Muslims experiencing backlash from Boston Marathon bombing | Connect Asia

Muslims experiencing backlash from Boston Marathon bombing

Muslims experiencing backlash from Boston Marathon bombing

Updated 19 April 2013, 14:19 AEST

American Muslims say regardless of who was responsible for the Boston bombing, they have already suffered a backlash.

Their concerns were heightened after suspicion at first fell on a Saudi man who was seen running from the scene of the blasts, but it turned out that he, like so many others, was simply trying to reach safety.

However his apartment was searched and mainstream media including CNN and FOX News spent an hour discussing news of an arrest that never happened, and that sparked further ill-informed reaction on social media.

Presenter: Tony Eastley

Speaker: Muneer Awad, Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic relations' New York chapter

MUNEER AWAD: You know, I think it's typical of what's it's always been - American Muslims along with all other Americans are grieving the tragic deaths in Boston.

But a lot of the issues that are coming up now that are related to some of the discussions that you all wanted to have are not necessarily isolated to this one week span. You know the civil rights challenges, the constitutional challenges American Muslims have been facing have extended for longer than a decade.

With respect to what just recently happened however, American Muslims are grieving the same way all Americans are.

TONY EASTLEY: It must have concerned you that at the height of the Boston bombings suspicion at first fell on a Saudi man quite incorrectly.

MUNEER AWAD: Right, you know again people were very quick and ready to look for someone who fit the stereotypical Arab, South-Asian or Muslim suspect. But unfortunately again although the news in Boston might have made bigger headlines than usual, the case is law enforcement and government agencies have cast that shadow on American Muslims, Arabs, South-Asian for over a decade now. So unfortunately we're not surprised. We're still trying to do the kind of work that makes sure it doesn't happen.

TONY EASTLEY: Was there any sort of short-term backlash as a result of that misdiagnosis about the Saudi man and his perhaps involvement in the bombing on Monday?

MUNEER AWAD: The incidents have been very isolated. So there have been two reported attacks against people who are either Muslim or perceived to be Muslim recently in the aftermath of the marathon.

I hate to go to this again - unfortunately we see spikes in attacks on people who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim whenever the headlines tend to incite these types of reaction.

TONY EASTLEY: How much does the media have to play in those perceptions of Muslims in the American community?

MUNEER AWAD: A substantial part. And I think media outlets that are acting irresponsibly and are quick to cast judgements and are looking for someone who fits the stereotypical build, who they would like to paint as being an attacker or someone that has done a terror related incident in America, is troubling, it's concerning.

And I mean we have had this battle here in America as well if you look at the rise in anti-Muslim hate groups. Many of the most active anti-Muslim hate groups in the US have established strong connections with members of the media and a lot of the times members of the media want to jump to this story and jump to the conclusion, you know, whether or not it's accurate.

TONY EASTLEY: Well the mainstream media jumped on the headline the other day about the Saudi man being arrested as part of this bombing in Boston. The social media must play a role as well I imagine?

MUNEER AWAD: It does and I think we see the lines distinguished much more in social media. I think you'll see the overwhelming amount of Americans are not so quick to judge Muslims or people who are perceived to be Muslims as enemies or as anything other than American, as being part of the American society.

But when you talk about these mainstream media organisations, I mean many of them are questionable on most. I mean the New York Post is one of the ones that jumped on the Saudi story and they apparently are targeting anyone that is perceived to have darker skin than white skin they'll be a possible suspect.

When you look at social media, it's much easier to identify the source of people that want to blame Muslims and people who are perceived to be Muslim coming from the far right extreme elements of society. These are very fringe groups, very fringe activists and fringe commentators.

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