Straight-Arrow Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a Mama's Boy

Editor’s Note: Starting today, Robert Spencer’s weekly PJ Lifestyle article analyzing stories on Jihad terror from a cultural perspective will appear on Mondays, our day focused on family, parenting, motherhood, fatherhood, and relationships. With this shift in publication date also comes a change in angle. A broader picture of the motives behind the 4/15/13 Boston terror attack is beginning to come into greater clarity. Who radicalized these once American young men? The picture that has emerged is one common throughout the Muslim world: sons drink in the hate and anti-Americanism as they would mother’s milk. The disturbing proclamations of mama and papa Tsarnaev make clear that these were not two sons led astray by malevolent outside influence.


So on Mondays Robert will explore the relevant Jihad stories of the week through a family-centric lens, considering male-female dynamics in the Muslim world and the Koran’s influence on defining the ideals of masculinity and femininity. What does Islam proscribe for how to raise children and maintain a family? What can Muslim parents in America do to make sure their sons do not become Tamerlans and Dzhokhars? And what are other parents like the Tsarnaevs secretly doing right now to prepare their children for the glory of martyrdom? How does one raise a future Jihadist who loves death more than Americans love life? I look forward to seeing Robert explore these subjects and hope you will join us each week at PJ Lifestyle.

– David Swindle

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In the movie Prizzi’s Honor, Jack Nicholson plays mafia hitman Charley Partanna, who is known as “Straight-Arrow Charley, the All-American Hood” for dutifully and unquestioningly carrying on the family business in which he was raised. And as more details emerge about the family of Boston Marathon jihad bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it’s increasingly clear that they, too, were just carrying on the family business: jihad.


Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is proud of her boys. She insists that they didn’t set off the bombs in Boston, and that in fact, the whole thing was staged. The bombings, she said, were just a “really big play” featuring “paint instead of blood.” Consistency is not her strong suit, for she also said: “What happened is a terrible thing but I know my kids have nothing to do with this. I know it, I am mother.” She claimed that her sons were targeted because they were Muslim, and said: “America took my kids away from me. I’m sure my kids were not involved in anything.”

The bombers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, struck a tone more of grief than accusation. He assured the world: “I am not angry at anyone,” although he hinted that he also accepted his wife’s conspiracy theory when he added: “I want to go find out the truth.” Go, that is, to the United States, although plans for the trip have since been scrapped due to the possibility that he and/or his wife could be arrested if they do come here. “I want to say that I am going there to see my son, to bury the older one. I don’t have any bad intentions.” He added reassuringly: “I don’t plan to blow up anything.”

Just as Hitler loved his dogs, Tamerlan Tsarnaev loved his mama. Just before getting into a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts, he called her on his cellphone and gave her the news:


The police, they have started shooting at us, they are chasing us….Mama, I love you.

But behind the parents’ protestations that their boys couldn’t have been behind the Boston bombings, there are numerous indications that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar were just carrying on the family business. It turns out that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been listed in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), the government’s primary terrorist database — although his inclusion on it was vivid indication of its utter uselessness, since nothing was being done to monitor his activities even as he amassed the material to construct the bombs he used in the Boston Marathon jihad attack and in the bombers’ subsequent attempts to elude police. Even more interesting was the fact that his mother was listed as well.

Russian authorities were so concerned about the Tsarnaevs that they began tapping their phones, and in 2011 caught Mama Tsarnaeva discussing jihad with Tamerlan, advising him to go to “Palestine” to wage his jihad there. Tamerlan didn’t take her advice; he didn’t speak Arabic and thus thought it might be hard to get by in Gaza. Ultimately, he opted to wage his jihad in Boston instead.

The Tsarnaevs appear to be a crime family on the order of the most violent mafia clans, but they were also (like the cinematic Corleones, at least as far as appearances were concerned) religiously devout. It has been widely reported that several years ago, Tamerlan Tsarnaev became much more of an observant Muslim than he had been previously: a family friend noticed the change and said, “He started talking about religion. He grew a long beard.” Tamerlan would hector him about his own religiosity: “Why don’t you become a better Muslim? Why don’t you pray, why don’t you do your Islamic duties?”


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Yet Tamerlan doesn’t seem to have grown more religious amid a family of secularists. Zubeidat Tsarnaeva has worn a hijab in all of her public appearances, and gives every indication of being a devout Muslim. Referring to Dzhokhar, she thundered to CNN:

“If they are going to kill him. I don’t care. My oldest son is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest son is going to be killed today. I want the world to hear this. And, I don’t care if I am going to get killed too. And I will say Allahu Akbar!”

And so it seems that she raised her boys well, and they didn’t rebel — or, after a period of rebellion, they returned to their roots and duly followed in their mother’s footsteps. While the mainstream media continues to posit ever more ridiculous theories as to how the Tsarnaev brothers became “radicalized” (the New York Times suggested Sunday that it was because a rule change had disqualified him from the Golden Gloves boxing tournament), the truth may lie closer to hand: the Tsarnaevs’ jihad was a family affair.



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