Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Anti-Muslim backlash in England, but not here

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Wed May 29, 2013
A supporter of the far-right English Defence League gestures at an anti-Muslim rally on May 27 after a British soldier was killed.
A supporter of the far-right English Defence League gestures at an anti-Muslim rally on May 27 after a British soldier was killed.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Anti-Muslim backlash in England was severe after a soldier was slain
  • In comparison, he says, the backlash in the U.S. after the Boston bombings was minor
  • He says American Muslims denounced the act and other faiths stood with them
  • Also, he says, the melting pot and "out of many, one" make up our identity

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top three stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Two different terror attacks by two different sets of Islamic extremists in two different democracies. But the difference in people's responses is what's key, and exemplifies why America truly is exceptional.

I'm referring to the bombing in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 15 and the attack on a British soldier on a London street on May 22.

After the Boston attack, which claimed the lives of three people and injured more than 250 others, a minor anti-Muslim backlash was reported. The most notable: A Bangladeshi man in New York City was allegedly beaten and a Muslim woman in Boston was struck in the shoulder and called a terrorist.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

And sure the professional Islamophobes, who make their living spewing hate, came out to sell their rancid goods of division and distrust. However, thankfully, and unsurprisingly, Americans weren't buying it.

But in England, the backlash against British Muslims has been alarming.

Since the terror attack on May 22, there have been 193 anti-Muslim incidents in England, that's 15 times the average number. These hate crimes ranged from vandalizing mosques to pulling off women's headscarves, to threats of violence against Muslims and to minor assaults.

One of the most serious incidents happened Sunday night when three firebombs were thrown at the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Center in Lincolnshire, while worshipers were inside in the mosque. Luckily no one was killed.

According to British media reports, this wave of anti-Muslim fever was not spontaneous. It has been an organized campaign of hate led by the right-wing group English Defence League, which held protests on the streets of London and Newcastle this past weekend.

Four more arrests in brutal UK slaying
London attack: Probing the suspects

At its London event, EDL's leader Tommy Robinson told supporters: "They've had their Arab spring. This is time for the English spring." Of course, the terrorists who killed the British soldier were of Nigerian heritage, not Arab. But then again, bigots aren't the brightest, whether they're English or American.

Obviously, the anti-Muslim attacks and rallies orchestrated by the EDL don't represent mainstream British society. In fact, an anti-racism rally was held in London to counter the EDL's march.

And comedian and actor Russell Brand wrote a heartfelt column for the UK's popular The Sun tabloid, imploring his fellow Brits to remain tolerant and not blame all Muslims for the sins of two madmen.

Another bright spot: At a smaller EDL protest in York, Muslims invited the protesters into their mosque and found some common ground in a properly British way, with tea and cookies and an impromptu game of soccer.

But why didn't we see an angry anti-Muslim backlash in the United States after the Boston bombings killed and injured so many more people?

A few reasons. Not only did the American-Muslim community quickly denounce the Boston bombing, but people of other faiths publicly stood with American-Muslims, including Jewish and Christian leaders in the Boston area.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all Americans love Muslims. But there's a difference between not feeling too warmly about a minority group and actually advocating discrimination and hatred and committing violence against them.

But the bigger reason we didn't see a backlash like the one in England has to do with who we are as Americans. Our nation's DNA can be found on the words affixed to the seal of the United States of America: "E Pluribus Unum" which means "Out of many, one."

To most Americans, Republicans and Democrats both, these words are more than rhetoric. It's the promise our Founding Fathers offered, to welcome people from all different backgrounds to become one with us as Americans.

America was, and still remains, a melting pot. And since its creation, that melting pot has grown; it has become bigger, more colorful and more vibrant.

Sure, some are troubled by our increasing diversity. We see it in the angry rhetoric from those on the far right toward those who don't look, pray or act like them. And we regrettably see it in the hate crimes perpetrated against people simply because they are different.

We need to look no further than New York City, the "bluest" city in the "bluest state," to see a spike in reports of hate crimes against gays, with 29 so far this year compared with 14 last year. Mark Carson, a gay man, was killed on May 18 while he was walking the streets of Greenwich Village. Carson was murdered simply because of his sexual orientation.

We may never be able to end all hate crimes in a nation of more than 300 million people. But we must remain vigilant in countering the voices of intolerance and hatred.

The reaction to the Boston bombings, in such marked contrast to England's reaction to the killing of the soldier, shows we are on the right path. By staying on this path, we will ensure that the United States remains truly exceptional.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 8:12 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT