The terrorism scare

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The hunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing may be over, but the consequences will continue to be felt, affecting everything from the dignity of mainstream politics to the scaremongering about “radical Islam,” both abroad and on U.S. soil.  If the authorities decide there is a “terrorist threat,” then this event will bring up the issue of civil liberties and whether they should be violated to maintain safety.

Shortly after Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout and his brother Dzokhar Tsarnaev was wounded and arrested hours later, we still don’t even know the motives of the two suspects—whether, as the media asserts based on speculation, their motives were connected to their identity as Chechens or Muslims.

What we do know is that there will be a rush to score political points—and that rush will undoubtedly come at the expense of our own rights.

The Boston marathon bombings were a sadistic attack designed to maim innocent people that do not harm society whatsoever.  However, those attacks are now being used as justification for furthering an agenda of violence and civil repression, and that is morally unconscionable.

It may not be popular to do so, but those who oppose war, racism and injustice need to speak up and question the invariable rush to judgment and scapegoating.  Furthermore, they need to challenge those who try to exploit the horror of such events as an excuse to take away rights of purely innocent people.

All of the racist assumptions about the purported “terrorism” that simmer below the surface in the U.S. media and political establishment came from a bubbling up in the past week.

In general, the media was initially hesitant to label the Boston bombings to be the work of Muslim extremists.  But there were exceptions even in the first days after the tragedy—like CNN anchor John King reporting that the suspected bomber was a “darker-skinned” male with a “possible foreign accent.”

No publications sunk as low as the New York Post, though, which first falsely reported that a “Saudi national” was in custody for the bombings—and then ran a front cover with an image of two men and the headline “BAG MEN: Feds seek these two.”  Those men were not the Tsarnaevs, and had nothing to do with the bombings.  But because they had brown skin, the Post felt justified in painting a target on their backs.

Behind it all was the prejudices of the media and the political establishment about what gets called “terrorism”: acts of violence committed by people of Middle Eastern origins that identify as Muslims.

It wasn’t too long before the impact was felt.  On the night of the bombing, several men attacked Abdullah Faruqu, a Bangladeshi man in New York, calling him many derogatory names.  Heba Abolaban, a young Palestinian doctor and mother, was assaulted in Maiden, Massachusetts while walking with her children.  Her assailant punched her in the shoulder and shouted, “You are involved in the Boston explosions!”

Once the Tsarnaev brother were identified as suspects and their ethnicity and religion was revealed, the racist scapegoating really got underway.

Conservatives led the baying for the blood.  New York Rep. Steve King called for a new McCarthyism, telling the National Review that the police must “realize that the threat is coming form the Muslim community and increase surveillance there.”  New York state Senator Greg Ball advocated torturing Dzhokar Tsarnaev, writing, “Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk to save more lives?”

Senators Lindsey Graham or South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and John McCain of Arizona called for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be designated an “enemy combatant” so that authorities could “question him for a lengthy period without a lawyer and outside the criminal justice system.”

But the Republicans needn’t have worried.  Tsarnaev is already being questioned without a lawyer, and it’s unknown when he’ll get one—because the Obama administration invoked a legal provision allowing for the Government, in cases of vaguely defined “ongoing threats to public safety” to not inform suspects of their Miranda rights.,

In the days to come, more politicians will jump on the bandwagon, calling for more restrictions on civil liberties to make us “safer.”  But squashing Miranda rights and other rights won’t “save more lives” and prevent tragedies.  Repression only creates conditions for bitterness and despair, domestically and internationally, and can sometimes be expressed in awful forms of anger.

Furthermore, during the days after the bombing and before the capture of the Tsarnaev brothers, officers were searching houses of people without a warrant.  The law officials have disregarded basic laws on the basis of fear alone.  This is exactly what terrorism acts seek to do; they want to make us so afraid that we will give up our rights.  Our reaction to this should be a showing of resiliency.  After the events that took place on September 11,2001, we responded with extreme fear and rashness.  It wasn’t until very recently that we got justice for the attack, and we need to make sure that our reaction to any future terrorist attacks is more calculated and efficient.

The point is, it is very obvious that terrorist attacks, and attacks in general, have been rather inventive.  We cannot completely prevent these things, so it is pointless to take away rights in the attempt.  Anyone wanting to harm someone will most likely find ways around current restrictions.  If we keep tightening up our rights and security because of something that is seemingly unpreventable, we will find ourselves with a new thing to fear: a potential police state.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Parkway School District.

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