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Boston Attacks Should Not Be Labeled ‘Homegrown’ Terrorism

Since the Boston terror attacks, an all-too-familiar mantra has re-emerged: American Muslims need more policing and increased surveillance. This demand, encouraged by U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and many others, stems from a lack of understanding of the complexities of Muslim communities here and elsewhere.


There is one important and critical difference between the two brothers who apparently carried out the attacks in Boston and the majority of second-generation Muslims in the United States: the Tsarnaev brothers lived in two worlds, yet apparently did not feel they belonged to either. The brothers were ethnically Chechen, but lived in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia and then the U.S.


Tamerlan Tsarnaev spent six months in Dagestan in 2012, according to investigators, which could have set him on his radical path. In the U.S., there is no evidence he belonged to a Muslim community – he had no close group of Muslim friends or religious scholars. His wife is a convert.


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Geneive Abdo

Former Brookings Expert

Fellow, Middle East/Southwest Asia - The Stimson Center

Resident Scholar - Arabia Foundation

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