News Column

Boston Muslims Face Anger, Resentment -- and Love

April 19, 2013

Jeremy Boren

Mosque in Roxbury, Mass. (Creative Commons)
Mosque in Roxbury, Mass. (Creative Commons)

Boston Muslims have felt a mix of resentment and warmth since Monday's deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon.

Those who spoke outside the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center -- the largest mosque in New England -- said animosity from strangers is nowhere near as intense as it was after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but it's there.

"People are physically harassing people. A friend of mine was pushed off the train onto the floor Tuesday because she was Muslim," said Lena, 20, of Roxbury, who wears an orange hijab.

She declined to give her last name because she doesn't want to draw attention to herself.

"I was shocked (by the bombing) just like every other American. I prayed against the person who did it, whether he was Muslim or not."

Boston police referred questions about the prevalence of such incidents to a representative who did not return messages seeking comment.

Jawad Benazzi, facility director at the mosque, said he joins Imam William Suhaib Webb in condemning the attack and has prayed for the perpetrator's capture.

"This is the worst situation there can be. It's an atrocity," said Benazzi, who was born in France. "A lot of Muslims fear backlashes will come against them just because they're Muslim."

Benazzi said the bombing reminded his wife of the curses and insults she endured after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In tears Monday night after the bombing, she worried the abuse would return, he said.

"But what we've seen is many people coming together," Benazzi said. "People are starting to understand extremism versus people like you and me. Yes, I pray five times a day, but that doesn't make you different from me."

Letters and emails arrived from neighbors, synagogues and churches offering support and encouragement, not derision, said Suzan El-Rayess, development director at the mosque.

One group of non-Muslim women offered to escort Muslim women to stores and restaurants in case anyone tried to harass them, El- Rayess said.

About 1,000 people attend services at the mosque on Malcolm X Boulevard.

Among them are marathon runners, a doctor who helped treat the wounded in the marathon's main medical tent and a surgical resident at Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center who helped manage treatment of injured runners and spectators, El-Rayess said.

Benazzi said though he was born elsewhere, he thinks of himself as a Bostonian and an American.

"We can't wait to find out who did this," Benazzi said. "He needs to be brought to justice and be punished."



Source: Copyright Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA) 2013