clinic bombers were religious (as Muslims enjoy pointing out),
    but consider the scope of the problem. There have been six deadly attacks over
    36 year period in the U.S. Eight people died. This is an average
    of one death every 4.5 years.

    contrast, Islamic terrorists staged nearly ten thousand deadly
    attacks in just the six years following September 11th, 2001. If one goes
    back to 1971, when Muslim armies in Bangladesh began the mass slaughter of
    Hindus, through the years of Jihad in the Sudan, Kashmir and Algeria, and the
    present-day Sunni-Shia violence in Iraq, the number of innocents killed in the
    name of Islam probably
    five million over this same period.