By Jeff Walton (@JeffreyHWalton)
Officials representing several national Islamic groups earlier today condemned the Boston marathon bombings and asked that the public, media and commentators “not rush to judgment” about suspects’ motives and to “restrain themselves.”
The event at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C. was announced shortly after it was revealed that two suspects, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are ethnic Chechens from the Muslim-majority Russian Republic of Dagestan. A social media account of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev claims he is an adherent of Islam.
The religious views of the Tsarnaev brothers were not directly addressed at the press conference, with Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Legislative and Policy Analyst Hoda Elshishtawy merely noting that “We are hearing reports of the ethnic and religious background of the suspects.”
“Our community and faith detest and deplore the actions of these individuals,” announced Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Executive Director Nihad Awad. The CAIR official was insistent that the actions of those who planted the bombs were not consistent with the teachings of Islam. “Only those who do not know make these assertions – or those who have a political agenda to divide.”
Asked by a reporter from CNN how concerned the leaders were about people in their communities connecting with extremist teaching, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) President Mohamed Majid replied that “every faith has within it heretical elements, we have pushed back against that.”
Naeem Baig of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) thanked the media “for not jumping to conclusions,” but explained that the Muslim American community felt a burden of others doing so.
“We cannot control what is on the internet,” Baig noted in responding to a query about one of the Tsarnaev brothers following a controversial Australian-born Islamic lecturer.
“Anybody can misinterpret a text,” Awad asserted, adding that the American Muslim community “will not allow ourselves to be hijacked” by the ideologies of overseas extremists.
Asked by a correspondent from Arabic satellite TV network Al Jazeera why the Muslim groups were acting defensive by calling a press conference so quickly, Majid responded “we are not apologizing, we are condemning crimes.”