If a Muslim citizen or resident was the victim of a crime for which the perpetrator was demonstrably motivated by hostility to that Muslim’s religious beliefs or practices, that crime would seem a clear cut violation of our federal and state hate crimes legislation. Would that be so, and importantly, should that be so, if the perpetrator is self described as a Muslim?
While I share some of the principled objections to the the ideas behind (thought crime) and flawed implementation of hate crimes legislation, they now exist at the federal level and in all but a handful of states. Right or wrong, they are effectively the law of the land. In accepting that, it is worth noting that some of the argument for such legislation was not without merit. Further, in the light of present or impending circumstances that were not considered when such laws were enacted, such circumstances may well be and well need to be addressed by those laws.
Hate crime legislation establishs a harsher penalty for one crime as compared to a similar one, based on a conclusion that the crime was motivated by bias, including a bias towards the victim’s race or religious beliefs and practices. During the politically driven tempest in a teapot about the Bush administrations "firing" of several federal prosecutors, a little sanity poked through as some pointed out that personnel decisions about such are a legitimate prioritizing function of the executive branch. Prosecutors, federal and local, cannot and do not prosecute every crime. There are simply not enough resources to ever do so. As such, any administration, federal or local, will decide which crimes deserve more focus, and staff accordingly as to who will best and even more energetically pursue such prosecutions. A federal or local prosecutor’s office may be directed to give greater priority to cases ranging from civil rights to organized crime to white collar or election fraud, and on and on, depending upon what is presumed to be the priority. It is of course hoped that such prioritizing is based on the good of the society.
Hate crime legisltation was and is in part a form of prioritizing for what is presumed to be the society’s good. There is a recognition that for many decades and even longer, bias that resulted in violence against members of identifiable groups was organized and even institutionalized, as with, for example, the Ku Klux Klan and brutal enforcement of Jim Crow laws. In effect, hate crime legislation is the society going on record as saying, firmy, "No more!" and backing that up with severe punitive action. While there was certainly intent on the part of supporters of such legislation that "hate groups", e.g., the Klan type, would be targets, it has not worked out that way. The overwhelming majority of "valid" (as opposed to "hyped") prosecutions have been against individuals ranging from unthinking adolosecents to one or a few demonstrable bigots. On the other hand, it can be claimed that such legislation has precisely scared off the organized type of bias driven violence by harsh treatment of individual acts.
Regardless, the concept of a society stating firmly that "this is not permitted" and backing that with puntive action is not without merit. In our present circumstances, we should be utilizing those laws for the good of society and all its members, to prosecute crimes that target Muslims as Muslims, even if the crimes are committed by those claiming to be Muslim. Whatever validity there is to hate crime legislation that is meant to address violence against African Americans based on their race, it has to be admitted that such laws came very, very late. In the present case, we may be able to get ahead of the curve, or perhaps catch up to it and use those laws more proactively, for the good of all society.
Intimidation, including by violence, of moderate Muslims by radical Muslims is a well developed topic, but has largely focused on other parts of the world, and not here at home. That has to change.
Last March the Canadian Broadcasting Company, on its show "The National", aired this two part series "Moderate Muslims Intimidated In Canada".
Also last year, an immigrant Muslim living in Tulsa named Jamal Miftah wrote a letter to the editor of the Tulsa World newspaper criticizing violent and radical Muslims like Ayman al-Zawahiri (Al Qaeda’s second in command). Not long afterwards Miftah was told to leave his Mosque because of the letter: He was surrounded by an intimidating crowd of perhaps fifteen men as leaders of the Mosque called him, and remember this, "anti-Islamic", "anti-Muslim" and "traitor".
At the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Muslim Students Association had made and posted videos on the Net, wherein young Muslim women are harassed and intimidated by other another Muslim because they are not wearing the hajib.
There is more in the same vein, but even so that all may be the tip of the iceberg. In these kinds of acts of intimidation, there is a decided whiff of "takfirism", the ideology that drives Al Qaeda and other radical and dangerous groups.
Takfir is the Arabic words used in some parts of the Islamic world for an apostate, someone who may claim to be a Muslim but in belief and/or practice is concluded by the practitioners of takfirism to have abandoned Islam. As such, the takfir or apostate is legitimately subject to punishment, up to and including death. Writing in the Weekly Standard, Frederick Kagan reports that anti-Al Qaeda Iraqis refer to AQI as "takfiri". Takfirism claims to seek a "purified" Islam, and the means used to achive that is more often than not violence against other Muslims, whether in Afghanistan under the Taleban or Iraq where AQI holds sway, or anywhere else that the takfiris believe they can get away with it.
When a Muslim in America like Mr. Miftah is called by his immam and Mosque leaders "anti Islamic" and "anti Musim", if takfirism takes root or has taken root, Mr. Miftah is under sentence of death.
This is a civil rights issue, and in this case, America need not wait many decades or more to wake up and protect the rights of those decent Muslim citizens and residents living in our society, and only after untold harm has been done to them. If an ultimate goal of hate crime legislation is to obstruct organizational and institutional attack on people because of their religion, any ideology or organization that targets Muslims because they are Muslims should rightfully come under hate crime scrutiny, regardless of who the perpetrators may be. This is also a strategic issue. Like the Nazi Brown Shirts of the 1930s and the Klan of many decades, takfirism will attract and recruit the bully boys, the sociopaths and the psycopaths who can claim to have found a compelling and legitimate reason for their bestiality toward their fellow man. It is the perverse violence of the takfiris in Anbar province that more than anything else led to the Anbar Awakening and the turning of the Sunnis against AQI. We cannot allow takfirism to take root here, as the racial supremiscist ideology of such as the Klan was able to take root. The consequences of that are not only a danger to the decent Muslims in our midst, but in a time when there is global terrorism driven by takfirist ideology, it is a danger to us all. We are in this together.
Civil rights organizations, and importantly Muslim civil rights organizations should strongly support a move toward seeking out and addressing firmly hate crimes committed against Muslims, because they are Muslims, by other presumed Muslims. C.A.I.R., the Council on American-Islamic Relations identifies itself as a civil rights organization. If they are sincere about protecting the civil rights of Muslim in this country, a recognition of the danger to those rights from radical and takfirists Muslims should be a concern to them, publicly addressed. The primary victims of takfirist ideology and organizations throughout the world have been Muslims. Not taking action to prevent intimidation and threats of violence or actual violence against Muslims will create a breeding ground for takfirism here. Hate crimes legislation, whatever its pros or cons, is on the books.
It’s time, or past time, for our society make the statement, and back it up with severe punitive action. In making it known that hate crime prosecution will be vigorously pursued against those who target Muslims for a presumed "impure" practice of Islam, we offer a powerful weapon of self defence to the targeted Muslim, the law enforcement power of the federal and state governments.