April 20th, 2013
07:39 PM ET

Muslim leaders condemn bombing suspects

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
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Washington (CNN) - Muslim leaders in Boston and elsewhere have distanced themselves from the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, condemning the deadly terror attack and saying they feared reprisals against their communities.

"I don't care who or what these criminals claim to be, but I can never recognize these criminals as part of my city or my faith community," said Yusufi Vali, executive director for the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the largest mosque in the Boston area.

"All of us Bostonians want these criminals to be brought to justice immediately. I am infuriated at the criminals of these bombings for trying to rip our city apart. We will remain united and not let them change who we are as Bostonians."

Vali said Friday that none of his staff were familiar with the suspects, identified by the FBI as brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19. The elder brother died at a Boston hospital early Friday after a gunbattle with police. Authorities captured the younger man Friday night.

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On Saturday the Islamic Society of Boston Cambridge Masjid, a small mosque in Cambridge, Massachusetts, issued a statement saying both men occasionally attended prayer services there.

"In their visits, they never exhibited any violent sentiments or behavior. Otherwise they would have been immediately reported to the FBI," according to the statement, which was read aloud by a congregant outside the mosque.

"After we learned of their identities, we encouraged anyone who knew them in our congregation to immediate report to law enforcement, which has taken place."

The congregant didn't take questions from reporters. The mosque is not related to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.

Beyond their occasional attendance at services, few other details are known about the brothers' religious practices, apart from remarks by relatives and comments attributed to the elder brother by a photographer, none of which portrayed the brothers as particularly devout.

Messages on a Twitter account attributed to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and posted in the days after the bombings, were broadly secular. Various interviews with high school and college classmates of Dzhokar Tsarnaev offered no hints of a particular interest in religion. Leaders of Boston's Muslim community contacted on Friday said they didn't know the brothers.

However, other parts of the older brother's online and social media presence indicate that he was deeply religious, especially in recent years. His aunt said within the past two years he had begun to pray five times a day. Some of the links on his YouTube channels are to lectures by radical preachers, but the content of those lectures is more to do with religious practice than jihad or Islamist militancy.

Muslim leaders are worried because of past reprisals against their community after terror attacks attributed to members of their faith.

On Friday, the suspects' mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, told Russian Television that her oldest son "got involved in religion five years ago."

"My youngest was raised from 8 years in America, my oldest he was really properly raised in our house," Tsarnaeva said.

"Nobody talked about terrorism. Tamerlan got involved in religion five years ago. Started following his own religion, never told me he could be on side of jihad. He was followed by FBI for three years, knew what he was doing, where on Internet he was going. How could this happen, they were controlling every step of him, now they are saying this is a terrorist act.

"It's impossible for them to do such things. I am really telling you that this is a setup. My son would never keep it in secret. My son, you tell me, my son wouldn't keep it secret. Who would be knowing? If there is anyone who would know it would be me. He wouldn't hide it. But there was never a word."

The suspects' uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, described his nephews as "losers" who happened to be Muslims.

Tsarni told reporters outside his home in Montgomery Village, Maryland, that his nephews' religion played no role in the attacks.

"Anything else to do with religion, with Islam, it's a fraud, it's a fake," said Tsarni, who described the family as peace-loving, ethnic Chechens.

"Somebody radicalized them, but it's not my brother, who just moved back to Russia, who spent his life bringing bread to their table, fixing cars," he said. "My family had nothing to do with that family. Of course, we're ashamed, yes, we're ashamed they're children of my brother."

Asked what might have motivated his nephews to carry out such an attack, he said: "Being losers; hatred to those who were able to settle themselves. These are the only reasons I can imagine."

Tsarni said his brother's family arrived in the United States in 2003 and was granted asylum. He said he had not seen them since December 2005 and last spoke with them in 2009.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev talked briefly about his faith - and his aspiration to become a U.S. citizen and box for the U.S. Olympic team - with a photographer while training at a Boston gym to compete in a Golden Gloves competition.

Photographer Johannes Hirn posted an online photo essay of Tamerlan Tsarnaev titled "Will Box for Passport."

One of the captions for the photos reads "Tsarnaev, a Muslim, doesn't drink or smoke. 'God said no alcohol,' he says."

By Friday afternoon, a a link to the photos said the gallery was "private and cannot be viewed."

In Washington, Muslim leaders again condemned the attacks, sent condolences to the victims and said they were concerned with reprisal attacks against Muslims in the United States.

"Those responsible for the terrorist attacks in Boston must face justice," Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, referred to as CAIR, told reporters at a hastily called news conference.

"The question will always come up if they are associated with our community," Awad said.

"Our community and our faith detest and deplore these actions and these individuals. We do not know the motives of these individuals but our position has been consistent. Any act of violence against innocent people is deplorable and is condemned in our faith.

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"As God tells us in the Quran, if you murder one person it is as if you murdered all humanity. And if you saved one person, one innocent life, it is like you saved all of humanity," Awad said.

Imam Magid of the Islamic Society of North America said his group has set up a fund to help the bombing victims.

"These are acts of crime, not acts of religion," Benjamin Abdul-Haqq, an imam at Masjid Muhammad mosque in Washington, told the news conference.

Corey Saylor, legislative director for CAIR, said the group feared reprisals.

"We're very concerned, because in past instances some individuals have decided to go out and target further innocent people because they look different or belong to a faith that is a minority," Saylor said.

One reporter asked the leaders gathered at the news conference how they could combat radical videos that pop up on social media.

Saylor said community leaders have forcefully pushed back against what they consider radical elements of the faith.

"Unfortunately every faith has within in it heretical elements, and unfortunately young people in general will listen to those elements."

Saylor said he and other leaders would continue to push back against the heretical element "loudly and clearly."

"We will stand up, we will push back against extremists, and I'm very comfortable we'll win against them eventually."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Massachusetts • Muslim • Quran • Terrorism • Violence

soundoff (742 Responses)
  1. John

    I will not rush to judgement, I do not need to now as we have time now to wring some truth out of suspect #2. But so far, it seems their motive cannot be ONLY religion, because there is not enough religious ranting involved to sound even primary. To me it looks like the kid was mostly just letting his elder brother set the agenda, and had no more than a kid's thinking.

    That is enough to fry him, of course. I do not rush to judgement, but my judgement when it is ready is harsh.

    April 20, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  2. Mustafa

    Muslim leaders are such cowards. I consider these men my Muslim brothers regardless of their mistakes. I have seen Muslims do worst emotional damage to each other.

    April 20, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Al

      A Bible/Qur'an rewrite is long overdue. It's time to remove the immoral passages.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Only by understanding the sociologic hierarchies within psychiatric circles of frame-worked sinuses ever ebbing and flowing forth onto many conjecturing witticisms be it much or little they all do come and go with ease and of willfulness. The trunk opens with a hinge up proposal. Life's living abundances waiver and plummet then again dare rise up only to be once again fallen into and upon to ever to be as damaged goods.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  3. Krish

    Please don't fall for this lie. Islam preaches non violence. It is clearly written in Quran that Muslims should rule over unbelievers wherever they lived. It is also written that Muslims should slay the non Believers in their prophet wherever they see them. This is the meaning of Jihad. Anyone who reads Quran and considers these verses as true will do Jihad. The peace verses quoted by certain Muslim leaders are originally intended to be followed between Muslims. Not between Muslims and unbelievers. Quran is very clear when it says unbelievers should be slayed. Please tell me how this religion preaches Peace?

    April 20, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  4. lionlylamb

    Akira wrote me on April 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm stating, "So, ll, people should be isolated and not be sociable at all? Don't you think that breeds even more insular hate?"

    Your views Akira seem to be read into. You are expounding your principles proprietorially as any engaged socialist would do. Your semantics are attune but alas disseminate the primordial soup of bred integrals bereft of plausible summoning upon the marginal accolades of societal indifferences. I am. Are you not as one?

    April 20, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • John Doe

      Everyone asks us (muslims) to condemn those who hijack our faith and commit evil, and we do!
      Western powers invade our countries and kill 100's of 1000's in the name of freedom while at the same time creating more turmoil, and we (muslims) say THANK YOU!
      FYI for those who are openminded: There are 71 types of Muslims in the world, 1 of which who truly practices the true faith of Islam which means to "submit to the creator". This 1 type of muslim is the person who practices his faith with LOVE for all human beings regardless of Religion, Race, Gender. All other types of muslims are NOISE for this 1 type of muslim. People practice a religion, people are weak and are sceptable to all kind of demons. Islam is a pure religion, people contaminate it by falling off the straight path. One last point, a muslim cannot practice Islam if they do not believe in Christianity and Judaism. The only reason we (muslims) practice Islam is because we believe in worshipping a higher power than man (ie. Jesus, Moses) peace be upon them, we believe in worshipping the one who created them.

      April 20, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      John Doe,

      I dare sense a religious calamity brewing amidst the vanguards of piecemeal religiosities. Islam has their prophet as does Christianity their prophets. Prophetic wisdoms are not set in stone anymore for such wisdoms of prophecies are now begotten thru science trends and sociological psychologists. Where then is this God of Creation and what is this God tending to? Surely not tending to mankind's needs I dare say!

      April 20, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • John Doe

      Thats why they call it "faith"

      April 20, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  5. wjm

    I believe there is a group within the Muslim faith that is under mining the legitimate leaders of the faith. I was raised as a catholic, and some days still am, just without the church created by men. As for these two men, there were four recently from Canada who were involved with that attack at the Algerian gas plant. They were raised within the Christian faith and were still manipulated. There are people out there right now looking to manipulate young men and women, using Islam as a tool to create a monster of the rest of the world that must be destroyed. People you all have to remember David Koresh, Jim Jones, even that tool Manson was able to convince really what most people would have said were good normal people to do really heinous acts. I believe that these same sort of monsters exist in the Muslim faith, no different than any other. The best things people can do is to always talk to their kids and work even harder at it during their later teens early twenties when so many young people are trying to find direction or their place in the world. There are extremist in any faith or culture. We just have to be vigilant.


    April 20, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  6. Green Oak

    '"Saylor said he and other leaders would continue to push back against the heretical element "loudly and clearly."'
    I'm not sure how they are going to continue when they never have really started.

    April 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  7. magnus

    She needs to shut up.

    April 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  8. Amit-atlanta-USA

    While it's a fact that not all Muslims are terrorists it's AN ABSOLUTE FACT that many Terrorists are indeed Muslims.

    Having said that Americans will trust these Muslim leaders ONLY if they willingly provide info on the conspirators lurking in their communities, and open their Mosques to federal investigators given the fact that by eth FBI's own estimates OVER 80% OF AMERICAN MOSQUES PREACH some form of RELIGIOUS HATRED.

    This' what a Pakistani radio host Fasi Zaka said "The silent majority does not want to take out a gun and shoot anyone, but at the same time they're not appalled by it when somebody else does – The majority are enablers."

    April 20, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  9. Lulu

    I am peace loving citizen but I will never apologise for the wrong doings of others be they muslims or not; and if I choose not to speak out, that is my choice and no one is going to force me to and I do not care whether you blame Islam or not because in the end; religion or ideology is like a tool, how it is used by a person determines the outcome and not the other way round. Therefore do not try to make me feel guilty by always screaming – "where are the so called muslims, where are they, how come they are not condemning these acts". I abhor acts of violence period; be they terrorism or criminal in nature and I have no reason to appease anybody at all or prove myself. I know who I am- a proud and peace loving citizen who happens to be of muslim faith.

    April 20, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • lol??

      Does the word "faith" appear in your holy books?

      April 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • Lulu

      lol??- I am not here to give you a lesson on religion. Nor am I concerned with what your perception of Islam is. You have a right to your opinion and the right to express it too. I care less what you think of Islam. I beleive what I beleive and my neghbours and co-workers love me and respect me for who I am and not becuase of my religion.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • lol??

      I see. Purpose Driven. OK! Thanks for acknowledging my right to exist.

      April 20, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • Dippy

      Lulu, what do you mean by "I care less what you think of Islam"? Makes no sense to me.

      April 20, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Apatheist

      @lol?? You're an idiot.

      @Dippy I'm fairly certain they intended to say "I COULDN'T care less what you think of islam"...

      April 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Akira

      Lol??, mighty Christian of you to acknowledge her rights, also.

      April 20, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Pride cometh before one falls,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, The religiously prideful are as societal pockets wherein their pocketed cloisters many will engage in sultry venues meant to do harm to others with no shame abated them. Though I am a Christian, I am not proud of Christian history trails, nor am I proud of my life's issuances done wrongly. It is said that Christ Jesus died for all of mankind's sins past present and future ones. Where one stands in judgments of, they will likewise be judged. Societies do not judge people. People judge people. Socialisms are breeding stations for the egotistically wanton.

      April 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Akira

      So, ll, people should be isolated and not be sociable at all? Don't you think that breeds even more insular hate?

      April 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • lol??

      Usually when someone reads you your rights it means you are in a spot. They're a given, right? Maybe she works for the gubmint and says that all the time.

      April 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • lol??

      Yeah, a gubmint plant, trolling for backlashes.

      April 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Akira

      You're rather a paranoid person, aren't you, lol??

      You know very well what I meant. Stop being disingenous.

      April 20, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  10. Oh ya?

    The Quran, chapter 9 (At-Tawba), verse 5:
    “ But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

    The Quran, chapter 9 (At-Tawba), verse 1:
    “ A (declaration) of immunity from Allah and His Messenger, to those of the Pagans with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances

    April 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Mustafa

      This verse was revealed in a time of war and uncertainity. How about you read the Quran and understand "why" he surahs was revealed

      April 20, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
  11. Ex-muslim

    That's what you all lip service.

    Muslims are just pathetic.

    April 20, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  12. kevobx

    *Deuteronomy 33:4-6 Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob. And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together. Let Reuben live and not die; and let not his men be few. *1st Chronicles 5:1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. *Exodus 13:15 therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. (The 144,000 are redeemed in Psalm 77:15) *1st Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: *Jeremiah 18:13 the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  13. kevobx

    America represents the eagle along with other countries that do so (Obadiah 3 and 4) *Proverbs 30:19 The way of an eagle is in the air; the way of a sepent upon a rock; *Deuteronomy 32:37-39 And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. *Revelation 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  14. kevobx

    Who came out of the Caucus mountains, that is Esau's lineage the white people who are proud knowing nothing (1st Timothy 6:4) No man gave glory to God the Father he resists the proud. Satan is asking for strength and prayers for the sacrificing of idols the spiritually dead souls (1st Corinthians 8:7) *Isaiah 1:15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood *Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. *Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. *Isaiah 3:12 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. (Luke 9:33 thee is the black man)

    April 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  15. hen na gaijin

    " God says " ........get out of the country.

    April 20, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  16. End times are here

    The is another sign that the end times are near. First there was the American Civil War and now this bombing in Boston. Repent people!

    April 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Akira


      April 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Kevin O'Barr

      Minor problem with some islamic groups.........Korea is our night mare...........i heard they beat us once before. We don't need another beaten............

      April 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Al

      I think it's spelled beatin', but I could be wrong.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  17. kevobx

    Only a remnant will be saved from the world, out of billions of people those who escape the Zionists. *Isaiah 37:32 For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord hosts shall do this. *Psalm 77:15 Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. *Malachi 3:6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (The 144,000 are twelve tribes the children of Israel in the new Jerusalem *Revelation 21:12* The most high God has giving our heritage back to us *John 13:18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: *Isaiah 44:1-2 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel whom I have chosen: Thus said the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.

    April 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Doesn't sound very "loving"....

      April 20, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  18. Farid

    This whole episode has about as much to do with Islam as Jared Loughner had to do with Christianity. This story is barely a blip outside of the USA, but in the US there are some that are ready to start a holy war over this by fanning the flames of prejudice and racism. I find these people being driven by something quite opposite from motives to "protect" the country.

    April 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Call me Bwana

      In this case, both terrorists just happen to be Muslims, which by the way, is the religion most terrorist adhere to.

      April 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Jared Loughner had an easily recognizable mental illness and his incoherent writing was available online for all to see. We've seen nothing of that sort from these two men, but we have found perfectly sane writings that reference religion and a track record of dubious contacts. That's not to say we won't find something other than religion as a motivator (we know the older brother believed in dominating women and called his wife a slu.t so we have to think back, for instance, to the Quebec anti-feminist massacre too), but the odds that they both shared the same mental illness are pretty slim.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Jared Loughner had an easily recognizable mental illness and his incoherent writing was available online for all to see. We've seen nothing of that sort from these two men, but we have found perfectly sane writings that reference religion and a track record of dubious contacts. That's not to say we won't find something other than religion as a motivator (we know the older brother believed in dom.inating women and called his wife a slu.t so we have to think back, for instance, to the Quebec anti-feminist massacre too). But the odds that they both shared the same mental illness are pretty slim.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      Jared Loughner is probably a poor analogy here, though I do understand the point that you want to make.

      These two are Chechnyan Muslims. To me their act has more in common with the IRA bombings of the 1970s and 1980s. In the case of the IRA, religion was a background factor, but the real issues were entirely political. I suspect we might find something similar to be the case here, but we will have to wait and see.

      Rather than Jared Loughner, Timothy McVeigh is a more suitable comparison.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  19. biggles

    Pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty stupid dodo. How's that job a yours? Back breaking, huh? Have to do something other than sit on that enormous rear end you've been building all these years, I suppose. Rough life, you fat, lazy slob.

    April 20, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  20. kevobx

    Where are the comments about Kazakhstan? Christ told us to walk by faith not by sight. Famine means not hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The devil is running to and fro to devour all souls, wanting to be first in his worldy race for rewards and gifts. (Isaiah 1:23) And the first shall be last, the world is fully asleep not knowing who thee is, neither who is Moses nor Elias. *Luke 9:32-33 But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, is it good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he had said. *John 9:9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. *Jeremiah 5:12 They have belied the Lord, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine: *Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

    April 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Call me Bwana

      A large projectile has been seen aimed at Uranus

      April 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bwana, your comment was far from being humble. But, the name of the game today is ensuring the ego takes charge.

      April 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
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About this blog

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.