Critical Commentary: American Muslims’ Reaction to Boston Bombings

Posted on April 30, 2013 by

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An interview with three well-known American Muslims was conducted by Michel Martin from NPR news that aired on the radio show Tell Me More.  The topic was American Muslim opinion about the Boston Marathon Bombings that took place on April 15, 9 days prior to the interview on April 24, 2013.  The interviews begin with an introduction of participants, Georgetown University professor Asra Nomani, Congressman Andre Carson, and author Dalia Mogahed.

Martin started by inquiring about all three peoples’ initial, gut reactions to the unfortunate news.  Like a typical American citizen they described their reactions as emotional.  One described how her reaction turned from anger to worry as she began to think about how this event would affect how her middle school son is seen by peers, specifically bullies.  Carson said his reaction “unfortunately” included thoughts that he hoped the people responsible were not Muslim because of the eventual collective indictment it would bring to the whole Muslim community.  The discussion went on to include ideas about how and why Muslims get labeled as they do, and how it affects both individuals and families, especially young males.  It brought the idea of Islamophobia into the minds of listeners without labeling it as such, and aroused a more positive attitude towards Islam than is usually portrayed in media.  The interview questions centered mostly around opinion of the interviewees and questions of how being stereotyped to their religion affects their own daily lives.  The topics stayed away from excessively political and economic topics and tended to focus more on personal experience.

The headlines for the first part of the discussion, “Muslim Family Values,” bring forth thoughts about how Islam connects to families and connects families within the US and among the US and other parts of the world.  For some biased thinkers, it may bring the new idea to mind that Muslims actually have families and children to take care of, and that their values are based on a religion.  If a reader continued on to the second portion of the interview, titled, “Muslims on Bombings: We’re All Disgusted,” many more reactions and thoughts would cross readers and listeners’ minds.  I think the titles of the recorded interviews are meant to invoke thought in readers about how Muslims’ core values and thoughts about the Boston Bombings may or may not be different from their own.

The interview is done with typical American listeners’ / readers’ perspectives in mind—assuming minimal knowledge of Islam, if any.  However, for better or for worse, the basics of the religion and the perspective of Muslims on their religion is not explicitly stated.  Stereotypes of Muslims of being violent and hateful people are addressed as being false on a whole, yet rarely true in extremist groups, just like other religions.  The overall tone of the coverage was hopeful towards helping all people to understand what Muslims in the US are going through now, after the Boston Bombings.  The reporter and interview participants seemed optimistic in thinking that someday, all practices of Islam will not be seen as suspicious or negative by anyone.

The perspective being promoted is that of an open mind—open to new thoughts and points of view about values and religions in the United States, how they connect, and who they connect to.  Although some people could argue that the Muslims interviewed have a positively biased opinion towards their religion, I would counter with the idea that they probably know infinitely more about their own religion and versions of it than the average American citizen would know.

The news source, National Public Radio, can be considered reliable.  Although perhaps slightly liberal in ideas and bias, NPR is publicly funded and is generally regarded as legitimate by many other news outlets.   Similar to other NPR stories covered, extremely political and economic topics were not brought up—a thoughtful, non-argumentative environment was promoted for both the participants and the listeners.

National Public Radio. “Muslim Family Values”. 24 April 2013.

Links to the interviews and transcripts can be found here:

http://www.npr.org/2013/04/24/178805803/muslim-family-values

http://www.npr.org/2013/04/24/178805805/muslims-on-boston-bombings-were-all-disgusted

-Anna Nelson

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