Natalie Gochnour: Boston bombings remind us not to judge unfairly

Published: Friday, May 3 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Aug. 8 2014 12:30 p.m. MDT

Police stand by as Muslims leave the Islamic Society of Boston mosque, Friday, April 26, 2013, in Cambridge, Mass. Leaders of the Islamic Society of Boston said Tamerlan Tsarnaev occasionally attended Friday prayers, but had protested the community's moderate approach. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Robert F. Bukaty, AP

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The Boston marathon bombings remain on our minds even though it's been nearly three weeks. We can't seem to get it out of our heads that two misguided brothers cooked up pressure cooker bombs and hurt, maimed and killed innocent people. In our hearts we echo the words of the mother of bombing victim Krystle Marie Campbell, "It just doesn't make any sense."

If you are like me, you felt this nagging tug after the bombings — "I hope there isn't a Muslim connection." Then when the photos of the suspects went live you studied the images carefully asking yourself, "Do they look Middle Eastern?" Then the tug turned to reality when the Muslim extremist connection was revealed. "Not again," we collectively thought.

I don't know much about the Muslim faith. I know they believe in and submit to a single God. I know they pray a lot. I know they believe Muhammad to be God's messenger and the Qu'ran to be the word of God. I know they do many good things — like giving alms to the poor. The Muslims I know in Utah are very generous people.

I also know that faithful Muslims despise terrorism just as much as anyone else.

Do you remember the well-publicized and cryptic sign that went viral after the killing of U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi? A day after the tragedy, pro-American supporters gathered spontaneously in the streets of Libya to show solidarity for America and their fallen ambassador friend. A middle-aged man held up a sign that said, "Sorry People of America this not the pehavior of our ISLAM and profit."

The spelling and grammatical errors on the sign only added to its potency. The authenticity reminds us that the self-radicalization we've been hearing about is not the norm. Muslims, like so many religious or ethnic groups, are victimized by the actions of a terribly misguided few. Faithful Muslims are God-fearing people who want to do right by their maker. They abhor the actions of the brothers Tsarnaev.

Which brings me to this country and our behavior — past and future.

I attended a funeral last week of an elderly woman with amazing character. Her son told a story about when his mother was riding a bus to downtown Salt Lake City shortly after Pearl Harbor. A Japanese woman boarded the bus and was met with hostility. It was clear she wasn't welcome. Slowly the Japanese woman made her way to the back of the bus where my friend was sitting. My friend slid over and made room for the wrongfully scorned woman. Being of German descent, my friend knew just what to say: "If they could see who I was they wouldn't like me either."

Appearances and perceptions cloud judgment. Too often we are quick to judge and let the actions of a few dictate how we treat others of related ancestry, ethnicity, faith or background. In Utah, of all places, with a history of out-of-state stereotyping and labeling, we should know better.

By all accounts, the Boston Marathon will be the strongest ever next year. That's the resiliency we've come to expect from our country. We rally to affirm life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As we recover and live "Boston Strong," let's remember not to judge others because of the unfortunate, even despicable acts, of a few.

Natalie Gochnour is an associate dean in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber.

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