Final Project: Religion with the Boston Bombings; Sam Fischer

Posted on May 17, 2013 by


Sam Fischer

World Religions


Professor Peterson

The Boston Bombing Suspects

            Whenever there is an attack, people immediately ask what was wrong with the people responsible and what their motives were.  The Boston Marathon bombings are no exception.  The Boston Marathon occurred on April 15, 2013.  Near the finish line, two bombs went off.  The reports say that three were killed and 144 people were injured with 17 in critical condition and 25 in serious condition.  Included in the treatments of the victims were serious surgeries and amputations (Levs and Plott).  The two suspects were brothers named Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  Tamerlan died when eluding the police and Dzhokar is still in critical condition from being wounded (Cullison).  The media used different languages and wordings to describe parts of the suspects involved.  This influenced the reader on how to think about the subject.  Articles around the United States seemed to specifically look at the religious beliefs of the Tsarnaevs, especially those of Tamerlan.  Most articles reported his change in religion and are speculating on whether or not that lead to the attack.  When looking at the articles, the reader must pay attention to three specific aspects that the media influenced with their terminology.  These aspects include how Tamerlan’s religion was viewed before the change, his mother’s influence on their religion, and how his religion was viewed after the change.

The media talked about a change in religion for the suspects.  They stayed as Muslims, but they were talked about in different ways.  The U.S. investigators were reported to be investigating the six months within the last year of Tamerlan’s life that he spent in Russia (Mollayev).  He went to Russia on a trip to visit his ancestral homeland.  The change the media liked to consider is Tamerlan’s religious views before and after this trip.  The author pointed out that he seemed “more American” before the trip (Mollayev). By saying this, the author was inferring that somehow he was not as American when he came back.  The reader could take this as inferring that his religious journey caused him to become less of an American and thus commit the bombing crime that he is accused of doing.  Also, it was inferring a more positive feeling towards Tamerlan before the religious change.  To a lesser extent than that, there were other terms used to describe his religious involvement before he went to Russia.  Before he went to Russia, phrases were used such as “attended a mosque” and “learning to read the Quran” (Mollayev).  These were not necessarily positive sounding phrases, but they were definitely not making a negative impression on the audience.  He sounded just like every other person working with his or her religion.  This was the key part, because he was made out as normal, not negative.

Many different sources have commented on how the suspects’ mother pushed religion onto her children.  The most credible source a reader could find on this was an author that knew the mother directly.  Alyssa Kilzer claimed to have known the mother since six years ago.  Kilzer said that sometime in 2010 or 2011 she noticed that the mother wore a hijab before going outside.  This was the first time that she saw the mother wear this.  This was right about the times the author said the mother became “increasingly religious.”  The author was not using this as a compliment.  She started to name aspects of her life that would seem abnormal to American culture.  By doing these things, she made the mother seem different from the rest of Americans, which is never positive for a Muslim in today’s culture.  Kilzer then quoted the mother in saying, “9/11 was purposefully created by the American government to make America hate Muslims.  It’s real.  My son knows all about it.”  This was a very powerful statement when the audience would mostly be Americans.  By connecting the September 11 attack with knowledge that her son had, the audience would get a bit uneasy.  Even if it was unintentional, she was influencing readers to associate her son with a bombing.  This was just another example of negative influences by the media towards Muslims.  Another article by a different author says that his mother encouraged Tamerlan to become more involved in religion and to “peruse stricter ways” (Cullison).  Later, the mother was reported as “crazy” for covering herself in the traditional Muslim look (Cullison).  “Stricter ways” and “crazy” are terms that could be taken as negative.  The author was inferring that the mother had something to do with influencing Tamerlan in a negative way with his religion.  Overall, the mother was made out to be a negative figure in the media.

When Tamerlan came back from Russia, a vast change in him was reported by many sources.  One account was of him having “outbursts” at a mosque, and the other congregants “shouting at him, telling him to leave.”  The outbursts were about the mosque encouraging Muslims to celebrate American institutions such as July 4th and Martin Luther King Day (Mollayev).  When the author said he had “outbursts” about such holidays that seemed to be the staple of America, he touched a nerve for a lot of his American readers.  The author influenced the readers to think of Tamerlan in a negative way because he acted negatively towards these American holidays.  Another term that was used in describing his attitude about religion after the visit to Russian was “confrontational” (Cullison).  Once again this was a negative term to describe his religion.  The same author was quoted in saying the following, “His growing religious interest coincided with a rocky period in his life during which… he was charged with assault by a girlfriend who said he slapped her” (Collison).  By relating his growing interest in religion with a negative period in his life, the reader could relate the two to each other.  The more someone looked at his religious change, the more they would find negative comments about his religious after the change.

The Boston Marathon Bombing was truly a tragedy.  The media was obviously going to portray the majority if not all of the information in a negative way.  Who is to blame? What was their motive? Why did they do this specific act?  All of these questions were trying to be answered by media all around.  Since this was a bombing, the first guess was that terrorism was responsible.  What is usually associated with terrorism? The answer is religion.  The media immediately looked at the suspects’ religion and how it could have possibly affected this terrible act.  The results came back that the Tsarnaev brothers were Muslims.  This immediately worried readers because of America’s tension with Muslims.  Media members have used different techniques to describe three parts of their religion.  These included Tamerlan’s religious changes and his mother’s influence on him.  In recap, Tamerlan was mostly portrayed in a positive way before his change.  Then, his mother influenced him and his religion.  The mother herself and her influence were portrayed in a negative way towards Tamerlan.  Finally, the product of Tamerlan’s religious change was also portrayed as negative.  His change was portrayed in a way that made the reader believe he could have been part of the bombings.  Positive or negative, the media affects how people viewed the suspects of the Boston Marathon Bombings.


Cullison, Alan. “Turn to Religion Split Suspects’ Home.” The Wall Street Journal, 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 3 May 2013. <;.

Kilzer, Alyssa. “I Know the Tsarnaev Brothers’ Mother.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 26 Apr. 2013. Web. 1 May 2013. <;.

Levs, Josh, and Monte Plott. “Boy, 8, One of 3 Killed in Bombings at Boston Marathon; Scores Wounded.” CNN. Cable News Network, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 3 May 2013. <;.

Longenecker, Dwight. “Did Religion Motivate the Boston Bombers?” The Washington Post, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. <;.

Mollayev, Arsen. “Aunt: Boston Bombings Suspect Struggled with Islam.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 2 May 2013. <;.

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