How did scholars of the Middle East and those engaged in moonlighting (non-specialists who write about the region) react to the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013? Before the smoke cleared, some were predicting that the perpetrators would be "right-wingers" who sought to "disrupt tax day," "neo-Nazis," or "lone wolves." Given that Muslims constitute 30 of 32 of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's list of most wanted terrorists, this represents either wishful thinking or willful blindness.
Accordingly, after brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were identified as the perpetrators, scholars resorted to apologetics and obfuscation to explain away Islam's role: the Tsarnaevs aren't "real" Muslims; Islam and terrorism are incompatible; Islamic terrorism is no more significant than any other societal ill; "Islamophobia" and a wave of anti-Muslim hate crimes (that has yet to arrive) will ensue; and the attack was an example not of ideologically-rooted violence, but of logical "blowback" against American foreign policy.
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