For American-Muslims, dread

By David Rohde
April 20, 2013

Louisville, Kentucky – Friday morning, four Pakistani-American doctors dressed in business suits and medical scrubs sat in one of this city’s most popular breakfast spots and fretted. At an adjacent table, a middle-aged woman grew visibly nervous when their native land was mentioned. One of the doctors, a 47-year-old cardiologist, was despondent.

“We were all praying this wouldn’t happen,” he told me. “No matter what you do in your community, that’s the label that is attached.”

Another doctor worried that years of outreach efforts by the city’s 10,000-strong Muslim community, a mix of Bosnians, Somalis and Iraqis, would be lost. Thursday, he sent a letter to the local newspaper condemning the Boston attack “no matter who committed it.” When news broke Friday that the two suspects were Chechen Muslims, his family grew nervous.

“Five minutes ago my mom called from Copenhagen to see if I was ok,” the 41-year-old geriatrician said. “It rattles all of us.”

Clearly, Bostonians have and will suffer the most from the marathon bombings. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people “sheltered in place” in and around Boston Friday. The injured now face months, if not years, of arduous recuperation. And the families of the dead will never recover.

It is by no means equivalent but the attack also impacts the United States’ roughly 2.5 million Muslims. As television screens displayed the words “the terrorist next door” Friday, a sense of dread spread among Muslim community leaders here.

“When this happens,” the cardiologist said, “it just gets tough.”

Twelve years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, some see it almost as a cliché to say all Muslims should not be blamed for the actions of a radical few. But it is vital that understandably anxious Americans adhere to that principle. Whatever their motivations, the Tsarnaev brothers are not representative of Muslims in the United States — or the world.

In the days and weeks ahead, Americans will learn chilling details about the Tsarnaev brothers. Links to groups outside the United States may be revealed. Their years in the America will be dissected. The immigration policies that allowed their families to emigrate will likely be criticized.

But it is important not to exaggerate their impact. Days of chaos have unfolded in Boston but the attacks have not paralyzed the country. Four deaths and 176 injuries are heart rending but they are a tiny fraction of the 3,000 who perished on September 11. The attack’s primary legacy is fear. The actions of two young men will focus an enormous amount of suspicion on Chechens and Muslims across the nation.

Based on initial reports, the Tsarnaevs’ story is chilling. Two brothers, one an aspiring boxer and the other a high school wrestling captain, were seemingly transformed overnight into soulless killing machines. I suspect, though, that the process took years.

In 2008, the Taliban kidnapped two Afghan colleagues and me after inviting us to an interview. Held captive in the tribal areas of Pakistan for seven months, we found that Arab, Afghan and Pakistani militants had created a sophisticated system of schools, training camps and indoctrination videos that slowly severed young men’s bonds with their families.

The only relationship that mattered, recruits were told, was their relationship to God. The only cause that mattered, clerics preached, was stopping a vast – and nonexistent – Christian-Jewish-Hindu conspiracy to obliterate Islam from the face of the earth.

For six weeks, I lived with a suicide bomber who was convinced that American forces were forcibly converting Afghan Muslims to Christianity. Neckties, he insisted, were secret symbols of Christianity. Deeming them unclean, he burned newspapers with photographs of women without veils.

No matter how long I spent talking with him, I could not alter his attitudes. Radicalism gave him a cause, a community and an identity.

Louisville’s Muslim leaders embrace an entirely different interpretation of Islam. Tolerant, worldly and passionately committed to education, they accuse Saudi Arabia of spreading an intolerant Wahhabist interpretation of Islam that distorts their faith and endangers their lives. The cardiologist, who asked not to be named, said he does not fear attacks in America. Rather, he fears for the safety of his family in Pakistan.

Last year, Sunni Wahhabist militants in Pakistan killed 400 Shias, who they consider heretics, particularly doctors. One victim was a close friend of the cardiologist and a fellow physician. Jihadists sprayed the man’s car with bullets, killing him and his 11 year-old son.

“My brother is a doctor over there,” the cardiologist said. “They target all the high-end professionals.”

Mohammad Babar, the Pakistani-American geriatrician, was happy to be quoted by name. Only his grandmother remains in Pakistan. He said the United States was a “safe haven” where he can practice and spread a moderate form of Islam without fearing assassination. In the wake of the Boston attack, he vowed to redouble his efforts.

“We are doing a bad job of reaching out to young people,” he said. “Extremists are doing a great job.”

Tensions exist in Louisville. Residents of a neighboring county recently rejected an effort to create the area’s first Muslim cemetery. And clearly not every member of the Muslim community here is as broadminded as Babar.

Since moving to Louisville in 1995, the peripatetic community activist has joined the local Rotary club, formed a close relationship with the mayor and set up meetings between Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders. Next week, he is holding an interfaith “open house” at his mosque. Next month, he is helping coordinate a visit by the Dalai Lama.

“We need to let people know,” Babar said. “We need to let our communities know what we think.”

The problem, he argued, was radicalism.

“In the whole world,” Babar said, “the far right is getting stronger.”

He is right. The enemy is not Islam. It is extremism.

PHOTO (Top): American flag hangs on a car outside the American Muslim Society mosque in Detroit, Michigan April 5, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

PHOTO (Insert): A group of interdenominational religious leaders and their supporters gather outside the Islamic Center of America mosque to rally for peace in Dearborn, Michigan April 21, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

69 comments

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@paintcan,

You do have a problem keeping those pesky facts straight as you drift in and out of reality. It is no wonder you find it “…very difficult to write effectively. I still can’t get it absolutely right!”

All I said on “the Jewish issue” was that “shocked and saddened” might have been the reaction of ordinary Germans to the increasing control “…of the Nazis in Germany as Jewish friends “disappeared”.” “…not enough Germans timely expressed their concerns and opposition…”.

Do even YOU understand the “point of much of what you feel necessary to express? “I take something back I said about you OOTS…”. Well, take your pick from these pearls of unfounded, disconnected idiocy and let me know which you want to “take back”:

“OOTs always blames the victims. I was convinced he spoke like the NAZI party the first time we crossed keypads years ago. Sometimes I hate the very electrons he floats on and we both type into!”

As you already know, all that “hate” really messes up a mind!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Lest just face it OOTS – you think you are a better writer and thinker than you really are. It wasn’t clear what “they” stood for – the Jews may have noticed disappearances too and couldn’t say. I’ve understood that all segments of the population were cowed by the military dominance of the Reich and it’s ubiquitous secret police. Something many like you seem to praise or you never seem to complain about it.

To be honest – I only skim you comments because most of the time they are boring and you just keep repeating yourself. You haven’t said anythig new in at least 4 years. Yoyr comments are embodiments – every one of them – of smug middle class mediocre complaisance. Rather like the German folk – many who didn’t know what was going on regarding mass arrests. And many bought the propaganda and believed the garbage the regime was feeding them. You don’t understand it still – Germans could not talk back to the party or they too would incur the wrath of the authorities. They would be considered sympathizers and bring down the spiteful questions regarding their mental or moral fitness as you just did to me. You are the retread and more modern equivalent of the German folk. Even a famous composer like Richard Strauss had to lie low. Peer pressure is more oppressive than state sanctions actually and that is what most people today conform to. The fifties in this country was very like that too if one had unpopular political opinions. You foolish and insincere old fraud to call that “hate”.

I am not the one constantly complaining about a country overrun with unworthies or “illegals” either – That’s your usual “rant”. You are the only commenter on this site that has ever recommended repeatedly that the less than affluent should see to it they don’t have as many children. See to your own difficulties and inconsistencies of point of view.

I started to “take it back” until I read further and changed my mind. You actually started to look more humane the Pseudoturtle. I should have deleted the line. Consider it deleted.

And the reason more Germans didn’t do what you said was that so many of them were convinced that they were “good honest hard working German folk” and the country had too many of the wrong type and they were crowding the “good Germans’ out. That is the national anthem of OneOFTheSheep Land and the cringing complaint of all those who tend to think they deserved better than the country gave them. And you are a very viscous opponent who seldom ever offers new facts but is constantly rethreading his own tired philosophy of life because he never really was a broadly read or educated person and has more than his share of difficulty with “reality”.

I “hate” prejudice and have felt it. But that’s something of a contradiction itself. And the tragic thing about you is you don’t recognize you own but you try to pass. But it is never more than cosmetic.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

BTW – the architecture may be the only honest thing on this page. It is very difficult telling the frauds from the liars regarding values when they stand on legs and not pillars.

What side: “the radical muslins” or the far more vaguely defined forces opposed to them has shed more blood? Can anyone actually count them accurately or does it matter? How the hell will either side know if they won the contest? And the same problem that presented itself after 911 – with whom do the “losers” sue for peace or the victors sit down and negotiate terms of a treaty with? I didn’t and said so repeatedly here, know then and I still don’t.

One thing that starts to look obvious – the more both sides commingle the more they will start to share characteristics and attitudes and even the tricks of their trades.

And this is the top of the heap in shear stupidity. This country claims it is fighting terror and yet all it seems to find is more terror and more extensive networks of terrorists? Perhaps that’s another disconnect with reality there too? It’s own political and economic system is rapidly loosing credibility in the eyes of its own population, and yet it pursues global conquest with missionary zeal – but on credit of course.

And there are people who can’t live without the external threat. It is an industry now when so many others have fled to other shores. While other countries are rapidly seeing to their development and increasing their wealth we are being encouraged to piss away the last strength we have on protracted conflicts, both domestically and abroad. Does anyone but me seem to notice that the planet is playing this country for the arrogant, strutting, gut selfish, power mad and self inflating fool that it is?

My take on reality has been challenged by a liar. Does this country really know what “reality” is anymore?

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

I don’t know if admin will post my comments because they are anti US. One thing these all commentators forget is what credible evidence USA has to prove them that they received some training from terrorists? it is just another drama to insult Islamic ideology! like 9/11, Invade Afghanistan and establish base for Iran! American are dumb fools but we are not we know your CIA plans! most of the commentators have even not read Quran and just giving fake ideas don’t prove USA innocent! How many of you intellectuals know that your American forces invade other countries killed thousands of children and women just to feed on their rich resources.? get the hell out of there! How many of you know that in Afghanistan every day civilians get killed by your USA army terrorists and yet you don’t speak of it because you are part of it? Indians commenting here need to shut up, because we know thousands of Kashmiri Women and children are killed by their occupied terrorist forces and they will be killed also like that in revenge! Indian does not belong only to Hindus! its the ethnic population belonging from every religion! You think that American pastor will burn the Quran in public showing his hatred towards Islam and Muslims will keep sitting in their homes to watch! The biggest acts of terrorism are performed by US army at this very moment in every corner of world! Who gave rights to USA to invade other countries and do killings??? We have nothing to do with your way of life, do what ever you want to do, but stop terrorizing Muslim world and USA will not feel the backlash! otherwise declare an open war with Islam and see yourself your demise! bet on it!

Posted by Pakpunch | Report as abusive

Nice Drama by US administration to distract focus on Gay law, gun violence and immigration. One suspect is dead and another one fighting for life! and US Govt has started all over rubbish against Muslims again! In fact US is no short of a terrorist itself! Get the numbers how many killed by US terrorist forces all over the globe! Even cant stop laughing when silly US admin threatens Iran of using Nuclear bomb! In fact US themselves are the inventers and testers on Japan! Largest weapons exporter and funding terrorist organizations all over the globe! don’t forget one’s freedom fighter is another man terrorist! This article and foolish comments don’t make a sense because all these people are sitting thousand miles away from the land where US terrorist forces are committing genocide! So feel the backlash!

Posted by Pakpunch | Report as abusive

Please refer to Allah, not God, since the Muslim Allah is a total different concept of the known Jewish-Christian concept of God.

Posted by Kindmann | Report as abusive

“with whom do the “losers” sue for peace or the victors sit down and negotiate terms of a treaty”.

I don’t know what the grammatical mistake was called anymore, but it’s mistakes like (the dangling preposition?) that mark one as an ignorant person actually.

We live with subtle forms of “hate” all the time. I passionately “hate” bad grammar and that is mostly because I don’t always know how to used it properly.

Most of what I say OOTS is over your head and I know it. You are not truly the master of even your own reality let alone anyone else’s!

I often wonder if people like OBL and even these latest bombers are really something like severe critics of “style” or “grammar”? OR were they just idiots and mischief makers for no profound reason what so ever? Does it matter?

IF they were the later, then the country can kiss it’s ass goodbye because there is no stopping them or controlling the problem if the country is simply loosing its balance and sense of proportion or any sense of responsibility. The country will be as wretched as the two headed girl I heard about a few years ago that may be suffering one of her heads going insane.

It was a very stupid mother that allowed that experiment in “nobody tells me what to do” to let that child be born. But the US is that mother in many ways. Now so is most of the developed and developing world. There is no cure!

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

Just to make sure I’m reading your logic correctly Mr Rohde.

We’re not supposed to judge all Muslims by the acts of a few “crazies”.

But the acts of a few American “crazies” is enough to judge all Americans who own guns…

Am I missing anything?

Posted by CaptnCrunch | Report as abusive

@CaptnCrunch – the arguments the usual NRA supporters seem to present – usually tinged with paranoia) and the fear that the government is going to enslave them or render them personally defenseless, suggests that more than a few “crazies” populate the NRA.

I really wonder what good a gun would be at the finishing line during the Boston Marathon? Will the future mean back packs are something that should be shot on sight?

And every weapon seems to be met with an equal and opposite reaction in countries we always assume are easy pickings.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

Actually Mr Paintcan, I am firmly in agreement with Mr Rohde. Demonizing many for the actions of a few is a sign of a weak mind and unreasonable fear.

Why do you fear me as a NRA member when I have done you no wrong? Let us punish criminals as we catch them and leave honest citizens to the legal toils and pleasures of each of our own lives.

Posted by CaptnCrunch | Report as abusive

Actually Mr Paintcan, I am firmly in agreement with Mr Rohde. Demonizing many for the actions of a few is a sign of a weak mind and unreasonable fear.

Why do you fear me as a NRA member when I have done you no wrong? Let us punish criminals as we catch them and leave honest citizens to the legal toils and pleasures of each of our own lives.

Posted by CaptnCrunch | Report as abusive

CapnCrunch – I don’t fear you or the NRA. And that’s the truth. I only think the NRA is full of very paranoid people seeking to buy and sell a line of “personal defense merchandise” that is a grave risk to everyone and that serves no good or rational purpose. You ask a very juvenile question. It’s also using a kind of faux psychology and you aren’t very good at it. It is also very far from the thread.

Frankly – I am used to government regulation and don’t own a gun and probably never will. But I am considering suicide as the “affordable alternative” to crushing healthcare costs. So if I ever get a gun it will be for my last trip “outta hear”. That’s if I can’t figure out a less messy and traumatic way to exit “gracefully”. You get the picture? Ideally, I’d just pass in my sleep without aids of any kind. I’m lucky I think – I never caught Aids either.

What I do fear is the spark that could ignite the “room full of gasoline”, so to speak, that would set the entire country – Iraq style – into a blood bath that makes the last moments a screaming nightmare. The fact that random acts of violence are becoming more common is almost like karmic payback for the USA’s not so beautiful last ten years of nearly mindless exported warfare in the name of national prestige and global control. Too many people reach for the guns because they haven’t got the brains to reach anything else! They also know their prior dealing with their enemies was too rotten and underhanded, that they really have no recourse to any other solution than violence. Isn’t that so often the case?

What would you rather do: exit your last moments of life voluntarily or struggling desperately with thousands of others to avoid the inevitable and paying through the nose for every additional day of your life? I have the definite impression that the NRA is full of “struggler’s to escape the inevitable and the exist and they don’t care what bills they cost themselves or others to pay. Suicide looks so attractive versus a protracted and very expensive “dying process”. Not even Kubler-Ross could make me feel comfortable about the bills. It could cost more to die each year than I ever lived on.

BTW – the USA (and certainly the NRA)is not composed of mature men and women for the most part. It seem to be full of very spoiled, pampered and immature consumers who have been led around by their noses by government, corporate, and private advertising until most haven’t got the foggiest idea what their core beliefs or honest values really are.

One thing the NRA seems slow to recognize is the fact that our society is very interdependent and the majority cannot live without the highly technological system we have.

That’s why so many are afraid of Muslims or any other religious organization. It has never helped matters that the religuious organizations themselves have neven really had such an astounding take of values either or the necessities of modern life.

So frequently society is a game of the blind leading the blind. It’s never a comforting thought to think that so many of those blind men are armed to the teeth. Why should anyone expect a greater sense of responsibility from gun owners than so many show anywhere else in American society?

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

Excuse me – “Outta here” – spell check doesn’t catch homonyms and my eyes are still garbage.

Even if I owned a gun, I don’t think I could hit anything beyond 20 feet anyway.

I am not a Muslim and have no intentions of becoming one.
But I saw a very nice Canadian show on Hulu called “Little Mosque” and I would have no difficulty calling people like that my Neighbors. I’d actually feel a little embarrassed. They seemed so much more earnest than I am.

A mosque in Waterbury would be just another beautiful ornament on the skyline. They should be so lucky to get a Hindu temple. Those people still use carved limestone to produce intricate sculptural and bas relief decorations that would “blow you away” without high explosives or ammo clips.

But if I don’t get my glasses upgraded regularly, I won’t be able to see them.

I wish people made better public prayers. Architecture can be a very memorable “prayer”. But I realize that is not the essence of a faith. Most people love their houses more than any other type of structure and it makes for an easier transition from culture to culture.

I miss Theresa of Calcutta. I’m tired of listening to blow hards, windbags and rigid, conservative, hard-ass Popes.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

@paintcan,

“What I do fear is the spark that could set the entire country – Iraq style – into a blood bath that makes the last moments a screaming nightmare.” “Too many people reach for the guns because they haven’t got the brains to reach anything else!”

So with what else will you defend yourself with as circumstances may require? What’s your plan? Plead loudly, cry, bleed a lot? Who you gonna call for help? The cops will be busy with many higher priorities than the safety of your miserable butt.

YOU and all like you deserve NO pity for whatever they suffer as a direct result of conscious and deliberate inaction or inappropriate meekness. You spoiled, pampered and mentally immature “future victims” cannot depend on the police or anyone else to guarantee your silly security if and when widespread civil insurrection occurs.

No one will care about YOU at that time but YOU, trust me. If you have no gun to use when and if one is needed, it will be solely because you did not use the brain you have to prepare for the “worst”.

Choices have consequences. Only those deficient in imagination do not fear their own “personal worst”.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

OOTS – Whether or not you have a gun is not necessarily going to help either. You’re just a terrified old man afraid to die as you get closer to the inevitable. One stray bullet in a time of chaos and your preparations would be useless.

Your comment is entirely psychological projection.

You and many like you are like a man so afraid of the cold of winter he stored tons of wood in his own house too close to the stove and then accidentally burned it down during the first cold snap.

You also have no imagination except that which feeds your fears.

“Choices” may have “consequences” but you are very vague as to what choices actually match which consequences and you also realize that many may not agree on how you thought “consequences” actually matched the “choices” you think it is was so important to make “correctly”.

You may actually believe a lot of false matches.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

“YOU and all like you deserve NO pity for whatever they suffer as a direct result of conscious and deliberate inaction or inappropriate meekness.”

I forgot to add. You really aren’t the type to waste pity on anyone else anyway, are you OOTS?

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

Empathy Mr Paintcan, an entirely different creature than pity. Circling the wagon back to Mr Rohde’s op-ed, if we can feel empathy for others the world becomes a better place because we will not hurt those whose pain we feel ourselves.

As to death, no life has a happy ending but we can certainly take pleasure in the journey and bonus points if we help make other’s journey enjoyable as well.

Better men than I have gone before me and I’ll not moan and wail when my time comes. Nor will I rush it and neither should you.

Let us all endeavor to be positive forces in the time we’re given as David suggests.

Peace.

Posted by CaptnCrunch | Report as abusive

@CapnCrunch -Why is empathy different than pity?

I wasn’t asking for it in my comment. I’m just cheap and can’t pay for it anyway. But OOTS and many others would add wood to the fire and go down shooting at all the people he or they don’t think deserved to live. Do you think OOTS agrees with your hope?

He doesn’t describe bravery or going down with a fight as much as getting even for suffering that may only be in his imagination or against his own enormous sense of entitlement. But if he got himself blown away in a last stand to preserve his old manse – I think I would feel pity.

I would take my aging and already aching carcass out of the picture, especially and probably, in a time of chaos. I’m 62 I’m not likely to be much help at whatever the shooting is about, and never have been much of a joiner. There is quite a menu of different priorities and a wide variety of hit-lists, no doubt. I probably wouldn’t be “empathetic” with the “right” group, anyway.

I whole-heartedly agree with “empathy”. Just reading a good novel or listening to an Opera can be an exercise in that. But I can still have room for pity as well. The trouble with pity is it tends always to be a little self righteous. Is that what you’re saying? But I feel pity for chipmunks that get run over or the cat I mistakenly hit with my car years ago. What else can one feel? Neither creature deserved what they got. They had their limitations.

What is inappropriate meekness? Meekness never seems to be the excuse for war or an industry based on it. That industry has never been my employer. The last ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan has not been about empathy or pity, it seems to me. It was motivated more by fear, a desire for revenge and an expansion of this country’s power, wealth and prestige and it provided thousands with the opportunity to make “a killing” in more ways than one. Empathy can be hazardous to one’s sense of entitlement.

BTW – that last suspect in the Boston bombing just died. I could almost say I am not at all surprised. I thought it was a set up from the start. Now a court will never have the chance to sift fact from fiction and the game of aggression, ubiquitous espionage and lucrative employment to protect national insecurity can go on as it always has.

I suppose one could die just laughing (or weeping) oneself to death?

The thread has never strayed that far form the theme. It’s a very wide theme.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

Oops – wrong suspect. The Brown student died. He looked so like the other kind. But I still expect the other kid not to make it either. It tend to think the world is more like the mafia than people care to say.

Pity or empathy take a second place to “gotta eat”. Don’t they?

But I really think people should draw the line at cannibalism. Just think what that does to cows.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive