All right, I’ll spell it out for you: the fact that they were Muslims is not incidental to what they did. There’s this thing called “jihad,” you see. It’s an Islamic doctrine involving warfare against unbelievers. The likelihood is that some others might want to wage jihad against Americans as well. And so the more we know about it, the better prepared we can be to defend ourselves. “The Boston Bombers Were Muslim: So?,” by Megan Garber for the Atlantic Wire, April 19:
Here is what we know — or what we think we know — about Tamerlan Tsarnaev: He was a boxer and a “gifted athlete.” He did not smoke or drink — “God said no alcohol” — and didn’t take his shirt off in public “so girls don’t get bad ideas.” He was “very religious.” He had a girlfriend who was half-Portuguese and half-Italian. In 2009, he was arrested after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend. He was “a nice guy.” He was also a “cocky guy.” He was also a “a normal guy.” He loved the movie Borat. He wanted to become an engineer, but his first love was music: He studied it in school, playing the piano and the violin. He didn’t have American friends, he said — “I don’t understand them” — but he also professed to appreciate the U.S. (“America has a lot of jobs …. You have a chance to make money here if you are willing to work”). He was training, as a boxer, to represent the U.S. in the Olympics.
We know, or we think we do, that Tamerlan’s brother, Dzhokar, is “very quiet.” Having graduated from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School — a public school known for its diverse student body — he received a scholarship from the City of Cambridge. He went to his prom, with a date and in a tux. He had friends. He posed with them, smiling, at graduation. He tweeted pictures of cats. He skateboarded around his Cambridge neighborhood. His personal priorities, he has said, are “career and money.” He is a second-year medical student at UMass Dartmouth. He is seemingly Chechan by birth and Muslim by religion, and has lived in the U.S. since 2002. He is “a true angel.” He has uncles in Maryland. He called one of them yesterday and said, “Forgive me.”
In times like this, we tend to emphasize adjectives rather than verbs.
These are provisional facts. They are the products of the chaos of breaking news, and may well also be the products of people who stretch the truth — or break it — in order to play a role in the mayhem. They are very much subject to change. But they are also reminders of something it’s so easy to forget right now, especially for the many, many members of the media — professional and otherwise — who currently find themselves under pressure of live air or deadline: Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev are not simply “the Marathon bombers,” or “murderers,” or “Chechens,” or “immigrants,” or “Muslims.” They might turn out to be all of those things. They might not. The one thing we know for sure is that they are not only those things. They had friends and families and lives. They had YouTube accounts and Twitter feeds. They went to class. They went to work. They came home, and they left it again.
And then they did something unimaginable….
And the Atlantic Wire still can’t imagine what it really was.