The Conversation

Boston Bomber Had Two Outbursts at Cambridge Mosque

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother accused in the Boston terror bombing, had angry outbursts in the middle of sermons at his local mosque on two occasions in the months prior to the attack.

A press release issued by the Islamic Society of Boston, a mosque located in Cambridge which both Tsarneav brothers attended, outlines interactions the mosque's staff had with the brothers. The document says that Tamerlan began attending services and prayer gatherings about a year prior to the bombings. His younger brother came to the mosque only occasionally.

But the press release does highlight two incidents which in retrospect might have been cause for concern. In both of the incidents, Tamerlan stood up and interrupted a speaker in the midst of a sermon to argue for less inclusive and less friendly stance toward US traditions.

The first incident took place in November. It suggests Tamerlan had already distanced himself mentally from the country he'd lived in since childhood:

On November 16, 2012 at our weekly congregational prayer, one of our preachers sermonized that it was appropriate to celebrate national holidays like July 4th and Thanksgiving, just like the birthday of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). The older suspect stood up during the sermon and challenged the preacher, arguing that celebration of any holiday was not allowed in the faith. After the sermon ended and the congregational prayer was finished, the preacher met with the older suspect to share his opinion. The suspect repeatedly argued his viewpoint, and then left.

The second incident took place in January, less than three months prior to the bombing. In this incident Tamerlan vocally objected to praise for Martin Luther King Jr.:

On January 18, 2013, one of our preachers noted that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great person remembered in history. The older suspect stood up, shouted and called him a “non-believer”; said that he was “contaminating people’s mind”; and began calling him a hypocrite. People of the congregation, in turn, shouted back at the older suspect, “Leave now!” Due to the congregation’s disapproval, he left the sermon.

According to the release "After the sermon and the congregational prayer ended, a few volunteer leaders of the mosque sat down with the older suspect and gave him a clear choice: either he stops interrupting sermons and remains silent or he would not be welcomed." Tamerlan did return a few times but, apparently, there were no additional public outbursts.


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