Tonawanda News


May 8, 2013

Boston's lesson: Closer ties can help


Tonawanda News — And yet, to hear the people who knew these brothers express their genuine shock should give us all pause.

In the post-9/11 haze, the government demanded “vigilance” from the citizenry. For too many this meant being suspicious of anyone with brown skin.

(It’s worth pointing out the Tsarnaev brothers weren’t Arabs or Africans but Eastern European Muslims who eschewed the stereotype of an al Qaida terrorist.)

But here’s the truth: If we are to remain vigilant against these kinds of attacks in the future we must fully embrace religious diversity and forge intercultural bonds that foster understanding.

After all, a Muslim pacifist and a Muslim extremist — let alone one with violent ambitions — don’t look any different. And they don’t sound any different if all you’re willing to hear is the hate-filled agenda you’ve already prescribed to an entire religion.

There is a government policy lesson here as well. With many law enforcement agencies — particularly the New York Police Department — trying to infiltrate and cull intelligence from young Islamic men living here, how likely is it that peaceful, patriotic American Muslims will report what they believe is suspicious behavior in their own ranks?

Imagine if Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s imam had a better relationship — any relationship at all, really — with the local police. Perhaps he would have considered reporting what has been described in hindsight as odd, anti-American outbursts during prayer services.

The only way to begin discerning who might be a target for radicalization is to learn what separates a radical from the pack. That means getting to know the pack.

Mudd described the Tsarnaev brothers’ allegiance to radical Islam as nothing more than a desperate young man’s flailing attempt to ascribe meaning and purpose to his frustrated life.

“They’re angry kids with a veneer of ideology that’s about skin-deep,” Mudd said.

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