Letter to the Editor: ‘Mass media should not make a case for terrorism on very thin evidence’


When I read through newspaper articles about the Boston Marathon tragedy Suspect No. 2, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, I can’t help but wonder: Will this awful case influence the way people around the globe perceive Caucasians, Chechens specifically? 

As an international student, I have noticed that Westerners, in general, know very little about cultures of various people of the former Soviet Union. However, as the names of the Boston suspects had been published, I could not help but notice how a variety of news reporters tried to link the Tsarnaev brothers to different ethnic and religious groups. 

Hence, in the first articles I read, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were named as Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Chechnya and Dagestan citizens. Moreover, a great number of articles referred to Dzhokhar’s religious views as to some kind of evidence that proved his fault, and his name was instantly prefaced with both his faith and his nationality. I am not trying to advocate terrorism and I feel rage toward the perpetrators of the Boston bombing, but I also believe that mass media should not make a case for terrorism on very thin evidence, like suspects’ ethnicity or religion. Terrorism does not have anything to do with Chechens nor with Islam.

 A scholar named Nahid Kabir wrote in his 2006 work, “rather than addressing and refuting misconceptions about the Islamic faith, and analyzing the root causes of terrorism, the media is more interested in maintaining the community anxiety that seeks convenient scapegoats for social ills.” It seems like the situation has not changed ever since.

Madina Dyussembayeva is a freshman majoring in mass communications.