Courtesy Facebook

The nation is still reeling from shock after Monday’s attack on the Boston Marathon. Gun violence notwithstanding, this is perhaps the first real terrorist attack on US soil after 9/11. Understandably emotions have been running high; no surprise then, that as the events unfolded many people, including the media, jumped on the “Blame the Muslims” bandwagon. The New York Post famously inflated casualty numbers and reported that a Saudi man was apprehended as a suspect by the police. Social media was inundated by predictions of guilt and accusations of violent jihad, at the same time as the Muslim community mobilized to condemn the attacks.

The fact that Muslims have to defend themselves even before any culprit has been found or motive determined is a sad reality. Having lived through 9/11, the Fort Hood shootings and the American Consulate killings in Libya, the American Muslim community has learned the hard way that every act of violence is another public relations crisis for us. As Huffington Post reported, it has become second nature for us to be immediately vocal about the peaceful teachings of Islam in a way that no other religion has cause to be. Perhaps it’s the one positive we have gained in the wake of violence in this decade.

More than an experiment in American Muslim PR, however, the Boston Marathon attack has proven to be a test case of interfaith relations. While Islamophobia is still raging rampant in the country, many known religious Islam-bashers have keep prudently silent and refrained from making any predictions about the culprit’s religious affiliations. A Fox News guest recommended killing all Muslims, but that’s the level of journalistic integrity routinely displayed by Fox News. What was pleasantly surprising, however, was the fact that the general public wasn’t listening to the media this time. The average Joe – Christian, Jewish, even atheist – was refusing to give in to the Islamophobia.

The tolerant attitudes and overwhelming response of Americans was nowhere as obvious as on social media. Case in point: Twitter user @MuslimIQ tweeted on 15 April: “RT if you are non-Muslim & condemn those ignorantly blaming Muslims for the horrific #BostonMarathon.”

Within a day the retweets rose to more than 3,000 in response. Among the replies:

“Our great religions came from the same roots after all. I cannot comprehend Islamophobia.”

“I condemn ALL mass blaming of ANY group. I just blame individual idiots, as it should be.”

“There are just as many extreme Christians as Muslims. Every Muslim I have met has been friendly, peaceful and considerate.”

“People need to learn that peace and hate will come from all colors and religions.”

“I favorited and retweeted and I am an atheist. Assalaam alaikum, friend.”

That people of other faiths are standing up for their Muslim neighbors is an amazing display of interfaith unity. It seems to me that Americans have truly been making an effort to bridge the gap, learn about each other and stick together in trying times. The message across the social media world is that violence and hate is not taught by Islam or any other religion, and those who hide behind a faith to further their agendas have got to be exposed. Regardless of who the perpetrator of the Boston Marathon attack turns out to be, we as Americans have finally passed the real test of interfaith relationships. As an interfaith activist, I couldn’t be more proud.

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