Sunday, February 15, 2015

Why insist the North Carolina murders are a hate crime?

After all, it won't make these nice young people any less dead.

The murders of Muslim students in North Carolina seem likely to precipitate bad feeling between local law enforcement and mourning relatives and communities over whether this was a "hate crime." After all, the crime is "solved." The shooter, who seems to have been the kind of dangerous angry crank who likes to act as the policeman of his neighbors' activities, turned himself in. In a state where such crackpots have an absolute "right" to hoard and strut around with guns, bad things happen too easily.

So why call the North Carolina killings a "hate crime"?

The question seems worth unpacking. First and foremost, there was a "crime," a murder, three murders. Nobody is arguing that Craig Stephen Hicks had a right to kill these young people. His crime is murder.

Labelling it also a "hate" crime is an "enhancement:" for the killer, it might mean a longer sentence. But the effect of the hate crime label is really elsewhere, in the community.

For bereaved relatives and the Muslim community in general, labelling the murders a "hate crime" affirms that we understand that to be Muslim in the United States is to be afflicted by ignorance and prejudice. We have all too much evidence; twit-wits like Republican Presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee spread insults such as "Muslims will go to the mosque, and they will have their day of prayer, and they come out of there like uncorked animals -- throwing rocks and burning cars."

Additionally, labelling the killing a "hate crime" serves as a spur for law enforcement to take minor bias crimes seriously -- before they turn into ghastly multiple murders. Cops and prosecutors need to be trained to recognize that "hate" leads to "crime." If they take their job to be preventing crime, they can make that job easier by recognizing "hate" as the precursor to crime. People have a right to say what they want, but they can't assault their neighbors. Law enforcement needs to understand that hate is dangerous to a law abiding society. In particular, training about the dangers of terrorism must not be allowed to slide over into reinforcing prejudices; sometimes it has.

In fact, hate is what leads to religious, racial and gender terrorism. David Neiwert explored the issues raised by "hate crime" laws lucidly in Born on the Fourth of July, a book that remains as relevant today as it was a decade ago.

This flyer turned up under the wiper blade of my car yesterday. Click to enlarge.

The flyer is from a proselytizing offshoot of orthodox Islam; the Christian analogy would be something like getting a tract from Seventh Day Adventists or Mormons. Obviously they think they have a hurdle to surmount. Believers in this sect are objects of persecution in Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

Their leaflet is a good illustration of the protestations that even the most innocuous of Muslims are forced to express as they carry out what they consider their religious obligations, in this case to try to convert the ignorant.


Rain Trueax said...

I feel the advantage of using the terminology hate crime, attached to a senseless murder, is for everybody else. Be careful what you say. Don't create an enemy list where a nutcase, who was in this case clearly out of control, feels justified to murder anyone-- and for this guy, it could have been a Christian or any religion given how he felt and the garbage he spewed. Right now, Muslims are the ones who have reason to be concerned. Deciding when something qualifies can be difficult but not so much with this case where the victims had been worried and felt he was singling them out for their faith. I would call it a hate crime but the guy could have gone off on anyone like whoever killed the woman in Las Vegas over road rage. She was blonde and pretty but someone was wanting to kill and I'd say that fits the murderer in North Carolina.

It's like the newspaper article this morning which was debating if the Copenhagen murders were copycats for Charlie Hebdo. Like seriously, they had to wonder...

Anonymous said...

You should not insist on anything. You should call them a hate crime if they are, and not call them a hate crime if they are not. The defendant (who is, after all, innocent until proven guilty) should face a just charge.

Not doing so is playing with people's lives to advance a political agenda (making muslims feel better, somehow upping the hate crime stats, you name it).

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