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Innocent until proven Muslim

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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.

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer based in Sydney. She writes the Sharp Edges column at Shadowproof and politics at Paste Magazine. She tweets at @roqchams.

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40 Responses

  1. bpm on April 16, 2013, 8:54 pm

    The tragedy is that America is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslim innocents during the past decade. We are terrorist murderers. May God forgive us.

    • CloakAndDagger on April 16, 2013, 11:22 pm


      God may. The victims won’t. Nor will their compatriots.
      Karma is a bitch.

    • just on April 16, 2013, 11:25 pm

      Yep. Well said. We are also responsible for the incarceration, the horrific maiming, and the creation of chaos and despair for millions of people.

    • ryan-o on April 17, 2013, 4:21 pm

      The US military and foreign policy are definitely terrorist murderers responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the Muslim world. I’m not a big fan of saying we since that implies individual responsibility on my part. I have nothing to do with it, I just live here.

  2. Bumblebye on April 16, 2013, 9:00 pm

    I think a lot of the world’s mopes try to say the nastiest thing possible just in their effort to be noticed. It’s pretty pathetic.
    As for the young Saudi, he’s been completely cleared and released (it was his apartment that was searched), and said to be a victim just as much as anyone else.
    I’ve also heard a reputable security expert say the bombing is more likely to be an act of domestic terrorism carried out by a lone individual, partly due to the type and style and the lack of anyone claiming responsibility.
    The silliest thing I’ve heard so far was when one of the surgeons was answering questions from the press pack, and one asked (or rather, demanded that he say) that he had learned his trauma skills from the Israelis! What on earth?! Surgeon denied it and sounded as bewildered as I was at the weirdness of that one.

  3. just on April 16, 2013, 9:41 pm

    Well, Bush and Cheney’s plan worked.

    The vast majority of Americans are rampantly Islamophobic and ignorant. Most don’t know history, have no clue about geography or geopolitics, and have no idea about culture or religions. They remember everything about yesterday and this morning, and that is about it. They’ve traveled only as far as the nearest Disney, or an all- inclusive, ‘safe’ resort in the Caribbean far away from the scary ‘natives’, and that is their high point in teaching their children. They come back from Europe and they complain bitterly about the people that aren’t civilized enough to speak English to them.

    (I know there are exceptions– many due to Mondoweiss & a few other sites, and clear thinking, educated folks with humanity).

    So, thank you Mondoweiss & Roqayah Chamseddine.

  4. radii on April 16, 2013, 10:58 pm

    my money’s on yet another angry citizen white guy right-winger

    … also our media focuses on the dramatic – yes, it was terrorism and limbs were gruesomely blown off, and 3 people (so far) died yet every 17 minutes someone in America dies from a gun and every 12 minutes in a car accident – where is their breathless wall-to-wall “breaking news” media coverage?

    • Citizen on April 17, 2013, 9:28 am

      @ radii
      Yeah? Well, maybe it was an ex US Army vet with expertise in disarming street bombs who came back from his fifth assignment to Iraq/Afghanistan? You know how they keep sending them back since our military volunteers only total 1% of the able-bodied adult Americans. Maybe his or her resentment slowly built, due to gaining more knowledge of what our wars were, and why, due to seeing friends die, be maimed horribly, had more than a touch of PSTD; maybe got tired of dealing with the VA bureaucrats, tired of cheap “thank you for your service,” and maybe doesn’t like how some congress critters have proposed to ban ex-combat vets from owning guns, and doesn’t like it that the bank foreclosed on his family’s home while he was stationed far away, yet again, over there–the place of IUDs and Drones? Maybe wondered if he/she was insane, or was it all those folks out there, running around the Boston Marathon with perfectly intact legs, arms, pocketbooks? Would that be a surprise?

  5. seafoid on April 17, 2013, 12:51 am

    It’s a very dangerous time for Sikhs as well.

    Hating Muslims is big business. Go Fortune 500.

    What a mess. And anyone who thought the internet/social media would lead to a flowering of our intellectual discourse obviously needs a rethink.

    • Sumud on April 17, 2013, 7:47 am

      It’s a very dangerous time for Sikhs as well.

      This is true. I used to work with a Sikh chap in the mid 2000s and he said more than one bogan Aussie (that’s white trash in American) has abused him on the street with islamophobic taunts.

      It really tells you the education level of these idiots.

      • seafoid on April 17, 2013, 10:33 am

        The whole reason Sikhism came into being was opposition to the Islamic Mughal empire.

        It’s is beyond cretinism to attack Sikhs because of hatred of Muslims.

  6. tokyobk on April 17, 2013, 12:58 am

    This is the posh stance of the elite and in-the-know but its not true by anything measurable. The Islamophobia, sadly yes. Polls such as Zogby show mistrust and dislike of Arabs and Muslims among Americans. In pockets these numbers are terrifyingly high.

    General Ignorance about the world and history. The rude American asks compared to whom? America still publishes the most books and has the highest rated Universities where people from all over the world congregate at the entrances. When France elects and French man or woman of North African Descent to its highest office, when England elects a South Asian and the “royal family” marries a Catholic or someone brown then I will listen to lectures about American diversity and ignorance of the world. America is the world and places like NYC and Silicon Valley are the embodiment of cosmopolitain diversity and closer to meritocratic than 99% of the rest of the planet.

    US is consistently in the top three of world travelers spending tens of billions of dollars in other countries. Yes, there are idiots abroad just as their are snobs who look down on Americans out of spite and player hatred (and yes America’s imperialism too).

    • Cliff on April 17, 2013, 5:15 am


      I’ve seen Islamophobia up front and close since I’m brown skinned.

      I love our country.

      But I don’t think the vast majority of Americans power Silicon Valley or make all those technical wonders (ideas).

      It’s the same as it is everywhere else. There’s innovators and there’s followers. You need followers to do the heavy lifting though.

      I agree with what you’re saying but we also have the highest incarceration rate. We have a prison population greater than any other industrialized country.

      We have greater divide between rich and poor than any industrialized country.

      We have committed horrible atrocities towards others.

      People have said we are a new Rome. We’re probably greater than Rome we’ll have to leave that to history.

      Rome had plenty of problems too.

      And while there is no where else (maybe the UK or maybe Japan) I would live, pointing out our xenophobia and the effect of government and MSM’s successful fear-mongering is important if we ever want to normalize relations with the Islamic community.

      We are not going to get better by patting ourselves on the back.

      People are the same. You change when you endure hardship or criticism or face adversity.

      We see this Islamic terrorism (not the Boston bombing, since we do not know yet) as adversity.

      So it is important to guide people to the right conclusions. By right, all I would presume to be right is something that is not hateful and fascist.

      • mikeo on April 17, 2013, 8:48 am

        “People have said we are a new Rome. We’re probably greater than Rome”

        I think that could be an exaggeration.

        America is young and some Americans seem to lack historical perspective…


        The Roman Empire was the first great western super power. At its height it counted at least 50 million subjects and covered about two millions square miles (about half the size of modern China). Since the dawn of recorded history, the Western world had been composed of city-states—small political entities that often fought and sacked another and resisted attempts to forge large empires.

        What was so extraordinary about the Roman Empire was not it size—other conquerors such as the Mongols ruled larger empires—but it is longevity. Rome presided over a large empire made up of multitude of races and ethnic groups for nearly five centuries. In contracts, the great empires of the Mongols, Spain and England lasted for only a few centuries at the most.

      • Cliff on April 17, 2013, 4:18 pm

        This is what I meant. The thing that made the Roman Empire great was its longevity.

        So history will judge us.

      • RoHa on April 17, 2013, 8:34 pm

        “the great empires of the Mongols, Spain and England”

        It was called the British Empire because it was supposed to be the empire of all Britain, not just England.

        Of course, some of the Welsh and Scots would have said that Wales and Scotland were imperial possessions of England, but others simply accepted that they were British and took part in buliding, running, and profiting from the Empire.

      • seafoid on April 17, 2013, 9:16 am


        Your post reminded me of this

  7. Justpassingby on April 17, 2013, 5:35 am

    Reason is that this hatred is possible because we live in a society where its ok to with prejudice against muslims as a group.

    Just check the news about these topics, bigotted and hateful when it comes to middle easterners, or check the oscar winner Argo. How could you not hate muslims?

    You would have to go beyond Stormfront to find the same type of hate against jews but when it comes to muslims these people have no problem saying this with their name and photo on twitter.

    Also its a sign of ignorance, most americans still dont understand what their government have been doing in the middle east for atleast 50 years. That doesnt justify terrorism it however put things in perspective why middle east dislike US acts against them.

  8. Sumud on April 17, 2013, 8:12 am

    Also its a sign of ignorance, most americans still dont understand what their government have been doing in the middle east for atleast 50 years. That doesnt justify terrorism it however put things in perspective why middle east dislike US acts against them.

    I find this clip to be very helpful in explaining rapidly why there is so much animus to the US in the Middle East (and a lot of other nations also). When you show people, remind them Iraq’s population at the beginning of the 1990s was just 30 million people:

    Madeleine Albright – 60 Minutes

    Percentage wise, for a country the size of the US that would be 5 million children. US policy on Iraq is one of 3 motivating factors cited in the 9/11 commission report, the 2 being US troops on Saudi soil and the ongoing travesty in Palestine.

    There’s also the great Ron Paul ad made by one of his PACs last year:

    Imagine Armed Chinese Troops Invaded Texas

  9. gingershot on April 17, 2013, 9:15 am

    The usual Neocon and Israeli clowns – Steve Emerson, Fran Townsend, O’Reilly, Krauthammer and all the rest – are all jumping up to try to score a few points before anyone figures anything out.

    Senate Resolution 65 passed out of Lindsey Grahman’s Senate committee – urging the US Congress to disband and pledge fealty to the Knesset and support Netanyahu carte blanche

    These Zionists are relentless – methodical and relentless. How is the US ever going to root these guys out?

    • Citizen on April 17, 2013, 9:50 am

      Gonna be hard to root them out. One needs to imagine Pam Gellar as an alternate version of David Duke or AH. She has lots of public access despite the simple fact that she constantly conflates all Muslims into terrorists. Her reasoning? She points to Sharia Law. Her supporters think it’s she who is the often-muzzled victim because she is telling truth to the PTB. Most Americans don’t know that just as Pam points to Sharia Law, historical anti-semite leaders in the last century pointed, inter alia, to the Talmud….

      And obviously, it does not help that the image of the Arab via Hollywood and our mainstream media history has always been negative. While the converse is true for Jews–I mean, Paul Newman in Exodus?

  10. Eva Smagacz on April 17, 2013, 11:34 am

    “These Zionists are relentless – methodical and relentless. How is the US ever going to root these guys out?”

    Your comment brings to mind “The Protocols of Elders of Zion”. But in a reflective sense. I remember in Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” Al Pacino’s character Roy Cohn threatens to sue and destroy his doctor for daring to even attempt to label him as homosexual. But he admitted to fucking men.

    Pointing out that Zionists ( which they say is a veiled way of saying Jews) activities follow “Protocols” like a manual for gaining political clout will label you as an Antisemite..

    But Zionists (who, by heavy margin, proudly identify themselves as Jews) brag about their political prowess and heavy duty influence and openly admit to ways (listed in “Protocols”) that they use to achieve political ends.

    • annie on April 17, 2013, 1:34 pm

      Your comment brings to mind “The Protocols of Elders of Zion”…..Pointing out that Zionists ( which they say is a veiled way of saying Jews) activities follow “Protocols” like a manual for gaining political clout will label you as an Antisemite..

      eva, you copied/pasted gingershot, who referenced these zionists after naming specific people and a specific committee. saying ‘zionist’ is not a veiled way of saying jew. but we all know these accusations by now, i would assume.

      • Eva Smagacz on April 17, 2013, 4:18 pm

        Annie, yes, it alters the sense. This shows that English is not my first language.

      • annie on April 17, 2013, 10:45 pm

        no worries eva, for second language you keep up extremely well!

    • Cliff on April 17, 2013, 4:27 pm

      Eva I agree in part.

      Awhile back MW, covered the Reut Institute’s report on BDS and international isolation that Israel faced.

      Their suggestion was for Zionists to get friendly with liberals and the movers and shakers of the liberal / progressive establishment. To get ‘friendly’ with liberal Hollywood personalities and to bring those people over to Israel’s side.

      So much of these antisemitic memes are absurd caricatures of Jews but there is sometime some truth to them. The only point where something is absolutely antisemitic is when it conflates the notion with ALL Jews or when the notion is so absurdly illogical contextually (‘Jews killed Jesus’).

    • ryan-o on April 17, 2013, 4:30 pm

      “Zionist” is not a veiled way of saying Jewish and (since it relates) neither is neoconservative or neocon. Whoever was the first person(s) to come up with that association probably did it in order to to help silence criticism of neocons and zionists. On the flip side, the mainstream media likes to call the Zionist lobby “the Jewish lobby” and refer to Israelis as “the Jews” which implies an unfair association between American Jews and Israelis. That way they can frame criticism of Israel or Zionism as antisemitism (they STILL do it even though it’s less common on the internet thankfully)

  11. MHughes976 on April 17, 2013, 12:53 pm

    I don’t think I’m influenced by the clowns you mentioned but I would be really surprised if an attack with this symbolism did not have roots in the ME, though I’ve no idea how the plant has grown or through what compost of conspirators and provocateurs. The domestic terrorists would surely target something connected with their bugbear, The Federal Government, not the American – and wider Western – world celebrating health, fun and family.
    This is a time to feel sorrow for victims. We who argue for the mistakeness of Zionism and for the legitimacy of Palestine shouldn’t give ourselves the airs of victims but we should prepare ourselves for dark days and for rhetorical thunderstorms breaking over our heads. It will be in part the thunder and lightning of clowns but it will be severe.

  12. JustJessetr on April 17, 2013, 3:13 pm

    Oh good! I couldn’t find a way introduce Zionism to the topic of the Boston Marathon. But you guys could! THanks!

    • annie on April 17, 2013, 10:55 pm

      scratch an islamophobe and there’s a good chance you might find a gooey zionist center inside.

    • kalithea on April 18, 2013, 12:17 am

      Well when Zionists like Jane Harman make a connection between the Boston Tragedy and the Munich Olympics tragedy in one breathe on cable news minutes after the explosion WITHOUT THE FACTS…who incited the viral bigotry?

  13. DICKERSON3870 on April 17, 2013, 3:29 pm

    RE: “[I]t came time to go through Twitter’s dreaded search bar to comb through reactions… 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.” ~ by Roqayah Chamseddine

    MY COMMENT: Talk about “cowardly” acts/tweets! ! ! This is part of the reason that although I strongly support the “the right of free speech”, I half-jokingly refer to Twitter as “the devils’ workshops”.
    Although it is certainly possible that this is the work of Islamic terrorists, I can’t help but see certain similarities to the Centennial Olympic Park bombing during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
    Also, this bombing occurred on April 15th, the last day for filing tax returns in the US. This is a date that has become very significant for right-wing extremist groups in this country (but it does not seem particularly significant for Islamic terrorists). Consequently, I am reminded somewhat of the February 2010 incident where a single engine plane was crashed into an Austin, Texas office park that housed FBI and IRS offices killing two people in addition to the pilot.
    Of course, anything is possible, but it is sad that American’s can’t even wait a few hours so as to collect some information (and give it a little thought) before they begin wildly speculating about the perpetrators. It is even sadder (and not entirely coincidental) that the mainstream/corporate media encourages and disseminates this nearly instantaneous speculation based upon so precious few facts. But, I guess it “pays the bills”, especially the lavish, inflated salaries of their upper management, and their multi-million dollar celebrity ‘news presenters’*.

    * SEE: “The Day That TV News Died”, By Chris Hedges, Truthdig, 3/24/13
    LINK –

    • DICKERSON3870 on April 17, 2013, 3:33 pm

      P.S. RE: “The Day That TV News Died”


      “Shadows of Liberty” reveals the extraordinary truth behind the news media: censorship, cover-ups and corporate control.
      Filmmaker Jean-Philippe Tremblay takes a journey through the darker corridors of the US media, where global conglomerates call the shots. For decades, their overwhelming influence has distorted news journalism and compromised its values.
      In highly revealing stories, renowned journalists, activists and academics give insider accounts of a broken media system. Controversial news reports are suppressed, people are censored for speaking out, and lives are shattered as the arena for public expression is turned into a private profit zone.Tracing the story of media manipulation through the years, Shadows of Liberty poses a crucial question: why have we let a handful of powerful corporations write the news? We’re left in no doubt – media reform is urgent and freedom of the press is fundamental.

      SOURCE –

      Internet Movie Database –


    • DICKERSON3870 on April 17, 2013, 4:05 pm

      P.P.S. ALSO RE: [I]t came time to go through Twitter’s dreaded search bar to comb through reactions… 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. ~ by Roqayah Chamseddine

      SEE: “How the Power of Myth Keeps Us Mired in War”, by Ira Chernus,, 01/20/11

      [EXCERPT] . . . White Americans, going back to early colonial times, generally assigned the role of ‘bad guys’ to ‘savages’ lurking in the wilderness beyond the borders of our civilized land. Whether they were redskins, commies, terrorists, or the Taliban, the plot has always remained the same.
      Call it the myth of national security — or, more accurately, national insecurity, since it always tells us who and what to fear.
      It’s been a mighty (and mighty effective) myth. . .

      SOURCE –

  14. kalithea on April 18, 2013, 12:20 am

    Ahh, America, land of dreams, you can smell the racism in the air.

    • biorabbi on April 20, 2013, 4:02 pm

      Kalithea, America, land of dreams, you can smell the racism in the air…

      unlike Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Palestine… true respect for dissent in said lands… LOL. Give it a rest.

  15. LanceThruster on April 20, 2013, 1:37 am

    I cringed hearing Bill Maher tonight asking, in light of Boston, shouldn’t we act more like the Israelis? In context he meant the “keep calm, carry on” stoicism, but it’s a frightening meme to float out there that Israel knows how to keep their Muslims in line, can use the powers of the state as both culprit and enforcer, and that we should adopt their model to any degree. Maybe they offered to train our leaders and security forces in how to always be able to find patsies to pull off the most brazen acts in plain site.

  16. RoHa on April 20, 2013, 7:22 am

    “In context he meant the “keep calm, carry on” stoicism”

    But that sort of attitude is mostly associated with the British.

    • LanceThruster on April 21, 2013, 12:42 am

      He said that Israelis do not wet their pants at every act of terror, as opposed to Americans. I just chafe at the rec to be more like the Israelis as I see no advantage to living within the umbrella of a police state while being eternally fearful/suspicious of the “other.”

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