Some comments on an article about the mother of the Boston bomb suspects

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

I came across a report concerning the mother (her name is given as Zubeidat) of those accused of the Boston bombings (the article may be accessed here) [1]. There are a number of things that caught my attention concerning the manner in which the report was presented, and I thought that instead of inserting this article as a link in a footnote of some larger work, it was better to see exactly what is going on in a report on Muslims in the West. I will not really mention the “investigation-related” excerpts in here, since there is no direct relevance to this discussion, and since there is still a lot in this respect that is ongoing.

Now, I understand that this report is written in the wake of a terror attack that killed people and injured many more. It is true that there will be widespread suspicion on the mother of these suspects and her possible role in this atrocity. It may also be true that this lady may have had some involvement with the events surrounding the bombing in Boston, even though this has not been proven. It is also true that there may be a number of moral and character flaws in this lady as per what the article presents. But I see that in many cases, the report moves beyond such matters and reveals assumptions about the “way things should be” that are inherently set against Islam and the proper way of Muslim living.

For example, the report says that from a background where Zubeidat was wearing blouses and sporting the hairdo of rock starts, the people “in recent years, people noticed a change. She began wearing a Hijab and cited conspiracy theories about 9/11 being a plot against Muslims.”

I cannot say whether the writer intentionally brought the two matters together, but it sends the message that (a) starting to wear the Hijab is not only “abnormal” and against “how things are meant to be”, but also a sign of a deeper, worrying change. Note the phrase “But in recent years, people noticed a change” (a short sentence that normally serves to introduce a serious problem or a bad omen). Also, it is unclear why the 9/11 conspiracy theories are tied with the wearing of Hijab. There are millions of people, in America and around the world, who do not believe in the official account of events as forwarded by the American government; it may be said that such conspiracies are a form of quackery, but the reason for tying this to the Hijab in the same sentence is unclear. Whatever may be the intention, it has the effect of placing in the reader’s mind that wearing the Hijab is also a form of delusion, and that it may be a sign of many deeper problems.

The article also mentions her claims that she is no terrorist, but rather only found a deeper spirituality. It would seem that with the picture painted just above (of strangeness, abnormality, and conspiracies) the readers are being warned that talk of Islamic spirituality is only a mask for deeper problems – the unsaid assumption being that spirituality may be fine for some, but “Islamic spirituality” simply does not exist as such, and that whoever talks of such a thing is either not stable or is hiding a more sinister motive.

We also have the 2012 shoplifting charge against Zubeidat, and while the article suggests that this is not really a deterrent for the bomber’s family to visit the United States, another matter brought up (in the background) is that she is already a criminal so how can anything she says (about not being a terrorist) be trustworthy? This is important when it is tied to her testifying for her innocence and that she is being victimized as a terrorist. We know that most Muslims are quite familiar with being deemed terrorists and that most will outright deny this allegation, but by tying her verbal defense with her questionable moral integrity, what likely arises in the mind of the non-Muslim is that most Muslims they meet and see are also going through the motions of denying terrorism even though the truth is something different.

We also notice that “some” people considered her as tolerant, and that warmth was given to them when they met Zubeidat’s family. However, then the change in their religiosity is mentioned in dark overtones. Thus, the decision to start praying, to start wearing the Hijab, and to fast are presented as “surprising” by one of Zubeidat’s clients. This is compounded when her religiously approved refusal to see post-pubescent boys is mentioned. When the character of “Misha” is introduced and it is revealed that he is a convert to Islam, a new matter is introduced: Converts, taking their religion so seriously due to the very nature of religious conversion, are to be treated with special surprise, not only because of how they comport themselves personally, but also because they may influence the original Muslims to take darker detours in their lives. (Such an assumption will obviously put anyone considering converting to Islam under severe strain, since the last thing one wants is added scrutiny about their conversion to Islam)

The mentioning of these matters one after the other is important because for one, they do constitute part of the essential practices of formal Islam, and yet the shock of the non-Muslims who met the family shines through the account. The not so hidden message is that one can call himself a Muslim, but if one wishes to adopt a true Islamic lifestyle, then dismay, unpleasant surprises, and general shock are to be expected from the society at large – the second message being that there is something wrong with these practices, which is the reason why these unpleasant feelings arise in the “normal” non-Muslims. Of course, all of this is without us making any reference to extremists and the investigation itself, which is ostensibly the main content of this article.

There are definitely more things that may be deduced from a more thorough reading of this news report, and I will in all likelihood expand on this post. But I wanted the readers to know that there are assumptions being presented as facts concerning the Islamic rules and their influence in the lives of ordinary Muslims that will only serve to add to the suspicions and apprehensions felt towards Muslims. That these assumptions come out so naturally is a testament to the fact that we Muslims should seriously present and challenge such assumptions, so that the true message of Islam will be conveyed to all.

[1] I have decided to “archive” all outside articles I use on one of my blogs, so that they may be available even if the sites they originally belong to rearrange their structure or are no longer present in the future.