Hijab and the Boston Bombers

This post was written by guest contributor Nicole J. Hunter Mostafa (@nicolejhm).

Ladies, let’s be honest: hijab is a tired topic for us Muslimahs. We still debate, discuss, and attempt to define it, but pretty much everything has been said at some point or another. But for some, it apparently never gets old. And now, with the narrative of radicalization of the suspected Boston bombers unfolding in the media, inevitably a focus has been placed on the women in their lives. Spoiler alert—they’re hijabis.

The world is scrambling for details about the story of the Tsarnaev brothers. Sensationalism sells, and any detail about the lives of these brothers is media gold. Anyone who had any connection to the family, however tenuous, now has a platform with worldwide reach. Salon recently published a piece entitled “The Tsarnaevs and Me,” written by a “writer and yoga teacher” from the Boston area who used to get facials from the Tsarnaevs’ mother. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has a lengthy piece devoted to the widow of the elder Tsarnaev brother, which frames her conversion to Islam as a story of “good girl gone bad” with the oh-so-subtle tagline of, “How [a] doctor’s daughter became the Muslim convert widow of [the] Boston bomber.”

She had the world at her feet! She was a doctor’s daughter! According to the Daily Mail, “hers is a background steeped in the values of family and education”!

And she threw it all away to become a Muslim.

Ahem.

What emerges from these stories is a frustrating portrayal of Muslim women as a scary Other, and of Islam as a cyclone of terrorist ideology that sweeps up innocent, promising young American women. And the hijab is at the center of those portrayals.

In the Salon piece, the writer outlines the reasons that she stopped visiting the Tsarnaevs’ mother for facials. One of the main reasons she cites is the mother’s “increased religious zeal.”

What did this “increased religious zeal” look like, you might ask? Well, the mother fasted often. So that was suspicious. She also occasionally mentioned “Allah.” Scary. And finally, after a few years of receiving facials from the mother at both a spa and at the Tsarnaevs’ home, the writer observed for the first time the mother going outside. And before she left…she put a scarf on her head.

I can’t help but feel sorry for this writer, as her story gives me the impression that she has had very little interaction with anyone outside her insular American culture. While describing herself as “a writer” who “tend[s] to ask people exhaustive questions about their personal lives, especially as interesting a character as this,” she offers little to back up the characterization of the Tsarnaevs’ mother as an “interesting…character” except the description of her religious practices. Explaining her reaction to the hijab, she writes, “She had never worn a hijab while working at the spa previously, or inside the house, and I was really surprised.”

As I read this, I found myself wondering why, if she was such a thorough questioner of the people around her, didn’t she just ask the woman why she wore a hijab outside? It would have been a pretty simple answer (obviously, most hijab-wearing women don’t wear the hijab in their homes or in environments where only other women are present…like a spa). And it struck me as sad that she, as a thorough questioner, had never met another Muslim woman before in her life to whom such questions could be directed…and, I mean, she lives in a major metropolitan area. There is no shortage of Muslim women in the Boston area, and I’m sure many, if not most, of them would have been all to happy to explain the significance and protocol of the hijab (or at least, their interpretation of them).

But what’s even more troubling about the way the Salon article handles the hijab is that it suggests that putting on the hijab is an indicator of a downward spiral into dangerous radicalization. The writer implies that the Tsarnaevs’ mother had only recently put on the hijab (when in reality, since the writer obviously didn’t understand the possible protocols of wearing the hijab, she had no way of knowing when the woman had started doing so). The hijab is tied up in the writer’s narrative of the Tsarnaev mother’s supposed slide into fundamentalist Islamic religiosity—and devout Muslims are scary.

This is a theme that continues in the Daily Mail‘s article. This piece is especially upsetting to me as a convert to Islam, as a hijabi, and as the wife of a man from a Muslim country (Saudi Arabia). Even without the sensationalist element of being the wife of a bomber, the simplistic narrative that this article spins is likely one that any outsider or passing acquaintance could easily apply to me or any number of women I know.

First of all, the article gives absolutely zero agency to the woman it discusses. To read it, you would think that her only reasoning behind her conversion was the pressure from her husband. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that any female convert to Islam who is also married to a Muslim man has run up against the frustrating assumption, whether from fellow Muslims or from non-Muslims, that the only reason she converted is so she could marry her husband.

Multiple school friends testify to the Daily Mail that “she was just this all-American girl who was brainwashed by her super-religious husband.” Beyond the “she only converted because her husband made her” trope, the paper itself runs with this “all-American” angle, choosing a tagline for the article that reads, “Yearbook photos reveal her transformation from all-American girl.”

And what is the apparent final farewell to one’s “all-American” status? Putting on the hijab, of course. Her bright, smiling high school yearbook photos—with her hair on full display—are splashed throughout the article, contrasted with current dour-faced photos of her as she leaves her home and gets out of her car, dressed in black pants, a black coat, and a leopard-print hijab (and obviously these are post-bombing photos taken by relentless paparazzi, so naturally she looks distressed and upset).

The paper continues to highlight the woman’s “transformation” within the context of her decision to wear the hijab, stating that by the time she was 21, she had “converted to Islam, hidden her tumble of chestnut hair beneath the hijab, and undergone a change so profound that today few friends profess to truly understand it.”

As I read the numerous reports of her “change,” I found myself wondering how she changed. Did she shun the friends she had before she converted? If not, did she proselytize with her friends while she was with them? Did she adopt and share new life philosophies inconsistent with what she believed before?

Maybe she did. But there is no real discussion of how this “change” actually made itself apparent, other than the fact that it involved the hijab. By this standard, I too sacrificed my American-ness in the name of religion—although that was something that I never intended (and still do not intend) to do. I consider myself pretty much the same person that I was before I converted, aside from my headscarf and preference for turkey bacon. But apparently, the strategic placement of a scarf is all it takes to shun one’s nationality.

As the media continue to scramble for details about the lives of the Tsarnaev brothers, the secondhand stories of the women who love(d) them will inevitably be put on display. And even in the unlikely event this is the end of the speculation about the lives of these women, what we can see clearly in the stories that have already been published is that to many, the headscarf remains a powerful—if completely false—indication of an inherent condemnation of America and simultaneous embrace of the identity of a scary, dangerous Other.

As a hijabi who still very much considers herself an all-American girl, I sure wish someone would have told me all that sooner.

  • Jubbie

    Your article is written as someone who feels personally targeted, but I think you are overlooking the big picture – that is that the hijabi woman in question were in fact involved with radicalized, mass murdering men. And the all American girl (whatever that means anyways) who converted, married one of them, and started wearing the hijab had been physically assaulted by her husband in the past. I’m sure the personality of a man capable of mass murder and interpersonal violence is not warm and fuzzy in the home – in fact police records show that he was reported for being violent to women in the past. So while you may feel wronged, it’s important not to gloss over the big picture that’s not about you, but about this particular girl who ended up being married to a mass murderer. It’s her story that’s selling the pictures and papers, and I’m sure her friends saying she “changed” after marrying her husband is in fact accurate based on the atrocities he was capable of committing, and the history he had of spite and violence.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      Actually, that is one element that the Daily Mail gets wrong–or at least, it conflicts with what other news outlets are now reporting, which is that we don’t know if Tsarnaev’s widow is the one he was reported for assaulting, as the woman’s name in that report has been redacted. But in any case, I certainly did not mean to imply that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a “warm and fuzzy” person (I really hope I didn’t imply sympathy for the perpetrators of the bombings in any way), nor did I mean to say for sure that she did not change as her friends claimed. What I was trying to point out is that these pieces frame radicalization in terms of the hijab–i.e., the mother was on a downward spiral of radicalization when she decided to put on the hijab, the wife was this nice, normal girl until she met this crazy guy and he forced her to hide underneath her hijab. Portrayals such as these not only make me feel personally targeted (and alienated from my own home culture), but, in my view, they also make many who read them feel that all hijabis somehow need to be rescued (which I’m not saying that Tsarnaev’s wife didn’t need to be rescued)–or deserve to be targeted (see the story of Heba Abolaban, a Palestinian hijabi doctor living in the Boston area who was attacked after the bombings).

  • http://muslimahwalkingaround.wordpress.com/ Eren Cervantes

    This was a great piece! And just to respond to Jubbie, I think it is also important for you to distinguish between the relationship between the wife and the husband and her own conversion to Islam. There is no question that some people convert to Islam to marry someone or that in many cases that’s a requirement for the marriage to happen. However, she probably had a choice in that matter as well. The fact that she wore hijab cannot be attributed to her husband just yet. And questioning her motives for converting to Islam based on her clothing is another thing too.
    I also would like to bring up the issue of agency… to what degree are some of these women aware of their husbands activities and to what degree they agree or disagree with them? Do we just assume that because she was an all-american girl this was just the wrong-doings of her husband? Or is there more to it?
    I think it is quite presumptuous to think that an “all-american” girl just invariably “changed” out of nothing to marry a “terrorist.”

  • captain_dg

    I am tempted to say as my sister does ‘Get over yourself.’ The Salon writer of the mother is surprised by the hijab, but she also adds: “The hijab shouldn’t have surprised me so much, because she had become increasingly religious while I was in college.” It cannot have escaped you that ‘increasingly religious’ often does accompany wear a hijab. Two of my Eritrean friends decided to delve deeper into their faith and don the hijab after 911 as a show of support for their faith. So hijab-centric are you that you do not see the pattern was of change *accompanied* by political nuttiness. Greater religiosity of a Muslim does not mean greater risk of terrorism, but together with a newly expressed belief that Americans planned the 911 attacks (as the mother claimed) makes the Salon writer’s discomfort understandable.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      What I wonder is, if the mother had become increasingly religious in, say, the Catholic faith, and at the same time had expressed a belief that Americans were somehow involved in the 9-11 attacks (which, for better or worse, is hardly uncommon; the documentary Loose Change has received incredible circulation, and it’s not primarily Muslims who are sharing it)–would that have made the writer equally uncomfortable? Furthermore, you mentioned that your two Eritrean friends decided to “delve deeper into their faith and don the hijab after 9-11 as a show of support for their faith.” But I’m gathering from your comment that you weren’t made uncomfortable or suspicious by that, as the writer was. I suppose I am a bit hijab-centric, but I believe the writer is, too. :)

      • Theodore Seeber

        I’m Catholic and I find the type of Rad Trads who spread movies like Loose Change and Maffa 21 to be rather scary indeed- even if they do have a point.

  • Jubbie

    Nicole you make good points about how Hijabs and radicalization are often grouped together, often to the detriment of wonderful, productive, loving women who are then unfairly stereotyped. I just think it’s odd to have this discussion in the context of a woman married to a mass murderer – because while you are defending Hijab wearing women as not being radicalized, the story you are bringing up to illustrate how unfair these assumptions are is about what sure sounds like a radicalized family who in the end may have been involved, or at least could have intervened in her husband’s behavior to prevent senseless deaths. We don’t know this, but as I said before I doubt very much their home life was “normal” and innocuous and blissfully innocent. What she made of her religion is a seperate issue and we don’t know about it at all – we can only speculate as to how innocent she is.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      Jubbie, I see your point, and I have been waiting for someone to say something like, “But you’re conveniently overlooking the point that people observed these indicators of radicalization…and then look what happened!” But to me, that’s like saying lottery tickets are a sound retirement plan. The fact is that in the hugely vast majority of cases, putting on a hijab (or any other indication that one has become “increasingly religious”) is in no way an indicator that one is married to a bomber, knows about/supports his actions, or anything else malicious, and the fact that those two dots were there to connect is completely atypical, and I think that’s what stories like this encourage the public to forget/overlook…which, to me, is why it’s important to have this conversation within this context.

  • Izzie

    First of all, Nicole let me say what a great article. And really loved the personal angle to it, which made it all the more interesting.
    To add to your answer to Jubbie, like you have mentioned the person who wrote the Daily Mail article, hasn’t done any journalism per say. He hasn’t mentioned how involved or not involved the woman was . Her basis for conversion. Did she believe in radical Islam? Nothing at all.
    She is in a hijab, that poor thing, married a terrorist. She had such nice hair before. Now look what happened! Cover hair equal to bombing. So Nicole rightly focuses on the hijab. Because that’s the only thing portrayed by the dailymail as well

    irresponsible journalism.

  • lark

    I liked the salon article and I think yours didn’t address some important points. I think it is revealing in fact that you ignored certain points.

    There is an association in the salon article of bullying, abuse, and religious extremism. All these things appeared together:

    The dad was scary,

    The older son had abused his girlfriend,

    The older son shadowed his sister to prevent her from avoiding an arranged marriage,

    One sister appreciated her freedom in the USA as a female and this was a ‘problem’,

    The other sister being abused in her marriage and not supported at first by the mother

    The mother becoming increasingly severe in islam

    This article – and your response! – shows why I as a free American female (forget the good girl part) find that I am uncomfortable with some practices associated with Islam.

    You don’t even mention the arranged marriage ugliness, or the acceptance of abuse, or the older brother shadowing the sister so that (horrors!) she doesn’t get out of her arranged marriage. Are you comfortable with these things? I find it strange that you use this family as a base case for religious tolerance. They make me quite uneasy and your response intensifies that. You are normalizing oppressive practices – when you should be challenging them.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      The problem is, though, is that these oppressive practices are cultural more than Islamic, and the article ties the two together. Many non-Muslim cultures around the world practice arranged marriages. Many non-Muslim cultures have a scarily nonchalant attitude toward rampant domestic abuse (it could easily be argued that America is one of them). Of course I don’t accept or seek to “normalize” these practices–but it’s important to stop and ask, why are these practices so strongly associated with Islam and not with other religions/cultures who deal equally with the same issues? And when the author discussed the mother’s “religious practices,” there was nothing there to indicate “religious extremism” or “severe Islam” to me. She did not advocate or express support for violence at any point. She expressed interest in a conspiracy theory that many non-Muslims have a great deal of interest in, as well. She fasted, she said “Allah” sometimes, and she wore hijab. This does not mean that every woman who fasts, says “Allah” sometimes, and wears hijab is some sort of “religious extremist,” and that is the issue that I have with the article. I too, as a “free American female” (whatever that can be taken to mean) am uncomfortable with some of the practices associated with Islam, both because such practices exist, and also because practices are sometimes unfairly associated with Islam to the point that every woman in hijab is a “religious extremist.”

      • lark

        You are arguing that I can’t stereotype Islam because stereotypes are inaccurate generalizations.

        I think I am well aware of the context and general situation because (unlike you I suspect) I spent part of my childhood growing up in an Islamic country. I think you are in denial about the general context.

        A couple of points.

        “She expressed interest in a conspiracy theory that many non-Muslims have a great deal of interest in, as well.” Not in the USA. Check the polls. I don’t think she should be grouped with people living in other countries.

        Among religions Islam has the dubious distinction of normalizing a framework of difference between the sexes, in legal status, marriage to non-Muslims, overall role, and the like. This is an obstruction in the battle for equal rights for women.

        Obviously it is not Islam itself that spawns this violence, but an interpretation of Islam. In that context, you continue to ignore the bullying of women in all my points – all of which I would wager were justified to the women on religious grounds. That is something I think you are in denial about.

        • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

          So basically, what you’re saying is, because you think you “are well aware of the context and general situation,” you are allowed to make generalizations? So does that mean that I am allowed to make generalizations about Americans because I spent my entire childhood growing up in America? I try not to do that, even if I am “well aware of the context and general situation.” But even so, if that’s all it takes, wouldn’t that validate my own instincts about the situation in America? How, then, would I be in denial?

          According to the polls (yes, it’s Wikipedia, but all the polls quoted are clearly sourced: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polls_about_9/11_conspiracy_theories), to quote one particular statistic, 36% of those polled in the US believed that it was “somewhat likely” or “very likely” that either the U.S. government itself perpetrated the attacks or that they knew the attacks would happen and did nothing to stop them. According to the most recent estimates, Muslims make up less than 2% of the American population. So…these ideas certainly aren’t just the realm of Muslim “religious extremists.” And in any case, why wouldn’t you group her with people living in other countries (Muslims and non-Muslims alike)? The world is certainly not 66% Muslim, yet if we go by the polls, that’s the percentage of people in the world who are not certain that the 9-11 attacks were perpetrated by “Islamic” terrorists. Are Americans’ opinions the only ones that matter? People are certainly willing to group her (and her son, who is actually an American citizen) “with people living in other countries” now.

          Islam is certainly not the only religion that carries the “dubious distinction of normalizing a framework of difference between the sexes.” I can tell you that because I spent my entire childhood growing up in the Bible Belt and have had many people, including family members, tell me that the Bible says that women should learn in silence and should not teach men or have authority over them. It’s true that American culture does not necessarily openly validate such ideas, at least not in a legal sense (although it’s not hard to make the case that such ideas are subversively validated in American culture), and that is one way America is leaps and bounds ahead of the Islamic country in which I live now. But there it is again–that pesky gap between religion and culture, which manifests itself in so many different ways. And what if I told that story and it turned out that one of those relatives of mine was some sort of deranged maniac who carried out some sort of attack? Would his wife be called “brainwashed” in the media because she and her husband were conservative Christians? Would Christians be profiled and monitored?

          I am not ignoring the bullying of women in your points. Such incidents are absolutely a huge red flag, a major an indication that something was amiss in the family, and I think the writer was spot-on for being made to feel uncomfortable about those things. I would have been, as well (and I am Muslim). However, you mentioned that you would wager that the bullying of women was “justified to the women on religious grounds,” but where in the article does it say that the mother indicated to the writer that that was the case? It doesn’t. Ever. That is a leap that the writer (and you, apparently) made on her own, and if the mother were really so open about her “religious zeal,” as the writer indicates, it seems like that would be something she wouldn’t have hesitated to share with the writer. And that is the issue. Not that the writer is speaking out about incidents that made her uncomfortable in the Tsarnaevs’ home, but that she is inextricably linking them to the mother’s “religious zeal,” while in reality, the “zealous” behavior that she identifies isn’t indicative of a zealot at all. It’s indicative of thousands of average women in America today who say “Allah” on a regular basis, fast occasionally, wear hijab, and have zero connection to terrorism, and are the daughters, wives, mothers, and sisters of men who pose no danger to them or to the society at large.

          • lark

            Of course you are allowed to make generalizations about America after growing up here. Is that a serious question?

            In the most recent polling results I could find, 11% of American voters believe the US government allowed 9/11 to happen, 78% do not agree. (Public Policy Polling, 4/2/13.)

            Comparing the attitudes towards sex roles for women and men in the American South to religious prescriptions in the Koran is not valid because the latter are a basic for law in many countries – and that is a serious problem. The lack of freedom and equality under the law – and being accused of blasphemy when you challenge that – is a serious problem.

            I challenge you to read http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/23/why_do_they_hate_us.

            I assume that the bullying of women was justified on religious grounds because I myself have heard those sorts of justifications while living in Arab countries. It’s that pesky context business that you resist. From the article above: “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend.”

            I will also point out that the evidence that is coming out supports my views, not yours. It turns out that the mother and Tamerlan were studying Islam together, at her urging.

            link http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/04/28/179611079/tamerlan-tsarnaev-spoke-of-jihad-with-mother-reports-say

            “Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev “vaguely discussed” jihad during a 2011 phone conversation with his mother, according to a U.S. official who described the recording . The call, taped by a Russian government agency, reportedly did not include any mention of a plot inside the U.S….
            In the recorded call, Tamerlan and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, reportedly talked about Tamerlan traveling to the Palestinian territories. But the son said he would probably not go there, because he doesn’t speak Arabic.

            …A source tells that the conversation was “nonspecific” when the idea of jihad came up. But the paper adds that Zubeidat Tsarnaeva’s influence over her sons is being investigated further.

            “Intelligence officials have also found text messages in which the mother discusses how Tamerlan is ready to die for Islam,” Newsday says, citing two anonymous sources.

            “In a second call, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva spoke with a man in the Caucasus region of Russia who was under FBI investigation,” the AP reports.

            In late 2011, the CIA reportedly put both Zubeidat Tsarnaeva and her son Tamerlan on its Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database. “

          • Large Orange

            Everything you say about the Hijab is undermined by the fact that you live in a country that legally requires it. It is personally reasonable for Westerner’s to associate the Hijab with female oppression because it is used for exactly that purpose in a lot of Muslim countries, especially in Saudi Arabia, land of sexual apartheid.

  • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

    I grew up Roman Catholic. In my time, women weren’t allowed to enter churches without head coverings. Even non-orthodox Jewish men show respect in their temples by covering their heads. I used to wear a large hat whenever I was making sales calls, and was picked up by a policeman under suspicion of being a prostitute.

    We could do with more shows of modesty in our women, but America has a way of using desensitization by over exposure as the way to bring ideas and practices into the mainstream. Maybe we women should all start covering our heads in solidarity with those wearing the hijab. The plus side for many of us would be no more “bad hair” days.

    Why is it that we have come to define all passionate displays of belief as un-American? Is the horseback enthusiast un-American for donning a cowboy hat and western boots? Is the blue-collar worker un-American for wearing a “Cat” hat? Do we have to confine our displays of our beliefs to homogeneous groups in order not to be persecuted? How very un-American is that?

    America was founded on pluralism and freedom to express our differing beliefs. In my opinion, what is un-American is the continued knee-jerk prejudice in place of attempts at education about others.

    • Alison

      You have a fantastic point, Y. The deeper problem, as illustrated by the Salon article is that of “othering’, taking someone who has an identity and viewpoint that differs from what’s considered “normal” and making it the main thing about them, instead of considering who that person is *as an individual*. The logic behind it is:
      1. This woman is a Muslim.
      2. She wears hijab.
      Therefore, she harbors terrorist sympathies, even if she isn’t a terrorist herself. If A, Then B, Therefore C. But it doesn’t follow. Since it doesn’t follow, the person who thinks this has done a fantastic job of “othering” the person, instead of getting to know who they are. Their prejudices and stereotypes have done the thinking for them, instead of them actually doing their own thinking. That’s intellectual laziness, and it sure doesn’t help the discussion of the Tsarnaevs and what may or may not have happened that led up to the tragedy in Boston. We will never know for sure, and all of our guessing and “othering” won’t accomplish diddly squat in terms of healing, mending relationships and moving forward as a nation.

      • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

        I think you both make great points! :)

  • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

    Lark, I can’t click Reply to your last comment, so I will respond here, in a new comment.

    Even if that 11% figure that you quoted is accurate, that still leaves the inconvenient truth that even if every single Muslim in America were among that figure, over 9% of those respondents are not Muslim (since only 1 to 1.8% of Americans are Muslim). So it’s still a major stretch to suggest that 9-11 conspiracy theories are only the realm of “Muslim extremists” or whatever.

    Secondly, you said that “comparing the attitudes towards sex roles for women and men in the American South to religious prescriptions in the Koran is not valid.” This conveniently overlooks the Biblical justification for such sex roles. (1 Timothy, 2, 11-12: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be silent.) I don’t quote Bible verses in order to vilify Christianity or take verses out of context, as so often happens with the Qur’an, but to clarify the religious justifications that have been made to me, growing up in America, as a defense of such ideals (I’ve heard these verses quoted directly). So it’s pretty difficult to say that “among religions Islam has the dubious distinction of normalizing a framework of difference between the sexes.” I’m also going to go out on a limb and suggest that if many of those American folks who adhere to these Christian ideals had the chance, they would certainly run the country based on those ideals–in fact, the push for more “Biblical government” is happening every day (I challenge you to read God’s Harvard, by Hanna Rosin). So while I am certainly not defending or denying the role in which Islam is cast by governments and cultures to justify major human rights abuses, I am challenging you to look beyond what your cultural lens allows you to easily view. I think Mona Eltahawy makes some good points, but she gets it at least a little bit wrong, at least in my case, when she says, “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend.” I have no issue with confronting such abuses and, in fact, regard it as crucially important that we do so (considering I’m going to be the mother of a half-Arabic daughter in about a month). What I have an issue with is the way the West vilifies Islam and Arabic cultures while conveniently overlooking similar issues in their own backyards and being similarly unwilling to confront such issues “lest they blaspheme or offend.”

    For example, let’s say an American mother thinks her daughter is dressing inappropriately (however that may look like, because let’s face it, it’s relative). The mother grounds her daughter and takes away her phone and internet access. The mother never mentions Jesus as she hands down her punishments, but she is a Christian who attends church every Sunday. Or let’s say a an American man has a drinking problem and beats his wife, but he, too, attends church every Sunday. Now, if we were to face either of these issues as the rest of the world approaches issues like this as they apply to Arabs and Islam (although I think it’s important to point out that the Tsarnaevs are not Arabic, and the conflation of Arabs with Islam to approach the discussion of the worldwide Muslim community is problematic), the uproar would sound something like this: “This girl should have the right to dress herself however she chooses! This man is getting drunk and beating his wife because he sees beer commercials all the time and the Bible says that women must submit to their husbands and ‘a severe beating can knock all of the evil out of you!’ Why is no one acknowledging the role that Christianity and American culture play in the oppression of women and young girls? You are all in denial about the role Christianity and America encourages and justifies the abuse of women!” But that’s obviously not how it goes, and of course, it may or may not be the case. But with Arabs and Muslims, such assumptions are the default setting.

    Finally, even if “the evidence that is coming out supports [your] views, not [mine],” such a proclamation is only further evidence that you are missing the point that I tried to make both in the post and my comments here, which is that no matter what “radical Muslim extremist” dots come to light in the case of the Tsarnaevs, the fact remains that they are not there to connect for the vast majority of Muslim families around the world, and often–especially in the case of the hijab–they shouldn’t be regarded as dots in the first place. I have no problem with thoroughly examining the evidence that comes out. My issue is with the way pieces like the ones run by Salon and the Daily Mail feed into the ugly assumption that all families who are even remotely (or in some tragic cases, inaccurately–see the Sikh temple shooting, or the shooting of Hindu men after 9-11) identifiable as Muslim are dysfunctional or somehow a threat to society.

  • slats grobnik

    Gosh, I wonder where in the world one could possibly come up with an association between Muslims and violence? It must be some mass delusion and ignorance. That’s the only rational explanation.


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