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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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August 31, 2012

Chapel Hill is Latest Town to Be Hit with Anti-Israel Advertisements

A new anti-Israel bus ad campaign was unveiled in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, two weeks ago. The ads are part of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s national “Be on our Side” campaign, which promotes ending U.S. military aid to Israel. They read: “Join with us. Build peace with justice and equality. End U.S. military aid to Israel.”

The ads reportedly appeared on nearly 100 buses in Chapel Hill but have since been taken down by Chapel Hill Transit, the municipal agency that runs the town’s transportation system.

The campaign was sponsored by the Salaam-Shalom group of the Church of Reconciliation, a Presbyterian church in Chapel Hill. The pastor of the church, Mark Davidson, had announced on a strategy call organized by the US Campaign several months ago that the ads were soon scheduled to appear. While the church seems to be the primary sponsor of the ad campaign, other local organizations, including Jews for a Just Peace NC, the North Carolina Chapter of Veterans for Peace and the Coalition of Peace with Justice also helped co-sponsor the ads.

The ads were removed from the buses on August 24 because they violated the transportation agency’s advertising policy, which requires that issue-related advertising contains a disclaimer notifying viewers that the signs are “paid advertising.” Although Davidson has expressed willingness to add such a disclaimer, it is still not certain that the ads will be placed back on the buses.

The Chapel Hill ads are just the latest in a series of anti-Israel billboards and ads that have appeared in cities across the country, including Denver, Detroit and Los Angeles. The most recent billboards in New York featured a misleading series of maps of Israel that attempted to portray how Israel is intentionally swallowing up Palestinian land.

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