Rolling Stones, a popular magazine in the United States courted controversy by placing a glamorous image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover in August. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is an accused in the Boston Marathon bombings case which took place on April 15th this year and led to the death of 3 people besides injuring 264. Dzhokhar carried out the entire attack in complicity with his elder brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
While Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in the shootout which occurred between the brothers and Boston police, Dzhokhar was arrested in an injured state and has been charged with several offences pertaining to terrorism. The attack carried out by the brothers was in retaliation to what the brothers considered to be an unjust and hostile foreign policy of the United States towards Muslim majority countries.
This act of Rolling Stones had attracted sharp reactions from people based both inside and outside the United States. Some had even given a call to boycot that particular issue of the magazine which had Dzhokhar on the cover. However, the intimidating response which the magazine attracted appears immature and shallow in perception.
There has not been a single news report which has suggested that the Rolling Stone have anywhere by means of its content tried to justify the act of terrorism and butchery carried out by Dzhokhar Tsarnev. The title of the Dzhokhar story read, “The Bomber” and the text printed underneath it read “How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”
The subtext makes it quite clear that Rolling Stones’s cover story was only an attempt at tracing the personal journey of Dzhokhar from being an average college-going boy to a bomber spreading terror. The allegation that the cover picture promotes terrorism or glamourizes it would be more suitable for those Facebook fan pages and groups where American girls have described Dzhokhar as “cute” and have asked for him to be “pardoned”. It would also apply to Internet sympathizers of Dzhokhar who actively lend support to the acts of terror carried out by the likes of Dzhokhar in response to what they consider to be a “ruthless assault of America on Islam and Muslims.”
The American entertainment industry however cannot be totally absolved from the allegation of lionzing terror in the past. An example would be Sylvester Stallone starrer Rambo. The representation of Afghan Mujahideen as patriotic freedom fighters fighting against Soviet repression was done effectively and repeatedly by Hollywood as part of CIA-sponsored propaganda against communism.
The world today is aware of the havoc caused by mujahideens once they came to power in Afghanistan. If American human rights activists are genuinely opposing glamourization of terror then they should not only condemn several award-winning movies made in the 1980s but they should also stand in opposition to US President Barack Obama’s decision to lace Syrian rebels (associates of Al Qaeda) with weapons to fight the illegitimate regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. In International politics, they often say practice what you preach. Thus accusing a magazine for an innocuous human interest story is not justified when Americans have been using non-state actors to further their foreign policy agendas. Terrorists are non state actors of the malign variety and when US uses them against a regime by giving multilateral action a miss, it loses its right to condemn terrorists.
We need to categorically realize two things in regards to the Syrian conflict: First, the United Nations and not the United States has to take the lead in toppling the Assad regime which is guilty of fuelling a conflict which has left 93,000 people dead and second, the United States cannot aid an Al-Qaeda affiliate group when Al Qaeda itself is responsible for murdering thousands of innocents citizens across the world. Till Washington doesn’t take such a step, there is no point in misinterpreting and blowing out of proportion a story whose purpose was nothing but to bring to its readers the transformation of a boy into a terrorist.