Boston Mosque Mistakenly Linked To Suspects

“None of our staff or board ever recall coming across these two suspects,” the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center tells BuzzFeed. Another case of mistaken identity.

BOSTON — It was quiet outside the Islamic Society of Boston on Sunday afternoon, as a handful of news cameras circled around the Cambridge mosque where suspected Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev once worshipped.

“We are aware of the current situation and all the media trying to contact us,” the mosque’s outgoing voicemail message said. “Please respect this house of worship, and we ask that the media do not go on the premises during non-office hours.”

There were no office hours on Sunday; still reporters lingered, waiting for worshippers to show up, even if it was just to be greeted with “no comment” after “no comment.” On the door of the mosque, a letter mourned the Tsarnaev brothers’ victims:

We cannot help but feel deeply troubled and saddened.

Both these suspects, we have discovered, were known to our Boston Community - to our public schools, to their local boxing club, and even to the FBI. Both suspects were occasional visitors to our Faith Community in Cambridge. Our community, and people in the institutions above, are in shock to have learned the crimes of these individuals. In their visits they never exhibited any violent sentiments or behaviour. Otherwise, they would have been immediately reported to the FBI.

After we learned of their identities, we encouraged anyone who knew them in our congregation to immediately report to law enforcement, which has taken place.

The note continues on, but its message is clear: Other community organizations didn’t notice anything strange about the boys, and neither did we.

In the aftermath of the bombings, no one wants to be blamed for not catching the suspects’ intentions — not this mosque, nor the boys’ family, nor Chechnya, nor the FBI. They watch tensely for even the slightest finger-pointing.

This tension spiked Saturday, when the Los Angeles Times published a story incorrectly connecting Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center — a mosque in Roxbury — rather than the Islamic Society of Boston in Cambridge:

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was thrown out of the mosque — the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center — about three months ago, after he stood up and shouted at the imam during a Friday prayer service, they said. The imam had held up slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of a man to emulate, recalled one worshiper who would give his name only as Muhammad.

The Times wasn’t the only outlet to mix up the mosques, which are both owned by the ISB Board of Trustees but managed by two different organizations. But this misidentification set the mosque leaders on an agitated defensive. In a statement to BuzzFeed, the ISBCC confirmed that the brothers weren’t in their database and that “none of our staff or board ever recall coming across these two suspects.” They said they had no record of them ever coming in to pray: “The LA Times article is wrong.”

At 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, nearly 24 hours after being published online, the Times article was corrected.

[For the Record, 11:25 a.m. PDT April 21: A previous version of this post stated that two worshipers said that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had an outburst during a prayer service at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, which is in Roxbury Crossing. The alleged outburst occurred at the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge. A photo of the incorrect location has been removed from the post. The post also has been updated to include comments from a leader of the Cambridge mosque disputing the claim that Tsarnaev had been ejected.]

Prior to the correction, the ISBCC imam spent hours pleading with the Times on Twitter:

@LATIMES Please retract your statement that these people were members of my congregation. It is not true.

— ImamSuhaibWebb (@Imâm Will)

One more time: The suspects in the Boston Bombing were never members of my community @isbcc I Never met them. Our staff does not know them.

— ImamSuhaibWebb (@Imâm Will)

The suspected Boston Bombers were never members of my congregation @isbcc at any level. The Islamophobes can try, but love will prevail.

— ImamSuhaibWebb (@Imâm Will)

Shame on those who would use their own bigotry to capitalize off this horrible tragedy. When the dust settles, the truth will shine forth.

— ImamSuhaibWebb (@Imâm Will)

When the Times published its correction, the imam thanked them…

@latimes Thank you for correcting your story. Times are difficult and mistakes will happen on all sides. Thank you!

— ImamSuhaibWebb (@Imâm Will)

…and then moved on to Fox News.

The slander of @isbcc and Boston continues

— ImamSuhaibWebb (@Imâm Will)

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Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jessica Testa at