Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) warned yesterday about jumping the gun to link Islam to the Boston bombings.
After his MSNBC admonition, federal officials said religion was a motivating factor in the attacks by the Tsarnaev brothers that left four dead and scores more wounded.
“There is some indication that this had to do with Chechnya and their dispute with Russia. And there’s not — it’s not necessarily the case that anyone should jump to the conclusion that there was any religious motivation here. I think again, you know, prudence and calm is the order of the day,” Ellison said.
The older brother went to Chechnya and Dagestan last year for six months, but the younger brother in custody, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, had not gone. Neither grew up there.
“This gentleman — well, individual — I’ll say that — he came to the attention of the FBI because of things he said and things he did. That’s appropriate,” the congressman said of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
“What should not be cause for alarm is somebody’s status as a member of a particular religious faith, or how devout they may happen to be. You know, in all these cases where you see acts of radicalized individuals using violence, they may have a religious affiliation, but oftentimes, when they give reasons for why they did what they did, it is politics,” Ellison continued.
“So, for example, you know, Timothy McVeigh was motivated by Waco, not his religion. Faisal Shahzad happened to be Muslim, but he was motivated by his — his grievances with regard to U.S. policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And who knows what these individuals’ motivation may be? But it probably will have something to do more with politics than religion. So, let’s not cast a wide net and just go after, you know, a whole religious group.”
Ellision took issue with Rep. Peter King’s (R-N.Y.) assertion that “99 percent of the Muslims are outstanding Americans” and you need help from inside those communities to break up cells and find extremists. “The fact is, that’s where the threat is coming from. When the FBI was after the Westies, they went to the Irish community. When they were after the Mafia, they went to the Italian community,” King said on Fox News Sunday.
“Well over 99 percent of the Muslim community is absolutely loyal, law-abiding Americans who are as offended by what happened in Boston as any other American. That’s true, but after that, my friend, Representative King, is wrong again,” Ellison said.
“You know, the FBI did not go after all Italians or all Irish people. No one ever said let’s surveil a whole ethnic community. They went after people who were criminals and who were exhibiting criminal behavior. Now, the fact that those people happened to be of a particular ethnic origin wasn’t really the causal effect. You know, what — the issue was what they were doing. And so, again, it’s just ridiculous. I mean, to say that because of the Westies, that every Irish person was under suspect. Everyone in America knows that’s ridiculous. You know? But — but, I mean, still, he wants to cast a wide net with regard to Muslims,” he continued.
“You know, the fact is, if you were to ask American Muslims where is Chechnya on the map, most of us would never know. We’d have to find a map and look for it.”
Ellison is one of two Muslim members of Congress.