Shereef Elnahal is a native of Virginia, a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a first-year internal medicine resident who helped triage explosion victims with ruptured eardrums and major limb injuries on Monday at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“Most of the traumas were triaged quickly, thankfully, so from a medical standpoint the hysteria didn’t last terribly long,” Elnahal said Wednesday after his night shift.
He is shocked and saddened by the tragedy. And like many Muslims, he is also hoping hard that whoever terrorized the Boston Marathon does not share his faith. It’s a common refrain among Muslims this week, many of whom have dark memories about the pervasive suspicion and stereotyping that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.
Elnahal, who was taking a chemistry test at his New Jersey high school when Al Qaeda struck the twin towers, knew a kid whose first name was Osama. “He was kicked and spat on,” he said. “I heard about people having bricks thrown at them, but I would say I personally did not experience that much discrimination. It was mostly snide remarks and jokes by people I didn’t really know — bullying, if you will.”
In the aftermath, groups like the Islamic Society of North America worked to promote tolerance. Elnahal’s aunt, Maha ElGenaidi, founded the San Francisco-based Islamic Networks Group, which does educational outreach around the country.
“We do hope that whoever is responsible is found, even if it is somebody who is Muslim,” Elnahal said. “On the other hand, we are hoping it’s not a Muslim, because it’s going to set us back as a community for all the progress we’ve made in the last 12 years.”
In the emergency room Monday, Elnahal said, he had never seen such a concentration of human carnage. But just as striking, he said, were the number of people “with large machine guns” running around the hospital trying to guard it.
The doctor and some of his fellow residents were told to stay away from the hospital’s eighth floor. They were given to understand that a Saudi exchange student, presumably the “Saudi national” fingered by the New York Post as a suspect in the bombing, was being treated there.
“I am a bit dismayed by the quickness to point a finger at this individual,” Elnahal said. “The staff at Brigham was very professional about it, protecting this individual’s identity and not revealing his whereabouts.”
Still, the rumor made its way outside the hospital in no time. “There were apparently people with baseball bats trying to get into the hospital to get this guy, people from the community here,” Elnahal said. “I didn’t see it; I heard about it.”
On Wednesday, he said, his hospital was still on lockdown. “He is allegedly still in the building,” Elnahal said.
Also Wednesday, the Boston Herald reported that two Saudi students had been injured in the blast, and authorities had searched the apartment of one before declaring he was no longer “a person of interest.”
Foreign Policy reported that National Intelligence Director James Clapper told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that the student was “no longer a focus of investigators.”
Still, the guilt-by-inference drums are beating on the fringes. World Net Daily, the wackadoodle righty website, claimed the young man’s last name was the same as a well-known “Al Qaida clan.”
Monday, after I posted an item about the extra dread some Muslims are feeling about the attack, I got a smattering of responses from assorted dopes:
“You stupid moron. Stop kowtowing to the mass-murdering Mohammedans and their Jihad ideology, Islam.”
“Why don’t you shut up. Boo hoo these people need to get out of America. Maybe you should join them.”
You drag those sorts of notes to the trash immediately, but they are still a reminder that the veneer of tolerance in some of our darker corners is thin. If it exists at all.