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. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet..........splat goes a fairy in the sky !

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before.


    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.


    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    May 3, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  2. Kikiriki

    Yesterday I bought a new Mercedes-Benz S-class when I got my check for $9253 this month and a little over, 10 grand this past month. Without a doubt it is the nicest job I've ever had. I started this 8 months ago and straight away started to make minimum $75, per-hour. I follow this website Rich4.COM__

    May 1, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  3. Ermagihrd atheists...

    Seriously how the hell does anybody read that to even debate it? HoW?!? Isn't there a cliff notes?

    May 1, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
  4. Ermagihrd atheists...

    You guys actually READ the bible? How the freak did you keep your eyes open that long?!?

    May 1, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  5. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    god CROM sayz,

    "......but I am just here out of boredom......."

    Your daddy got bored reflectin' light, so he decided to copycat. Can you come up with something original??

    April 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Science

      You again thanks for the help !


      May 1, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Science

      Unusual Anal Fin Offers New Insight Into Evolution

      Apr. 10, 2013 — An unusual fossil fish that has fins behind its anus


      Another for the brain game lol??

      Many more for you !

      May 1, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Science

      Education fgor adults too !...........in spanish !



      May 2, 2013 at 6:32 am |
  6. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Magic is your expertise, god CROM? That's a form of copy cattin'. Gud enuff for Socies...

    April 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  7. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    You are a feisty little god, god CROM. No god with you?? Grabbing at straws? Mental talk sounds like Socie talk and the promise of Siberia...

    April 30, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  8. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    You are just a copycat, god CROM.

    "Deu 32:39 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.".

    April 30, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  9. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Of course there are gods, god CROM.

    "Jhn 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?".

    April 30, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  10. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Careful what you say. They could be the original Unitarians...crom

    April 30, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  11. Bob

    They are only trying to save their own necks..... something they have gotten quite good at.

    I don't believe or trust these islamic leaders. How much money raised in mosques winds up in radicals hands? They clearly are not monitoring their own flocks very very and are habitual in justifying bad behavior.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Utter Nonsense Is What Religion Is.

      very very and are habitual are are, are they they?

      April 30, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Laziness

      I realized today if two muslims came up to me in an airport I'd be scared. Really scared. And I realized that is because of the media and public opinion. Rather than think for myself, I have allowed laziness and apathy to just let me stereotype someone. I have allowed myself to be the product of lazy thinking.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  12. Reasonably

    Dear Muslim leaders: No one believes you.

    Your very bible says to lie to unbelievers to further your religion.


    April 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • A reasonable question

      Just because it is in that book are you absolutely sure that means that everybody is going to follow that to the letter? Isn't that sort of thinking in terms of absolutes?

      April 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • *Sigh*

      Nice try. It is lie to avoid certain death, not simply lie to unbelievers. At least being a Social Studies teacher has afforded me the ability to read.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • Charlie

      Dear Reasonably,

      No one believes you! In fact we all laugh at YOU!

      You either are 1) Very gullible 2) a complete fool 3) biased and live a miserable self-loathing life or 4) ALL of the above.

      Stop spreading hate and go back to your gutter.

      May 1, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Reasonably

      Hi all. Thanks for your responses. But...

      a) if their bible is the word of god then why wouldn't they follow it absolutely? Or is it up to them to interpret the word of their god?
      b) a lie is a lie and begets more lies...see above (justification is a great thing when it allows you to do what you want in the name of your god)
      c) laugh all you want – I'm am neither gullible (I don't believe in their god), I am not a fool (see previous parenthetical), not biased and enjoy my life and wonder why people insist on blowing other people up in the name of their god and, finally, (since I've countered your comments) am not ALL of the above (your caps). Also, I don't spread hate...I don't preach...I don't push any religion on others and will not indoctrinate any children into those cults.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Omar

      Can you give me the verse in the Quran where it says that? Thank You.

      May 2, 2013 at 3:29 am |
    • easing your fears

      Think of how many Christians cheat on their spouses and get snippy with people. That should be proof right there that people do not follow their texts to the letter.

      May 2, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Reasonably

      @Omar...as you well know there is not one verse, but many that allow them to lie for the greater good. And since they get to interpret what that is, well, you do the math.

      May 2, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  13. Darlene Buckingham

    The key word in the headline is SUSPECTS. Nothing has been proven yet. Lets keep an open mind here and wait to see what the truth is when all the evidence is in.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • JLin

      Thank you! Some people are still rational!

      May 3, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Food for Thought

      Yes, when all the evidence is in, there will certainly be more SUSPECTS!

      May 6, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  14. NativeUSA

    Gee in Boston the Muslim leaders condemned the attack in Boston wow how courageous and what about the rest of the Earth? Answer silence or outright applause..............which is typical.

    April 30, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Nick Rymond


      April 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • JLin

      Come out from under your rock of ignorance!

      May 3, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  15. Chien

    Can Muslim religious leaders use Sharia law to punish Muslims who committed violence acts ? If yes, what would be the punishments for a terrorist ?

    April 28, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Abu Yusef

      If they would be convicted, they could face upto death penalty. I think that if Shariah law was implemented, there would be no more crimes such as this, because the criminals who kill innocent people can be beheaded in public (as a form of deterent for other people). But just fyi, this was all part of a covert operation by intelligence agencies. Im not sure if the two brothers were in it for the drama...it is also possible that they were framed.

      April 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • AmericanVoice

      I just want to say its strictly prohibited in Islam to kill innocent people. according to Qur'an if a man kill another man then its though he has killed the entire human kinds and if some one save another person its though he has saved the entire human kinds. However, it is unfair when our bias media use muslim/islam with a terrorist where Islam has nothing to with killing innocent people. In addition, whenever, a christian or from other faith kills a lot people then bias media call them murderer or killer but dont call them terrorist. I am an American and I am a muslim, and I condemned any attacks on innocent people.

      April 30, 2013 at 12:03 am |
  16. Chien

    I hope more Muslim leaders continue to denounce violence, and encourage others refrain from violent acts.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • I agree

      While were at it let's encourage the Christians to not be anti-gay bigots and the Atheists not to be annoying arrogant dill holes.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Be nice if all the religions practiced what they preach, but there are always bad apples in the barrel.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  17. anon7364

    Stop teaching that women are second class citizens and that gays are going to h-.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Pockets

      I like to stress that "All"religions are Poison, and a cancer on this planet.

      April 28, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • JLin

      I agree with Pockets. Fortunately, we are gradually becoming less and less relgious and some think we will be majority non-religious by 2038!

      May 3, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  18. Visitor

    The IRA had a clear, very localized agenda. Abortion clinic bombers have a very clear, localized agenda. The Zionist terrorists during the formation of Israel had a very clear, localized agenda. The Tamil Tigers had a clear, localized agenda. Even the Chechans have a clear agenda.

    The younger Boston bomber cited the Wars, but there are a lot of people who are angry about the Wars that don't drop bombs in their own neighborhoods. I can grant that their agenda probably had as much in common as the Oklahoma City bombers or the Unibomber who both had a general paranoia and anti-government hatred, but I don't remember both of them wrapping themselves in a high degree of religious trappings.

    Bad people are everywhere, but Muslim-inspired bombings stretch from Bali to Indonesia to India throughout the Mideast to Russia and Africa and Europe and North America. They are not localized. There is only one common thread.


    April 28, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  19. The One True Steve

    Has anyone noticed, that the Koran is not a stand alone book ... Its just random quotes ... the Muslims need the other supporting crap .... surah's and hadith's to make anything believeable about their religion... its all a myth... gods do not exist...

    April 27, 2013 at 3:09 am |
    • CROM

      Since there are no gods, it's all gibberish anyway. If you were expecting rational religious texts, you are fail.

      April 27, 2013 at 3:19 am |
    • CROM

      There are no gods. We are animals. There is no magic. You think the wind is a spirit. You are an idiot.

      April 27, 2013 at 3:41 am |
    • CROM

      I have no one in my hand, fool. Your imaginary god does nothing to or for anyone and never has because he never existed.
      You are mentally ill with a particular problem involving superstitions and other such delusions as may be.
      I do not suffer from your malady.

      April 27, 2013 at 3:54 am |
    • CROM

      You think there is magic, but nothing you say is magical. You even try to troll me, but I am just here out of boredom.
      Jesus is described as teaching communism. Is that what you mean by Siberia? You want to send me there, right? LOL
      I am not the one following a god of torture, death, and all other evils. You are. You can justify anything you want with your imaginary god. You are the real threat here, not me. I do not have a rule that says someone must die. You do. Think about it.

      April 27, 2013 at 4:14 am |
    • Wake up

      The koran is a book of discontinuities arranged from largest to smallest in verses. It incomprehensible and a bunch of gibberish that they follow. That with the fantasy that it is perfect and never changed adds to the idiocy of those words.

      April 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Pockets

      All religions are nonsense. I"m amazed that it still exists.

      April 28, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  20. Heathers

    Every time I read CNN belief blog I feel like I"m watching the movie "Heathers" all over again.

    Atheists = Heather 1,2, and 3
    J.B. = Whatever Islamic extremist is on the news article.
    Martha dump truck = The Christians

    And there's always an agnostic Veronica around somewhere.

    April 26, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • CROM

      You make me glad I never saw the movie. Thanks.

      April 27, 2013 at 3:21 am |
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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.