To be Muslim in America today means to be held responsible, or to fear you may be, for the brutal acts of others whose notion of what Allah demands is utterly antithetical to your own. For the diverse crowd that prays at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, where professors at nearby universities mix with freshly arrived immigrants from Somalia and Egypt, it means hearing the word “Islamic” first thing each morning in news reports on an infamous extremist group. It means a kind of implied collective responsibility, however illogical, for beheadings in Syria, executions in Iraq and bombs in Boston.
The Obama administration, worried about recruiting of young Americans by Islamic State extremists, chose Boston last fall as one of three cities for aCountering Violent Extremism pilot program. The idea is to brainstorm ways to combat recruitment by all militants, including antigovernment groups and white supremacists. But the plan has divided Muslims in Boston and the other two cities, Minneapolis and Los Angeles.