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May 16th, 2013
04:33 PM ET

My Take: What Tsarnaev gets wrong about Islam

Editor’s note: Hussein Rashid is a native New York Muslim. He teaches at Hofstra University in the Department of Religion. He is an associate editor at Religion Dispatches, a term member on the Council on Foreign Relations and fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding

By Hussein Rashid, Special to CNN

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bomb suspects, reportedly wrote that “an attack against one Muslim is an attack against all” on the wall of the boat in which he was hiding from police last month. Variations of this refrain seem to be common among angry young Muslim men, especially those who are attracted to violence. However, such a view ignores history, religious thinking and contemporary reality. It should be seen as a crass advertising slogan rather than a declaration of belief.

Tsarnaev's quote seems to be based on the idea of a global Muslim community, called the ummah, that has always been aspirational. The Tsarnaev brothers clearly felt that they were being marginalized, and the fact that they did not belong to an American Muslim community further reinforced that belief. So the brothers turned to the idea of the ummah, a historical fiction that has not existed in practice in all of Muslim history. Muslims are too varied to connect to one way of being a community.

What we are witnessing in Syria, what we saw in Egypt or in Iran during the Green Revolution, is that Muslims kill other Muslims for political gain, and the idea of the ummah is broken. There is no sense from the brothers that they would have been able to understand or choose sides in these conflicts.

Suspect: Boston bombing was payback for hits on Muslims 

However, the slogan worked its magic, allowing them to see aspiration as reality and one that they could achieve. Unfortunately, their nemesis became America, including the millions of Muslims living in America.

There is no universal, binding legal command for all Muslims to support each other at all times. Even if there were, throughout Islamic history, it has been observed in its breach rather than in practice.

Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali, was assassinated while praying, and Mohammed’s favorite grandson, Husayn, was murdered after being denied food and water for days. Both of these acts were committed by people who considered themselves Muslim.

Even in the modern period, we see al Qaeda slaughtering thousands upon thousands of Muslims. Tsarnaev may have felt aggrieved by attacks on Muslims, but he sided with a group that wantonly kills other Muslims. He believed the false assumption, shared by extremists and Islamophobes, that one cannot be American and Muslim.

Within Islamic thought, there is not a sense that everything a Muslim does is automatically good. In fact, the Quran calls on believers to compete with people in doing good in the world, and that competition is expressly not limited to Muslims but to all people.

There is also a sense that Muslims must work toward a more just society by encouraging good works and discouraging bad ones and help others to do the same. This last premise is one that seems to have been exercised by the community of the Islamic Society of Boston, which attempted to correct the elder Tsarnaev brother's misreading of Islamic tradition.

Protesting government policies that reduce justice and harm people is an obligation by virtue of being American and Muslim, and it is a right. However, to protest the death of civilians by killing civilians shows a lack of commitment to justice and only a desire for power.

The American Muslim community has a rich history of demanding and working toward justice, including Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Lupe Fiasco and Mos Def. Individuals like Manar Waheed of South Asian Americans Leading Together and Muneer Panjwani of Do Something are actively building a more equitable and just society in America, and they are competing with others to do good.

Tsarnaev may believe that an attack against one Muslim is an attack against all, but he must then question where he sees himself, because on that day in Boston, he attacked Muslims, too. He may have accepted a slogan as faith, but to do so, he had to willfully forget all the varieties of ways one can be Muslim.

For me, and many other American Muslims, faith is believing that you can affect positive change in the world and being willing to commit to do the hard work necessary to build with other people.

Timeline: Boston attack, aftermath

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Hussein Rashid.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam

soundoff (322 Responses)
  1. Victor Leigh

    Reblogged this on AreesPortals and commented:
    Some food for thought.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
  2. Mike

    Muslims kill period. Muslims kill innocent non-Muslims. Muslims also kill Muslims. Muslims just need any excuse to kill others. We all know that. So, what is the point author is trying to make here?

    May 27, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Susan

      People kill. Some people will use any excuse to kill inocent people. It's not specific to Muslims.

      May 27, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    May 27, 2013 at 6:19 am |
    • banasy©

      Prayer changed Mohammed into a pedophile. Prayer does change things.

      May 27, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • .

      mohammed didn't pray prayer involves talking to God mo talked to an idol allah is not God

      May 27, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Science

      GOOD NEWS...............faith the peachy one......chad too.......you know all creationists too......... story = truth !

      http://www.ibtimes.com/atheists-fight-gideon-bibles-books-christopher-hitchens-richard-dawkins-georgia-state-parks-

      1271125

      Science books and education TRUMPS the 666 beast and the red horn-y devil !

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/05/when-christians-become-a-hated-minority/

      Have a great life and Memorial day.

      Peace

      PS...........by the way there has NEVER been a red horn-y devil.

      May 27, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  4. Haime52

    Matthew 5:38Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

    43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

    Where, may I ask, is the hate here? If truly practiced, would not the world be a better place? I posit that those who do not practice love are unconverted and therefore not real Christians. Love does not mean agreeing or condoning whatever others do, merely not harming them. Today, many feel that if you disagree with them , you must hate them. That if your moral code is in opposition to my moral code, we have to be enemies. A shame we can't get along, but religion, in and of itself, is not to blame. It is all in how it is practiced. Atheism has had many bad actors too, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, etc. , most Christian do not point to them as how all atheists act, so why characterize all Christian by the bad actors?

    May 25, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  5. wjmccartan

    Using religion for war goes back to the beginning of developed societies. Getting rid of them would be a better place to start, because obviously after 3000 years of one and 2000 years of another and 1335 years of another nothing has changed for these children of god. The hatred of some is as fresh as day the books were written. If after all this time you haven't got it right then your not going to, so if you wish to keep the books around as historical artifacts then that's all they should be known as and nothing more. At least it would cast aside many of the reasons people use to stigmatize one and other, and then hate. Hatred is pretty much the only thing we don't need to carry with us as human beings.

    May 23, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • Haime52

      Any which atheistic society do you point to as a model?

      May 25, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  6. His panic

    Even if they are not in a state of total Panic they are still in a state of fanatic anger for no reason at all. Which proves to me that those who trust in God and in Jesus Christ God's only Son will not panic.

    May 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  7. DB

    I appreciate what the professor was saying - most of the comments probably didn't even bother reading it before launching into some nonsense. The irony is that the professor's tolerant, humane interpretation of Islam, which is a model for any mature religion, would not be tolerated/accepted in most Muslim countries. Only in the West, it seems, can a compassionate, humane version of Islam be practiced - the same place that the majority of Muslims of the world, for whatever reason, vilify. Islamic thinkers helped preserve a great deal of Western learning during the European Dark Ages - maybe the West is returning the favor if Muslims like the professor are allowed to maintain some kind of fire-wall against the idiots (e.g., the Boston Marathon bombers) that demean their faith . . . actually that demean all human beings in general.

    May 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • Haime52

      Interesting that during the middle ages, it was the Muslim world that lead Europe in science and arts. Now, it would seem, many of the extremists wish to have the opposite be true.

      May 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  8. Mark Rcca

    since I'm not Muslim, all these explanations of what "real" Islam is, and what the "mistaken" Islam is, are entirely irrelevant. I'm not interested in what the "correct" Islam is. I'm only interested in who is a threat to me, and who comes in peace. I understand that there are Muslims who are peaceful, and there are "angry young Muslim men, especially those who are attracted to violence". Problem is, both of these parties call themselves Islam/Muslim. How do I know who is who? How do I know who is a threat, and who comes in peace?

    May 21, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Rocky

      Mark, there are men of peace and men of violence in every religion. You cannot know a man is a threat by the color of his skin, the clothes he wears or his religion. If you are as logical as you claim, you would see this fallacy immediately and pick more rational ways by which to judge the state of your personal safety.

      May 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Chico

    Then Mr. Rashid, why did President Obama go to such great lengths to give Osama Bin Laden a proper Muslim burial? I know many Christians, and none would complain or care if you threw the body of a Christian demagogue and murderer into a sewer and urinated on him for years after death - or while he was alive. Also, what of the Muslim prohibition against "backbiting"?

    May 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Buck Mast

      something to think about-why do over 80% of the Muslim Mosques in America carry literature promoting the killing of non-Muslime and a "holy War" against Israel.Also in 42 Islamic -ruled countries ALL other religions are illegal

      May 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Don't be so stupid.

      @buckmast. Where did you get your stats from? Sounds like propaganda to me.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:53 am |
  10. david campbell100

    Nevaeh. I can see what your saying... Kathryn`s rep0rt is unimaginable, last saturday I got a new Buick from having earned $7699 this-past/5 weeks and-more than, ten k this past month. no-doubt about it, this really is my favourite-work Ive ever had. I started this three months/ago and pretty much immediately made myself minimum $72.. per-hr. I work through this website............ Fℴx85. ℂℴm

    May 21, 2013 at 3:12 am |
    • Buck Mast

      Islam and Judaism's holiest holidays overlapped for 10 days.In this period of time Muslims racked up 379 dead bodies in 94 terror attacks across 10 countries while at the same time the Jews were working on their 159th Nobel Peace Prize

      May 21, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  11. Reality

    Only for the eyes of Muslims who may have missed this important message:

    Ending the stupidity of it all quickly and peacefully:

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi––

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings
    be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

    May 17, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    Reality

    فقط من أجل عيون المسلمين:

    إنهاء غباء من كل ذلك بسرعة وبشكل سلمي:

    من الدراسات من أرمسترونغ، رشدي، هيرسي علي، ريتشاردسون والبيهقي -–

    في خمس خطوات لأبطل تأثير 1400 سنة من الأساطير الإسلامية:

    (-خطوات اتخاذ أقل من دقيقتين لإنهاء-ببساطة مدهشة، دقيقتين لإحلال السلام والعقلانية إلى أكثر من مليار فقدت النفوس لا تقدر بثمن!)

    هل أنت مستعد؟

    استخدام "الفروع الإسلامية 77 من" الإيمان "مجموعة الإمام البيهقي المترجمة كنقطة انطلاق. في ذلك، وهو ما يفسر الفضائل الأساسية التي تعكس صحيح" الإيمان "(إيمان) من خلال الآيات القرآنية ذات الصلة، وأحاديث نبوية." أي ملخص لطيفة من المعتقدات القرآن والإسلامية.

    الخمسة الأولى من الفروع 77:

    "1. الإيمان بالله"

    كما يعرف أيضا باسم الله، الرب، زيوس، الرب، الطبيعة الأم، وما إلى ذلك يجب أن تضاف إلى الخلايا العصبية التطهير الذاتي الخاص.

    "2. إلى الاعتقاد بأن كل شيء غيرها مما كان الله غير موجود. بعد ذلك، الله سبحانه وتعالى خلق هذه الأشياء، وبعد ذلك جاءوا إلى حيز الوجود."

    التطور والانفجار الكبير أو "غي ب G-NAB" (عند بدء الكون لإعادة تدوير) هي أكثر ترجيحا وينبغي أن تدرج في "المندرجة" في سبيل الله إذا كنت لا تزال تشكل "بجمعية العقارات، tionist".

    "3. إلى الاعتقاد في وجود الملائكة."

    A بندا رئيسيا لتطهير الخلايا العصبية. الملائكة / دي VILS هي الإبداعات الأسطورية من الحضارات القديمة، على سبيل المثال HITT خائبي، لشرح / تعريف الأحداث الطبيعية، والاتصالات مع آلهتهم، والطيور الكبيرة، والرياح المفاجئة، وحماة خلال الليالي المظلمة، وما إلى ذلك لا "ثينجيس افسح المجال ل جميلة / UG-LY" بزيارة أي وقت مضى أو تحدثت إلى محمد، يسوع، مريم أو يوسف أو جو سميث. اليوم سوف نصنف الملائكة كما F-airies و "القصدير كير تكون LLS". تصنف الحديثة دو VILS مثل دي مونس هيئة اجتثاث mented.

    "4. إلى الاعتقاد بأن جميع الكتب السماوية التي تم إرسالها إلى الأنبياء مختلفة صحيحا. ومع ذلك، وبصرف النظر عن القرآن، كل الكتب الأخرى ليست صالحة بعد الآن."

    ومن البنود الرئيسية في حذفها. لا يوجد كتب في ولاية روح السماء (إذا كان هناك واحد) فقط حيث لم تعد هناك ملائكة لكتابة / نشر / توزيعها. القرآن، OT، NT وما هي ببساطة الكتب التي كتبت من قبل البشر للبشر.

    اخترعت الأنبياء من قبل الكتبة القديمة عادة للحفاظ على الجماهير غير المتعلمة في الخط. اليوم ونحن ندعو لهم فرز الأصوات للتناغم.

    النبوءات كما invali مؤرخة من قبل الطبيعية / الله / الله الهدايا من الإرادة الحرة والمستقبل.

    "5. إلى الاعتقاد بأن جميع الأنبياء صحيحا. ومع ذلك، ونحن مأمورون اتباع النبي محمد (عليه الصلاة والسلام
    صلى الله عليه وسلم) وحده ".

    قضى محمد ثلاثين يوما "الصيام" (أسطورة رمضان) في كهف الساخن قبل أول اتصال له مع الله الملقب الخ الله عبر "ممتزوجات افسح المجال ل جميلة". الحس السليم يتطلب حذف الخلايا العصبية من # 5. # 5 هو أيضا المصدر الرئيسي للالاسلامي VI-olence أي تحول محمد "سريع، يحركها الجوع" hallu-cinations إلى واقع فظيع لغير المؤمنين.

    المشي هذه خمس خطوات، ونحن نضمن الانتعاش الكامل من الطرق الإسلامية الخاصة بك!!

    للأسف، لا توجد العديد من المعلقين مسلم / القراء على هذا بلوق لذلك "مدة دقيقتين" العلاج هو عدم الحصول على لأولئك الذين في حاجة إليها. إذا كان لديك صديق مسلم، ترسل له نسخة وتساعد في إنقاذ العالم.

    تتوفر خطوات مماثلة في طلبك للحصول على deprogramming الأساطير المسيحية واليهودية والبوذية والهندوسية والوثنية ..

    May 21, 2013 at 12:03 am |
  12. Rasterizer

    Time to round up the rageheads and kick them out forever. Let them rage against other Muslims in some backwards country.
    No one has the right to be non-offended. You do not have the right to force other people to speak or not speak of Islam.
    I rub the dog sh-t off my shoe using a koran and burn korans every day using pork grease to start the fire.
    No Muslim has the right to stop me from doing this. No Muslim has the right to stop me burning korans with pork grease.
    Those are my korans. I can do what I want with them. Pork grease works very well. Not even p1ssing on the burning korans will put out the fire, as I have found many times. When they are all gone, we will burn all their korans with pork grease. Not one of them should be allowed to live in America. They are not worthy of anything but pig grease.

    May 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
  13. KTShamim

    Justice. Islam instructs us to act with justice and not be emotional in our decisions.

    [Qur'an 5:9] O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do.

    [Qur'an 4:136] "O ye who believe! be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, ..."

    Muslimsforlife(dot)org – successfully collected 10,000 pints of blood to honor 3,000 dead of 9/11 (by saving 30,000 lives.
    Muslimsforpeace(dot)org – condemning terrorism, promoting Islamic value of loyalty to ones nation, peace, bus-ads and flyers and leaflets to promote the same.

    May 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • Reality

      What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon?

      And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

      The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means.

      Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

      Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.

      Until then, no Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

      http://www.muslimaccess.com/quraan/arabic/005.asp et al

      o "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends." (Surah 5:51)
      o
      "Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons...he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home..." (Surah 8:12-)

      "Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme." (Surah 8:36-)

      "...make war on the leaders of unbelief...Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them..." (Surah 9:12-)

      "Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]...until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Surah 9:27-)

      "It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it." (Surah 9:31-)

      "If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men." (Surah 9:37-)

      "Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home." (Surah 9:73)

      "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them." (Surah 9:121-)

      "Say: 'Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom..." (Surah 17:111)

      "'How shall I bear a child,' she [Mary] answered, 'when I am a virgin...?' 'Such is the will of the Lord,' he replied. 'That is no difficult thing for Him...God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!...Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood..." (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

      "Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him...He has given you the name of Muslims..." (Surah 22:78-)

      "Blessed are the believers...who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)...These are the heirs of Paradise..." (Surah 23:1-5-)

      "Muhammad is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another." (Surah 48:29)

      "Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?...Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents...They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets...Blessed be the name of your Lord..." (Surah 55:52-66-)

      May 21, 2013 at 12:06 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.