What’s in a Name? Does That Apply to Boston Terror Suspect?

“What’s in a name”, asked Juliet of Romeo & Juliet. She added So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title”. Clearly that Romeo deserved to be called Romeo. Now reverse that situation. Imagine a shy, prosaic & unromantic guy who was named Romeo by his parents. Would this guy go through life sort of jeered by others for striking out with girls despite his famous name? Would the aura of the “Romeo” name end up being a burden for him ?

We thought of this on Friday morning as we kept hearing the name Tamerlan Tsarnev, the older suspect of the Boston terrorist attack. How does a Muslim young man go through his youth carrying a name like Tamarlan? A young Muslim who reportedly was angry about American involvement in Muslim countries like Afghanistan; a young man who lived as a child in Kyrgyzstan, the country that lent the Manas air base to America for supplying America’s war in Afghanistan; a young man carrying the burden of the Tamarlan name.

Who then was Tamarlan? Tamarlan or Tamarlane is the Anglicized version of Timur the Lame (Timur-e Lang in Persian) , that magnificently ferocious conqueror who made Samarkand (in Uzbekistan) the most glorious city of his time. His name is still revered in Central Asia as the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world. The founder of the Mughal dynasty, Babur, was a descendant of Tamarlane and the Mughal rulers of Delhi proudly claimed to be of the Timurid dynasty.

(an illustration of Timur – src wikipedia)            (map of the Timurid Empire – src wikipedia)

But Tamarlane is really known for his barbaric ferocity. According to some estimates, about 17 million people died in his conquests, about 5% of the world’s population. His worst massacre was in Delhi fueled by his rage against the Hindus of India, to him the most heinous of non-believers or kafirs.

  • Delhi was sacked and left in ruins. Before the battle for Delhi, Timur executed 100,000 captives…After Delhi fell to Timur’s army, uprisings by its citizens against
    the Turkic-Mongols began to occur, causing a bloody massacre within the
    city walls. After three days of citizens uprising within Delhi, it was
    said that the city reeked of decomposing bodies of its citizens with
    their heads being erected like structures and the bodies left as food
    for the birds.

This legacy of ferocious massacres of non-believers in the name of Muslim conquest was given to young Tsarnev, the young man of Dagestani origin and Kyrgyz childhood; the young man who was a fighter by instinct and a boxer by training; the young man who had no American friends and said he didn’t understand Americans.

We thought of this on Friday morning as we listened to CNBC’s Bertha Coombs struggle with the Tamarlan name and get confused between Krygyzstan & Kazakhstan. So we sent an email to that CNBC show and told them about the Tamarlane connection. Well, they had no interest and ignored our email. Not surprising from a network that only lives on buy-buy-buy stocks mentality.

In contrast, Anderson Cooper’s AC 360 show featured an expert guest who raised the same question at about 8:25 pm on Friday evening. This guest also wondered whether the burden of carrying the Tamarlan name had anything to do with young Tsarnev’s turn towards attacking Americans.

Clearly, young Tamarlan Tsarnev intended to kill as many innocent Bostonians as he could. The above shows that his namesake, conqueror Tamarlane, would have approved. But did the history of that ferocious conqueror Tamarlane influence young Tamarlan Tsarnev? That is an interesting question for professional psychoanalysts.

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