I’m deeply saddened by the fact that there seems to be a clear and undeniable Islamic angle to the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent violence (including the murder, late last night, of a security officer at MIT) in the greater Boston area. I’m not especially surprised, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be so.
I’ve tried for many years now to make the case that Islam is not intrinsically violent, that Americans and others shouldn’t fear Muslims generally, that Muslims are and should be welcome in the United States and in our local communities, and so forth. I still believe those things, and will still make the case. Unfortunately, the task grows harder with each Islam-related terrorist incident.
I’ve never looked at contemporary Islamic societies and contemporary Muslims through rose-colored glasses. The large majority of Muslims are innocent of these crimes, and are good and decent people. But I’ve also said for years that it’s folly to pretend that this kind of terrorism has no connection whatever with Islam. It plainly does, however much it distorts and abuses that Islamic faith. And it’s long been obvious, and it grows more obvious with every new instance of Islam-related violence, that the Islamic community has a very big problem: Some Muslims are dangerous, radical, and dysfunctional. Some people are teaching a form of Islam that makes it a hateful ideology, a nihilistic instrument of death and violence. And, ultimately, Muslims themselves need to deal with this. For the sake of their own faith, they need to deal with it. It’s a sickness. It’s a cancer that needs to be removed.
Unjustly, in my opinion, Islam is becoming an offense to people in the West and in many areas around the world. And, surely, devout Muslims cannot welcome this. I certainly don’t. But how can it be otherwise, given so many horrific events over the past couple of decades?
The Islamic community needs to repudiate terrorism and violence. Decisively. Unambiguously. If it has already done so — and I know that many Muslims have already gone on record against the killing of innocents, and that most reject such murder — it needs to do so even more loudly and even more clearly. Every pulpit in every mosque needs to ring out with denunciations of this kind of thing. Every imam, every Muslim speaker and writer and teacher, needs to ensure that a peaceful, humane vision of Islam is inculcated in the hearts and minds of young Muslims and Muslim converts, and that such an Islam is proclaimed every Friday from every minbar.
I’m told that Dzokhar Tsarnaev is seen in one Boylston Street surveillance video calmly placing his bomb right next to eight-year-old Martin Richard. (Here’s a photo showing him standing behind the little boy, apparently waiting to enjoy what was to come.) Minutes later, young Martin was dead, his sister had lost her legs, and his mother was brain-damaged. The children had come with their mother to see their dad cross the Marathon finish line.
This is, in my judgment, pure evil. No words can adequately characterize it. No words can adequately condemn it. But, for their own sake and the sake of the religion they love — for the sake of a culture and civilization that has contributed much, and that deserves respect — devout Muslims need to work as hard as they can to remove it from their midst.