Ethnicity of Boston Bombings Suspects Prompts Concern by Some in the Muslim Community

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: After the bombs went off last Monday at the Boston Marathon, a wave of concern rippled through many Muslim Americans. Who would the suspects turn out to be? Haider Javed Warraich is a resident of internal medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Warraich is originally from Pakistan and news that the bombers were Chechen Muslims hit him personally.

Haider Javed Warraich: I think my first reaction on hearing this information was anger and the other was disappointment. I was angry because I was hoping that this event would not be about Islam, would not be about Muslim; this would be something else, anything else would be preferable at some level. And I think the reason why we felt that way was such events have been followed by a lot of backlash towards an increasing Islamophobia or rather a change in policy with regards to visas, scholarships.

Werman: And we should say that you're Muslim yourself.

Warraich: I am. I am from Pakistan. I was born and raised there and I moved to the United States about three years ago to pursue research and then now residency in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Werman: So we don't know how the fact that they're Muslim really plays into any of this, but just kind of lingering residue and how we remember the reaction to oh, they're Muslim on 9/11. Does that still affect you?

Warraich: This is going to get a lot of airtime, which is I think the last thing that Muslims in America and around the world want. I think the narrative of a deranged, antisocial white teenager would've been somewhat less abrasive and less foreign than this whole idea…these two young refugees from Chechnya were the perpetrators of this atrocity.

Werman: Now, Haider, you said you had two reactions, one of anger and one of disappointment. Can you explain the disappointment?

Warraich: The disappointment stems from—and this is all assuming that their backgrounds and their religion had some sort of link to their motivation because it sets everyone back. It sets—the Muslim community has been trying very hard to cooperate with the government. A lot of leads have actually come from within the community, and I think that is the biggest defense against such incidents. In face, one of the, the elder suspect was actually booed off from on of the mosques because he objected to Martin Luther King being used as sort of a role model. I think these incidents push all of that so far back and yet it's almost like we have to start from scratch again.

Werman: Just give us a brief kind of snapshot of the things you've experienced in terms of violent extremism when you were growing up in Pakistan.

Warraich: I think one of the most harrowing things that come to my mind is when the military headquarters was actually attacked by militants. The headquarters is right next to where we used to live at that point. And then my mother's brother, my uncle, was actually one of the hostages in that sort of situation and we were the ones that had to go up to his wife to tell her that he's in there. It was something that touched me and caused me so much anguish. And then my mother, she's actually a dentist in the military. And so many military officials have become targets and this sort of affected me on a day to day basis.

Werman: Now when the bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last Monday you were nearby having lunch with your wife. You felt the shake, not sure what it was. And once you knew your instinct was to get out of there, but then you began to remember frightening moments from your own childhood. I'm just wondering why those memories didn't rush up at the moment of the explosion and why did they kind of occur to you later on once you were back at home?

Warraich: The reason why they didn't rush back to me was because there was something much bigger rushing back to me, which is this human instinct of protecting one's life. But as I got some sort of measure of calm about myself, then those other thoughts—how could I help in my capacity as a physician, but then also there's also room for those thoughts of paranoia. Would I be a suspect if I were to go back at the site or if someone were to sort of not approve of how I appeared, so I think that's hwy it took some time for those things to come in, it's not all over.

Werman: Haider Javed Warraich, thanks so much for coming in.

Warraich: Thank you so much for having me.