If a Muslim shaves his beard, is he now a suspect for terror? CNN's terror analyst says so. But what do real Muslims have to say about this "purification ritual"?

CNN posted a new video showing Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev three days before the Boston attack at their martial arts gym, the Wai Kru mixed martial arts center in Boston. The video claims to be "chilling," according to CNN.

What's so "chilling" about the video? According to the owner of the martial arts gym, who wanted to be identified only as "Michael," the older Tsarnaev brother appeared at the gym without a beard for the first time in two years.

This, according to CNN's terror analyst Paul Cruickshank, could have been an indicator that attack was imminent-- or as CNN implied, part of an Islamic purification ritual prior to death.

Cruickshank also noted that Tamerlan's physical fitness regimen may have been an indicator that he was training for terror.

"We've seen with Western militants, wanna-be jihadists, a real emphasis on physical training, physical fitness, wanting to be prepared for jihad," Cruickshank told CNN.

Was Tamerlan Tsarnaev's clean shave a Muslim purification ritual, pre-suicide? ILLUME asked some reputable Muslim scholars and figures to weigh in.

"The whole idea that someone would shave their beard to commit suicide is crazy," says Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali, professor of Islamic Law at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif and author of the Muslim Funeral Guide. "Suicide is a sin in Islam and the idea that one would [purify] in anticipation of a serious sin is not at all Islamic."

In fact, Professor Ali went on to say that the only Islamic pre-death "purification ritual" was akin to the Catholic confession-- essentially, atoning for one's sins.

Nowhere, he said, is shaving the beard part of any Islamic pre-death ritual.

"It's the quintessential paradox," says Khaled Beydoun, a UCLA Law School Critical Race Studies Fellow.

"The man with the long beard is a suspect, he's the classic Asiatic caricature. But now, he shaves his beard and raises suspicion that he's planning attack," Beydoun told ILLUME.

CNN's terror analysis of this video effectively blankets all Muslims as terrorists once again. In a previous article, ILLUME looked at the NYPD's indicators of terror, which claimed that taxi cab stands and hookah bars were "radicalization incubators."

Now, CNN's article and analysis are pointing fingers at all newly clean-shaven Muslim men who regularly attend fitness centers.

And they don't have to bear the markings of Middle Eastern or South Asian men anymore, either.

"The Boston Bombings change the entire discussion on race and terror," Beydoun says.

Further readings:

For more on this, read a recent Al Jazeera piece by Sarah Kendzior, entitled The wrong kind of Caucasian.

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