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February 13, 2015

A Tragic Murder, Hate Crimes, and the Need to Fight Stereotypes

The tragic murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this week has stirred deep emotions.  While all of us should refrain from rushing to judgment about why they were attacked, we can certainly understand the powerful impact this horrific crime has had, not only on the Muslim community, but on Americans of good will.

Until the investigation is completed, the evidence analyzed, and the case presented, it is impossible to know whether or not this case meets the legal definition of a hate crime.  Such crimes require the prosecution to prove that the perpetrator targeted his victims because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics.  A crime is not automatically a hate crime just because the victims are Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or members of the LGBT community – or because the perpetrator and the victims are of different races or religious traditions.   The specific targeting because of their status is required.  And there is a reason for this – hate crimes are different precisely because they are not the result of greed, or road rage, parking lot arguments, or business disputes.  Rather, analogous to anti-discrimination laws, they are crimes which single people out simply because of who they are.

 


Un Trágico Asesinato, Crímenes de Odio y la Necesidad de Luchar Contra los Estereotipos

El trágico asesinato de tres estudiantes musulmanes en Chapel Hill, Carolina del Norte, esta semana ha provocado profundas emociones. Aunque todos debemos abstenernos de saltar a conclusiones sobre el por qué fueron atacados, ciertamente podemos entender el tremendo impacto que ha tenido este horrendo crimen, no sólo en la comunidad musulmana sino también en los estadounidenses de buena voluntad.

Hasta que se termine la investigación, se analicen las pruebas y se presente el caso, es imposible saber si este caso se ciñe a la definición legal de un crimen de odio. Dichos crímenes requieren que la Fiscalía pruebe que el agresor atacó a sus víctimas a causa de su raza, religión, origen étnico, orientación sexual u otras características inmutables. Un crimen no es automáticamente un crimen de odio solamente porque las víctimas sean musulmanes o judíos, negros o miembros de la comunidad LGBT –o porque el agresor y las víctimas sean de diferentes razas o tradiciones religiosas. Se requiere que la víctima sea escogida específicamente por su estatus. Y hay una razón para esto –los crímenes de odio son diferentes precisamente porque no son el resultado de la avaricia, ira en la carretera, argumentos en el estacionamiento o conflictos de negocios. Por el contrario, análogo a las leyes contra la discriminación, son crímenes que escogen a sus víctimas simplemente por ser quienes son.

Por supuesto, independientemente de si estos asesinatos resultan ser un crimen de odio, las preocupaciones expresadas en reacción a ellos por muchos de la comunidad musulmana son comprensibles. Los asesinatos refuerzan un sentido de vulnerabilidad y los estadounidenses de todas las creencias religiosas deben ser conscientes de ello, y ofrecer apoyo y consuelo a nuestros vecinos musulmanes.

Sabemos que la inmensa mayoría de los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos está consternada por ese pequeño porcentaje de extremistas musulmanes responsables por los actos de terror que los Estados Unidos vivió el 11 de septiembre de 2001 y que continúan planteando una grave amenaza para la seguridad y estabilidad en muchas partes del mundo. También sabemos que demasiados estadounidenses albergan estereotipos y están dispuestos a usar de chivo expiatorio a los musulmanes. En este contexto, es comprensible que los musulmanes estadounidenses estén ansiosos sobre el lugar que ocupan en la sociedad estadounidense y su seguridad física, particularmente a raíz de una tragedia como la de esta semana.

Los musulmanes estadounidenses tienen derecho a disfrutar de la seguridad y libertad que son el ideal americano. En el pasado, judíos, católicos y mormones (entre otros) también fueron vistos con desconfianza. Por tanto, todos debemos contribuir a arrojar luz por el distorsionado lente del miedo y la ignorancia, para ofrecer apoyo y amistad, y confiar en nuestros organismos policiales para que garanticen que se cumplen los intereses de la justicia.

Of course, regardless of whether or not these murders are ultimately shown to be a hate crime, the concerns expressed by many in the Muslim community in reaction to them are understandable.  The killings reinforce a sense of vulnerability, and Americans of all religious faiths need to be aware of that and to offer support and reassurance to our Muslim neighbors.

We know that the vast majority of Muslims in America are appalled by that small percentage of Muslim extremists responsible for the acts of terror to which America woke up on September 11, 2001 and which continue to pose a serious threat to both security and stability in many parts of the world.  We also know that too many Americans engage in stereotyping, and are willing to scapegoat Muslims.    In this environment, it is understandable that American Muslims are anxious about their place in American society and indeed about their physical safety, particularly in the aftermath of a tragedy like this week’s.

American Muslims are entitled to enjoy the security and freedom that is the American ideal.  In the past, Jews, Catholics, and Mormons (among others) were viewed with similar distrust.  We must therefore all do our part to shine a light through the distorting lens of fear and ignorance, to offer friendship and support, and to trust our law enforcement agencies to ensure that the interests of justice are served.

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January 29, 2015

AFA Ousts Bryan Fischer As Spokesperson But He Remains A Radio Host

Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer, who regularly spews anti-LGBT rhetoric, often likening the LGBT community to Nazis, has been ousted as a spokesperson for the American Family Association (AFA), a religious right organization, according to a report on The Rachel Maddow Show. Fischer is formerly the director of issue analysis for government and public policy at AFA.

Although the AFA has not released a public statement on Fischer, a spokesperson for the group told Maddow that Fischer’s statements comparing gays to Nazis contributed to their decision to remove him as spokesperson. The AFA may be attempting to appear more palatable to the public in light of a January 31 trip to Israel the organization is sponsoring for Republican National Committee members.

Fischer, however, still maintains his position as a radio show host on American Family Radio, where he has courted controversy with his extreme statements about the LGBT community, Muslims, and African-Americans. He often uses his radio show, “Focal Point,” as well as articles to denigrate groups he opposed.

This month, Fischer argued that “homosexuals” should not be allowed to run for office, saying, “It’s a form of sexual perversion and remember, we’re going to have to choose between the gay agenda and Christianity.” Aside from referring to homosexuality as a perversion, Fisher constantly used Holocaust analogies to compare conservative Christians who oppose homosexuality to Jews persecuted under the Nazis. In Fischer’s mind, LGBT activists were the Nazis.

In April 2012, Fischer declared, “We’re getting to the point where these homofascists are going to force us to wear on our sleeve some kind of identifying marker so people will know who the racists and the homophobes and the bigots are.” He added, “Remember when the Jews in Nazi Germany, they had to wear a yellow star of David on their sleeve? We’re getting to the point where that’s where they’re going to make us do.” Fischer also said that the Nazi Party was formed in a gay bar in Munich.

Fischer also railed against Muslims. This month, Fischer said that “Allah represents a demon God.” In 2011, Fischer claimed that Muslims—and by extension, Jews– were not protected by the First Amendment. He argued, “The First Amendment was written by the Founders to protect the free exercise of Christianity.” He added, “Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend it out of courtesy.”

In yet another disturbing statement, Fischer said that welfare had destroyed African-American families because young black women “rut like rabbits” in the expectation that they would get financial awards for having children out of wedlock.

Despite Fischer being removed as a spokesperson for AFA, he will still be able to reach thousands of people with his radio show.

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September 12, 2014

Anti-Immigrant Groups Attempt To Bring ISIS Into The Immigration Debate

anti-immigrant-islamIn response to the atrocities committed in the Middle East by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a terrorist group, American anti-immigrant groups are attempting to exploit the public’s legitimate concerns about ISIS by warning that the group plans to enter the United States via Mexico.

In a blog posted on September 8, a fellow for the anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) argued that Senator John McCain’s support of the Senate’s immigration reform bill S-744 in 2013, “has provided ISIS with unfettered access to the United States for both its personnel and their weapons of death and destruction.” The blog concluded with the statement, “Should ISIS or some other terrorist group take advantage of McCain’s welcome mat, he will only have himself to blame as he goes in the eyes of many from war hero to collaborator.”

The anti-immigrant grassroots organization NumbersUSA and the California-based Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) both sent fundraising emails to activists in recent weeks linking ISIS to President Obama’s rumored announcement of some form of executive relief for undocumented immigrants. NumbersUSA claimed ISIS, “is certainly encouraged by the weak U.S. government response to the border surge this summer…” A number of state-based anti-immigrant groups also warned of the threat of ISIS terrorists entering the U.S. via Mexico. Many of the groups cite a report from the conspiracy-orientated “watchdog” group Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch is closely aligned with the anti-immigrant movement.

Some anti-immigrant groups are also responding to the media spotlight on ISIS by espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric. In a Facebook post on September 9, the Tea Party Immigration Coalition headed by racist Rick Oltman asserted, “We must rethink the 1st amendment as it applies to Islam. Islam is NOT a religion; rather, it is a supranational organization hell bent on world domination and killing anyone, anywhere and at any time to do so.”

The anti-immigrant movement often attempts to tie together the issues of immigration and terrorism. This was the case even before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since 9-11, the movement has concentrated on linking terrorism and immigration under the guise of national security. This is a key argument for the movement in opposition to any form of immigration reform.

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