It has been a little over one week since the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, and I observed my moment of silence yesterday. As an Oklahoman, my moment of silence was not simply restricted to remembering the child, the graduate student, the young woman, and the MIT police officer who died, but also all those who were injured last Monday. It represented every instance of the loss of innocent life that has occurred numerous times on American soil as a result of domestic terrorism.
As an Oklahoman, my moment of silence was a nod to all the lives that were lost at the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995. But, as an Oklahoman who grew up in the heart of the Islamic world, my moment of silence also served as a a moment of unspoken longing for this most recent tragedy to not undo all the work that those in Oklahoma’s interfaith community have done to emphasize that Islam’s core message is that of peace and compassion— not of violence or extremism.
My experiences as an American and Oklahoman living in the Middle East, where I learned that Islam is simply a continuation of the other Abrahamic faiths, made the wait to find out who carried out Boston’s heartbreaking attack extremely stressful. Like many who understand the overwhelming similarities between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, I feared that the attack, if committed by people who have so disastrously convoluted the message of Islam, would be used as yet another example of Islamic radicalization and would give way to more political fear-mongering.
So, when the news broke that the Tsarnaev brothers were indeed Muslim, I immediately begin to wonder what I, as someone who recognizes that the Tsarnaev’s do not have a single thing in common with the vast majority of Muslims, could do to ensure that my fellow Oklahomans do not see their violent act as the status quo of Islam and certainly not as something that Muslims condone in any way, shape, or form.
I believe the recent events in Boston serve as an opportunity, albeit one born out of unfortunate circumstances, to highlight the fact that Oklahoma Muslims abhor what occurred and are committed to maintaining the atmosphere of peace that they have created in our state. I have seen firsthand the way that the Oklahoma Muslim community acted swiftly to not only condemn the attacks, but also to organize prayer vigils in hopes of showing solidarity with those who had been attacked.
These efforts echo not only the empathy I shared during my moment of silence, but also my hopes — my hopes of upholding the notions of religious tolerance and mutual understanding that are so central to us, as Oklahomans, living in a country that is continually faced with the obstacle of uniting with one another despite our differences.
Carissa Flint is a World Religions major at Oklahoma City University and is currently interning at Oklahoma’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.