Fears of a Muslim in Boston

28 Apr

By Claire Calzonetti & Samuel Burke, CNN

When the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon last Monday, Pakistani doctor Haider Javed Warraich was eating lunch at a restaurant nearby.

As a doctor, his first reaction was to help the injured.

But he second-guessed his own response, believing that he could be viewed as a potential suspect because of his ethnicity.

“As a 20-something Pakistani male with dark stubble, would I not fit the bill?” Warraich wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times last week, saying, “I remember feeling grateful that I wasn’t wearing a backpack.”

He called home to tell his family that he hadn’t been hurt in the bombings, but purposely didn’t speak in his native language, Urdu, for fear that it would raise suspicion.

The Muslim community in Boston and across the country has strongly condemned the violence. And yet still, all these years after 9/11, the burden of association remains a heavy one.

“I did think about how I could help and I contacted my hospital,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview Wednesday. “But then these other thoughts did sort of make it complicated – my thoughts about being able to go back to the site itself.”

Learning that the Tsarnaev brothers are Muslim upset Warraich.

“It made me very angry,” he said. “I was disappointed that the Muslims who live in the United States and around the world have been trying very hard, especially since 9/11, to show everyone else that they are, in fact, peace-loving people.”

Warraich fears that acts by a minority of Muslims fulfill the stereotypes that many have of all adherents to Islam.

“The atrocities that these two brothers have committed have pushed us back,” he said of the Boston bombings, which the Tsarnaevs are alleged to have carried out. Warraich now worries that Muslims will have to start from scratch.

Incorrect and inflammatory comments on the internet have been a source of consternation in the wake of the Boston attacks, but Warraich said the online response to his op-ed showed him the positive side of internet commentary.

“It does give me a lot of hope,” he said. “I’ve experienced that people in the United States, people around the world, use the Internet as a way to reach out to others, as a way to express empathy. And I have received a lot of empathy and a lot of kindness from the people of this city and this country.”

Warraich has returned to work in the ICU of the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston where many of the seriously injured are being treated. It is also where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been treated.

“These are times that are, in some ways, unprecedented,” he said. “But in some ways, this is business as usual. Patients are here; we are treating them. And I’m happy to say that all of the victims are now, at least the ones who are in the Beth Israel Deaconess, are now out of critical condition. And that is what we are really focused on at this point.”Fears of a Muslim in Boston

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