CAIRO - While religion is absent in any debates that follow shooting rampages by non-Muslims in the United States, the revelation that the perpetrators of the Boston attacks were Muslims has ignited the debate on Islam, highlighting the double standards in the country when it comes to Muslims.
"A terrorist is a terrorist. A killer is a killer," Quresh Dahodwala, a nuclear physicist who lives in Cherry Hill, told Philadelphia Inquirer.
"To identify them with their religion is not fair."
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When twin bombings rocked the Boston Marathon on Monday, eyes were fixed for information about the perpetrators of the attacks, which killed three and injured scores.
But when reports began to speak about the involvement of two young Muslims of Chechen origin, voices began to link Islam to terrorism and put the whole Muslim community in hot water.
"I am appalled. My heart goes out to all the victims" of the Boston bombings, said Dahodwala, a leader in the South Jersey Muslim community who helped create mosques in Cherry Hill and Voorhees.
"But it is a human tragedy.
The religion of the alleged bombers "cannot be an issue in this whole story."
US Muslims were among the first to condemn the Boston attacks, without even waiting for the suspects to be identified.
Muslim leaders have reiterated that the individual act runs counter against Islamic teachings, which bans violence and terrorism.
"I am very angry about the fact that he is Muslim and did something like this, Imam Mustafa Al-Amin of Newark said.
I'm constantly saying Islam is a religion of peace.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
Community leaders lament the double standards in dealing with attacks when Muslims are involved.
"Unfortunately, there's a double standard in the public's view when an atrocity like this hits," said Qasim Rashid, spokesman for the Ahmadiyya, which is considered by the majority of Muslims as a deviant sect.
"Who asked what religion Adam Lanza was?" asked Rashid, referring to the young man who killed 20 schoolchildren and six adults in Newtown, Conn., last year.
"If a non-Muslim commits an act of terrorism, they are thought of as responsible only for themselves. But when a Muslim, the entire Muslim community is brought in."
Dahodwala agrees, stressing that Islam rejects violence and terrorism.
"They were misguided," he said of the perpetrators.
"God doesn't tell anybody to kill your brother."
Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.A recent report by the umbrella Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net