Mon 22 Apr 2013
Ever since the April 15 explosion of two bombs at the end of the Boston Marathon, Lynn and I have found ourselves continually reading and watching the news. I’ve even awakened in the middle of the night to check the latest developments. And like the crowd in Watertown, Massachusetts, I rejoiced when the second suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was apprehended there Friday evening.
Dzhokhar’s brother Tamerlan, the supposed mastermind of the terrorist plot, died following a gunfight with police early that day. The cause of his death, however, is still uncertain. Was it the result of a gunshot or gunshots? Was he fatally wounded by a blast from one of the explosives the pair were throwing at police? Or did Dzhokhar fatally injure his older brother by driving over him while trying to escape?
Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 19 and 26, among the spectators at the footrace as they waited to set off their bombs.
Nor were the three people killed and more than 250 people injured in the bombing the brothers’ only victims. In trying to flee the area, the brothers fatally shot a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer and shot a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority policeman, leaving him critically wounded.
Much has been said in the news media about the brothers being ethnic Chechens. However, the two were brought up in the United States. Dzhokar is a US citizen. Russia, as it turned out, had in 2011 asked the FBI to investigate Tamerlan before letting him into the country, but the bureau turned up nothing incriminating at that time.
Getting even more attention in the news media is the fact that the Tsarnaev family is Muslim. An uncle, as well as people who knew the brothers and their mother, have reported Tamerlan and his mother during the past three to five years had pushed each other into becoming Islamic fundamentalists.
The mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, initiated the conversion, she has said, out of concern that Tamerlan was smoking pot, drinking, and partying. He, in turn, began pressing her to adopt an ultra-conservative form of Islamic fundamentalism. In an interview with London’s Daily Telegraph, the mother said, “Tamerlan said to me, ‘You know mama, you are pushing me toward the truth, but I would like you to wear a hijab. A woman in Islam should be concealed.'”
“After that, relatives from Russia, communicating by Skype, were shocked to see her wearing a veil,” The Daily Telegraph reported. She also “started to refuse to see boys who had gone through puberty, as she had consulted a religious figure and he had told her it was sacrilegious,” writer Alyssa Lindley Kilzer reported in The Daily Beast.
As it happened the writer had been receiving facial treatments from Zubeidat, but she had stopped after the mother evolved into a religious zealot. Zubeidat had begun claiming the 9/11 attack was actually the work of the US government to make Muslims look bad, Kilzer wrote. Her sons knew all about this from the Internet, the mother had said.
How does all this reflect on Islam? First, members of Tamerlan’s mosque described him as a disruptive zealot with an anger problem, so he certainly didn’t fit in the mainstream.
Second, his fanaticism doesn’t sound any different from that of Christian fanatics who attack abortion clinics and staff. In the past 20 years, eight abortion-clinic staff have been murdered; there have been attempts to murder 17 others; there have also been 153 physical attacks on staffers; and there have been three kidnappings. Yet no one claims that all this violence reflects badly on Christianity.
Less than a day after crowds in Watertown, Massachusetts, cheered law enforcement personnel who captured Dzohkar Tsarnaev, another crowd was running for cover after a man, a woman, a boy, and a dog were wounded by gunshots during a marijuana festival in Denver.
And how did the shootings reflect on Colorado’s recent legalization of recreational pot? Despite conservative attempts to make political hay from the crime, no link exists. It now turns out the shots were fired during a fight between rival gang members.
Nor was Saturday’s incident an indication that a marijuana celebration is more likely to experience gang violence than other public events. As The Denver Post later reported, “It was the second time in less than a year that gang gunfire pierced a large gathering. Denver police Officer Celena Hollis was killed last summer when Rollin Oliver, apparently fleeing a group of Crips, opened fire in a crowded jazz concert at City Park.”
The crime scene in Federal Way, a city of 90,000 people between Seattle and Tacoma.
Nor were those the last of the multiple shootings. The following day, Sunday, a man in the city of Federal Way, Dennis Clark, 23, became angry with his girlfriend and shot her to death at their apartment complex. When he was confronted by two men in a parking lot, he killed them too along with a third man. Police fatally shot Clark while he was attempting to shoot witnesses.
Then came Monday’s news from Canada where police arrested two men who allegedly planned to bomb a passenger train line between Toronto and the US.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the American CIA had worked together for a year to foil the terrorist plot. Canada’s Global Post reported, “Police said that the two men arrested, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, were receiving support from ‘al Qaeda elements in Iran.'”
But don’t make too much of the Iran connection either. Al Qaeda is a Sunni terrorist group and has not been linked to the government of Iran, most of whose citizens belong to the rival Shiite sect of Islam.
The crime scene in Belgorod, southwestern Russia.
Also on Monday, a man in the Russian city of Belgorod randomly opened fire at people on the street and in a store, apparently outraged that his car had been scratched. Six people died, including a 14-year-old girl. The man, who is approximately 30 years old, fled in his scratched car, which he later abandoned.
“The attack comes some six months after a Moscow lawyer shot dead six people in the Russian capital in what was believed to have been his violent response to the end of a romance,” the Russian press reported.
The crime scene in the Serbian village of Velika Ivanca, which consists of only 12 houses. The village is 25 miles from Belgrade, the capital.
The use of guns and explosives to commit random violence is obviously a worldwide problem. In the early hours of April 9, a former soldier, Ljubisa Bogdanovic, went on a killing spree in Velika Ivanca, shooting to death 13 people, including members of his own family, and critically wounding two others plus himself. He has now died.
Bogdanovic, 60, was a veteran of Serbia’s war in Croatia 20 years ago, and some Serbs have suggested he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Serbian cabinet is now reviewing the tragedy, and officials have said the shootings show that the government must pay more attention to gun control.
In the midst of all this, the US Senate voted not to require background checks for those purchasing guns. One can only wish US lawmakers were as enlightened as officials in Serbia, who last week even managed to normalize relations with their long-standing nemesis Kosovo.
Looking for a respite from a week of violent news, Lynn and our resident raccoon turned their attention to the comics.