April 30, 2013

Commentary: Bombing suspects were ripe for swaying by jihadist Web content

Though social media gives voice to many thoughtful crowds, it also provides a venue for a hateful few.

By Amir Ahmad Nasr

(Continued from page 1)

Yes, the Quran contains verses calling for violence against unbelievers, though these ought to be placed within the appropriate historical context. Nevertheless, it also includes passages that encourage peace and compassion toward fellow human beings.

One of those passages was read by my friend Nasser Weddady at an interfaith memorial in Boston after the bombings. It reads, in part: "Whoever kills a soul, it is as if he killed mankind entirely. And whoever saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of mankind."

One could ask, why didn't Tamerlan Tsarnaev abide by an interpretation of Islam that puts value on these verses rather than those related to war?

The answer is that interpretation is ultimately a choice. And when Tsarnaev ventured online, it looks as if he did so with established personal grievances.

I suspect that what psychologists call "confirmation bias" led him to consume militant interpretations of Islam that validated his feelings and confirmed his views, without seeking differing Muslim perspectives.

The Tsarnaev brothers bear responsibility for their criminal act. But let's not forget the sick demagogues who lure them in and poison their minds.

Amir Ahmad Nasr, author of the forthcoming book "My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind and Doubt Freed My Soul," is a digital activist and entrepreneur.

– The Washington Post News Service with Bloomberg News

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