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February 13, 2015 1

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 0

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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