By Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
The bombings at the Boston Marathon were a horrible tragedy and their perpetrators must be brought to justice. Our hearts go out to the people of Boston and we share the grief and anger they feel. Following the release of the suspects’ photos yesterday, we awoke this morning to news that one suspect was killed and authorities were closing in on the other. At the same time it became clear that others may be involved.
Information on the background of the suspects has been scarce, and what we have been told about them has changed significantly as new evidence emerges. Authorities have been careful not to assign motives to these suspects and I would urge the news media and the public at large to follow that example. Justice for the victims of the bombings will not be served by stereotyping, rampant speculation, and hatred; rather it will be achieved by prosecuting those responsible under the rule of law.
Unfortunately, in the last few days too many members of the media have engaged in conjecture based on stereotypes and grainy photos. They have assumed motive based on skin color and ethnic origin. This shoddy reporting has resulted in innocent bystanders being implicated in crimes they had nothing to do with, where they were in fact as much victims as anyone else. Sadly, we have also already heard reports of innocent individuals who are or “look” Muslim being accosted and attacked in the streets.
Regardless of the religious background or the ethnic origin of the suspects, it says no more about the broader communities from which they come than Timothy McVeigh’s actions said about Christians when he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on this very day 18 years ago.
The actions of the sick individuals behind this terrorist attack have already devastated the lives of far too many people. We cannot allow them to cause further damage by letting their actions inspire hatred and violence against Muslims, other religious minorities, and people presumed to belong to these maligned minority groups. That kind of collective punishment goes against everything we stand for as Americans.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy is president of Interfaith Alliance and Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana.