US Muslims ‘holding their breath’ as Boston investigators hunt for bomber

US Muslims are “holding their breath” as the investigation into the Boston Marathon attacks develops, amid fears of increased racial profiling and attacks if an Islamic link is confirmed, according to advocate groups.

Investigators say they still do not know who carried out the attacks or why, and Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said on Wednesday there was no evidence the attacks were part of a larger plot.

But amid official statements that no suspect has yet been identified as being behind the bombs that killed three and maimed and wounded more than a hundred people, at least two news outlets falsely reported a Saudi national was being held as a suspect, with some lawmakers and pundits pitching in on the falsehood.

Muneer Awad, the executive director of New York chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (Cair), said: “Americans have been conditioned to assume that any act of terror on our land has been perpetrated by a Muslim. That’s why it was so easy for people to jump on to reports that a Saudi national had been a person of interest. There is no reason for why he was a suspect, other than he was a Saudi Arabian.

“Whether they are being questioned, interrogated, having their apartments being searched – we are looking at a community where it’s normal for the NYPD or the FBI to simply knock on your door and ask you questions without a warrant.”

Awad said that the anxiety that the Muslim community is feeling over a possible backlash is not new, but has been present since 9/11. It is waiting to see what will happen now, he said. “A lot of people are holding their breath.”

Guardian, 17 April 2013

Update:  See also “Boston bombings: Muslim Americans await bomber’s ID”, BBC News, 18 April 2013

And Wajahat Ali, “Please don’t let it be a Muslim”, Salon, 17 April 2013