The suspected Boston marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsaraev, are Muslim. Were their actions motivated by religion? And if it was, were they part of an organized radical Islamist group? We don't know. But that doesn't matter to a segment of anti-Islam bloggers who are latching onto the sparse biographical details as vindication.
"BOSTON JIHADI BOMBER'S FACEBOOK PAGE: ISLAM AND BOMBS," writes the anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller, who is famous for boycotting Campbell's for offering halal soup and opposing the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. In a followup post, she writes, "The war is here and they continue to disarm the American people."
"Boston jihad bomber's father threatens 'all hell will break loose' if son dies," says JihadWatch. "Like father, like son, apparently." (The father told ABC News he thinks his sons are innocent and alleged a conspiracy.) "BOSTON MARATHON BOMBER’S FACEBOOK PAGE SHOWS HE AND BROTHER ARE ANGRY MUSLIM JIHADIS," blogger and one-time Breitbart protege Pat Dollard wrote. "Fox: authorities 'baffled' that such nice guys could do something this heinous. Means 1 thing: they haven't read the Koran," tweeted Bryan Fischer, an evangelical leader. Fischer made it clear he didn't believe in racial profiling: "The Boston bombing is not about RACE - both these guys are WHITE. This is about ISLAM." Earlier this week, conservative columnist and occasional Fox News guest Erik Rush tweeted "Muslims are evil. Let’s kill them all." He says it was a joke. On Friday, Rush tweeted video saying, "The history of Islam, and why the notion of 'peaceful Muslims' is a LIE." At World Net Daily, Jack Minor suggested Muslims sympathies were not in the right place:
While the hunt continues for those responsible for the brutal terrorist attack on Patriot’s Day in Boston, Muslim groups and their supporters already have part of the answer: They are the victims...
That logical pathway of investigation notwithstanding, the Islamist community makes it clear just exactly who the victims are.
The Tsaraevs social media presence does suggest they were religious, but not completely alienated from American culture. The elder brother, Tamerlan, posted a YouTube "extolling an extremist religious prophecy associated with Al Qaeda," Mother Jones' Adam Serwer reports. Al Qaeda is a Sunni group, but Tamerlan also posted a comment on YouTube testimonial titled, "How I accepted Islam and became a Shiite." (Update: A native Russian speaker emails to say the comment condemns Shiism.) In a photo essay chronicling his amateur boxing, Tamerlan seems upset about American culture: "There are no values anymore." In a photo gallery in which his girlfriend is said to have converted to Islam, she's pictured wearing a tank top. He shows off his white leather shoes. Dzhokhar's Russian page says his worldview is "Islam" but that "the main thing in his life" is "career and money," as The New York Times reports. New York reports a classmate says he smoked weed. Their father told CBS News they weren't very religious.
How young men decided to bomb marathoners after living in the U.S. half their lives isn't yet known. One popular theory on cable news is that they "self-radicalized." But that's a far cry from the anti-Muslim crowd's belief that the bombs in Boston were the inevitable result of their religion. Donald Trump says lookout for more: "These Tsarnaev brothers did not work alone. They had help and assistance from other cell members. Be vigilant and on the lookout."
Obviously organized Islamist terror groups are real. But there are a lot of imitators who are merely inspired by al Qaeda, as The New Yorker's Steve Coll reports. The Tsraravs' uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, had his own explanation of what happened. "Any connection to Islam... is a fake!" he told reporters When asked what made them bomb the marathon, Tsarni responded, "Being losers."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.