Innocent until proven Muslim

US Politics
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The blood has not yet dried on the streets of Boston after a horrific attack which left three dead and dozens injured, yet the question for many now is not the identity of the perpetrator but how long his beard is.

The local authorities have not identified any suspects yet a plethora of minds have clearly been made up as to who committed this abhorrent act; the hashtag #Muslims went on to trend for hours alongside #MuslimsDidIt:


After checking in with friends in Boston, making sure all those I knew in the area were safe and after posting, a number of times, locations of RedCross blood donation facilities in Massachusetts it came time to go through Twitter’s dreaded search bar to comb through reactions. The main words I chose were #Arab, #Muslim, #Islam and I was not disappointed: a wave of tweets blaming Muslims, applauding a popular call for the deaths of “all Muslims”, an incitement to violence tweeted by Fox News guest Erik Rush, and of course – the slurs: sand niggers, towelheads, sand monkey’s etc.

“Not being racist but…”

The New York Post alleged that a Saudi national had been caught after the attacks, but later authorities acknowledged that this was false, that there was no suspect – let alone a “Saudi”, but this did not stop others from attacking Arabs en masse as a result of such poor, hysterical journalism:

@taratoot1 hahaha looks like it was muslim terrorists who did the boston bombs gas shower the horrible raghead cunts!! — daggers…… (@daggers_1_9) April 16, 2013

And then of course there were the calls to violence:

There are more outright racist, unashamedly vile tweets documented by Public Shaming, a page created by Matt Binder dedicated to exposing “tweets of privilege.” And then there is the plane headed to Chicago which was forced back to Logan Airport, located in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, after passengers heard two men sitting next to each other speaking Arabic. Glenn Greenwald writes in the Guardian:

The rush, one might say the eagerness, to conclude that the attackers were Muslim was palpable and unseemly, even without any real evidence.

[…] the rush to proclaim the guilty party to be Muslim is seen in particular over and over with such events. Recall that on the day of the 2011 Oslo massacre by a right-wing, Muslim-hating extremist, the New York Times spent virtually the entire day strongly suggesting in its headlines that an Islamic extremist group was responsible, a claim other major news outlets (including the BBC and Washington Post) then repeated as fact. The same thing happened with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, when most major US media outlets strongly suggested that the perpetrators were Muslims.

And though these comments appearing online may come across as meaningless, knee-jerk reactions, they are important and must be addressed with as much passion as one would any other calls to violence or racism. Even persons of colour who are often mistaken for being Muslim, due to their complexion or accents or even religious garb, continue to face relentless attacks. In December a man was killed after pushed onto subway rails of an active train in Queens, New York by a woman who thought him to be Muslim: “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up.” Twitter was overcome by despicable xenophobia and Islamophobia to such a degree that people took notice and began sending out warnings to people of colour (POC) in the area who may face backlash:

Islamophobia is real, it is palpable, it is present – but there also exists, shoulder to shoulder, a bit of compassion. Not apologia or tokenization but fellow feeling, an honest and open goodwill of sorts; many on Twitter sort of took over the #Muslims hashtag and began sending out tweets of empathy, of reason and of kindness:

And so it must be said, that though it is often difficult to hear humanity over the racket of gunfire, it is there; even amidst tragedy there is laughter.

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