Earlier, Tsarni had told the Associated Press: “When I was speaking to the older one, he started all this religious talk, ‘Insh’allah’ and all that, and I asked him, ‘Where is all that coming from?’” Insh’allah is the Arabic phrase that means “God willing.” What Tsarni is admitting is something true but politically incorrect to talk about: the increasing use of these phrases of religiosity are code inside the community for someone who is becoming hardcore. It doesn’t mean that they’re becoming violent or criminal, but it’s a red flag. In 2004, when I spoke about women’s rights at mosques at the Islamic Society of North America conference in Chicago, a young Muslim man stood at the microphone during the Q&A and scolded me for not saying an honorific, “Peace be upon him,” whenever I mentioned the name of the prophet Muhammad. He later sent me an electronic death threat I turned over to the FBI. It’s a game of trying to out Muslim a Muslim.
Instead of playing that game, Uncle Ruslan did something remarkable. He put his hands together as if in prayer, and he showed humility, not defensive arrogance, saying he’d prostrate himself before the victims of the Boston bombings.
Ameen, as “amen” is said in Arabic and Muslim culture, to Uncle Ruslan. I believe it’s time for us American Muslims to take collective responsibility, rather than issue collective denial. That’s the attitude that cultivates confidence and fosters safety—for all.
With his passions expressed, Uncle Ruslan begged his goodbyes. Journalists remained in formation on the street outside the house, one eating a quick Subway sandwich on the lawn outside, another dragging a wicker chair from a neighbor’s garbage, before a cop reprimanded him. Suddenly, Tsarni emerged. Coming down the stairs onto the driveway he turned to walk toward the end of the cul-de-sac. Reporters and camera crews hustled to catch up. He pleaded with them: “What are you expecting from me? I’m just going to my neighbors to apologize to them for the discomfort my family has caused them.”
Rather than waiting for an invitation to RSVP to a superfluous “interfaith” dinner, Uncle Ruslan did something simple but crucial: He extended an invitation, was a good neighbor and took responsibility for the trouble that emerged in his front yard. In short, he owned up.
Surely, the Tsaernev family story is complicated and with nobody without flaw.
But Uncle Ruslan showed us where to begin.
Thanks to the reader who sent this in.
Also: this is a good story about Toronto’s Muslim community ratting out jihad bombers from within their community.