Earl Ofari Hutchinson
President Obama’s first official statement on the Boston Marathon bombing couldn’t have been plainer on this point: “We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts.” Yet all it took was an isolated and scantily detailed report that Boston Police were questioning a young Saudi national to set off the standard rush to judgment finger point by some at Muslim terrorists. The Saudi national as it turned out is here on a legal visa and had no criminal record. But that didn’t stop some Muslim advocacy groups from quickly issuing statements condemning the attack as “cowardly.” This was both defense and precaution. One that Muslim groups feel is mandatory given the predictable speculation that they are the culprits in any violence virtually anywhere in the world that’s labeled “terrorist.”
The good thing is that government officials and many in the media have learned the lessons of the past and that’s to pause, take a breath, and wait until more is known about why an attack happened, and who the likely perpetrator(s) are. This spares officials and the media the ultimate embarrassment of pointing fingers in a direction that often prove wildly in the wrong direction.
Obama applied the wait and see approach to a heinous act nearly four years in the immediate aftermath of the Ft. Hood, Texas bloodbath. The pack of shrill rightist bloggers and talk radio chatterers jumped all over the shooting of several military personnel at the military base and gleefully fanned anti-Muslim passions. It didn’t take much to get the hate juices flowing. A legion of writers on web sites spewed the ritual anti-Muslim slurs, profanities, and insults at the alleged shooter Major Nidal Hasan and by extension all Muslims.
Obama quickly admonished the public not to rush to judgment about the shooting and the shooter. Obama took a page from then President’s Clinton and Bush’s playbook when mob hysteria was building after the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1996 and the 9/11 attacks. Clinton and Bush cautioned the public not to finger point Muslims for the attacks.
The Oklahoma City bombing was the handiwork of Timothy McVeigh, a loose screw, red blooded American fanatic. The 9/11 attackers were mostly Saudi nationals. Yet, that still didn’t stop the murmurs, and finger pointing at and bashing of all Muslims.
That’s no surprise. American Muslims have been the repeated targets of verbal digs, physical assaults, and profiling. They are just too inviting a scapegoat for the fears and frustrations many Americans have had over two failed and flawed wars, a stagnant Middle East peace process, and even more frightening to many, the increasing presence of more and more Muslims in their neighborhoods, schools, and work places, especially when wearing Muslim attire.
Beyond the need for caution and just plain good sense in making public or official pronouncements on who committed a heinous act of violence and the motive behind it, there’s also the sobering reality that much of the recent mass violence in the country has nothing to do with alleged crazed, vengeful Muslim terrorists. It’s been home grown and the perpetrators have been young, loose screwed, gun nuts. Or, they have been right wing, racist loons that have a beef against a judge or a federal official. This has tragically awoken millions of Americans to the grim reality that mass terror can be inflicted just as easily, maybe even easier, by the withdrawn, delusional kid, next door as a foreigner sneaking into the country bent on mayhem and murder.
This also should not surprise when we consider that the US has poured a king’s ransom during the past decade into foreign and homeland security, surveillance, monitoring, and arrests, and detention of countless individuals with known or suspected terrorist group connections. Government officials periodically note with pride that the money is not a total waste since there have been no known successful terrorist attacks that could be positively traced back to a Muslim terror group since 9/11 on US soil. But this doesn’t mean that an attack couldn’t happen despite mountainous spending to stop it and world class, state of the art security measures.
The Boston Marathon bombing could be as some officials cautiously said the work of a foreign or a domestic terror group or even a lone terrorist, or crackpot. This much is known. Police and government officials don’t know anything yet. And they have been wise not to do or say anything that will fan anti-Muslim hysteria. And that’s a very good thing.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.
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