Are “hate” crimes against Muslims a serious problem in the USA?
Recent reports of an increase in anti-Muslim “hate” crimes in the USA are exaggerated. Blacks, gays and Jews remain much more frequent targets of such crimes than Muslims. Furthermore, any reporting which does not distinguish Islamists from more modern Muslims is flawed. Harassment of women who wear the Islamist veil is of course unacceptable. But accusations of “Islamophobia” are similarly unacceptable. Denial of service to fully-veiled individuals (covering the face) is often justified.
Sommaire en français Des rapports récents faisant état d’une augmentation du nombre de crimes « haineux » contre les musulmans aux États-Unis sont exagérés. Au fait, les noirs, les gais et les juifs demeurent des cibles de tels crimes beaucoup plus fréquemment que les musulmans. En outre, les rapports qui ne tiennent pas compte de la distinction entre islamistes et musulmans modernes sont contestables. Le harcèlement des femmes portant le voile islamiste est évidemment inacceptable. Mais les accusations d’« islamophobie » le sont autant. Le déni de service à des personnes portant le voile intégral (qui couvre le visage) est souvent justifié.
Recent news reports from the USA have suggested that so-called “hate” crimes against Muslims have become a serious problem in that country, especially since the election campaign of Donald Trump for the presidency. For example, using FBI Hate Crime Statistics for 2015, the Pew Research Center concludes that Anti-Muslim assaults reach 9/11-era levels, FBI data show, stating that:
There were 91 reported aggravated or simple assaults motivated by anti-Muslim bias in 2015, just two shy of the 93 reported in 2001. Separately, the number of anti-Muslim intimidation crimes – defined as threatening bodily harm — also rose in 2015, with 120 reported to the FBI. Again, this was the most anti-Muslim intimidation crimes reported in any year since 2001, when there were 296. Overall, the FBI reported 257 incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2015, a 67% increase from the previous year. […]
Reporting on the FBI data, the New York Times declared recently (2016-11-14) that U.S. Hate Crimes Surge 6%, Fueled by Attacks on Muslims.
However, a closer look at the FBI data for 2015 reveals that offenses motivated by anti-Black bias (2125), anti-Jewish bias (695) and anti-Gay bias (758) continue to outnumber greatly the number of offenses motivated by anti-Muslim bias (301).
Similarly, an International Business Times article about such crimes in NYC in 2016 reports Hate Crime Rising In New York: NYC Muslims And Jews Targeted As Election Violence Spreads Across The Nation, implying that the election campaign is responsible for the increase.
“As of Nov. 13, 2016 there have been 328 hate crimes year-to-date compared to 250 during the same time period in 2015,” an NYPD spokesperson told International Business Times. Muslims were targeted over 100 percent more compared with the previous year, from 12 incidents in 2015 to 25 so far this year. Anti-Semitic hate crimes rose slightly from 102 to 111. New York City is home to somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million Muslims and over 1 million Jews.
But once again, we note that Muslims are still targeted much less often than Jews.
Certainly the election campaign generated a great deal of emotivity as Trump proposed various ridiculous measures. His proposal for a total ban on Muslims entering the country, in addition to being a human rights disaster and unfairly lumping all Muslims together, would be totally unworkable. What criteria could be used to identify Muslims objectively? In particular, given that apostasy (i.e. leaving Islam) is utterly taboo according to a strict interpretation of Islam—indeed apostasy is criminal offense, sometimes even punishable by death, in many Muslim-majority countries—there are undoubtedly large numbers of non-believers raised as Muslims who continue to self-identify falsely as Muslims mainly out of fear of ostracism or violent retaliation by their co-religionists.
[…] two groups which continue to be targeted more than Muslims—gays and Jews—are themselves condemned by those who adhere strictly to Islamic doctrine.
Regardless of Trump’s bigotry, the numbers show that anti-Muslim behaviour is being exaggerated by media reports. We should also keep in mind that two groups which continue to be targeted more than Muslims—gays and Jews—are themselves condemned by those who adhere strictly to Islamic doctrine. In countries where Islam itself is as dominant as Christianity is in the USA, prejudices against gays and Jews are far worse than in the USA. In other words, Islam is itself a prime generator of hatred and bigotry.
By touting statistics which lump all Muslims together, the media are committing the same error as Trump and his supporters whom they so roundly denounce. Furthermore, using such crimes statistics to generate sympathy for Muslims considered as a monolithic block is worse than unfair; in fact it is reprehensible when Islamists are included in that block. Indeed, it is the Islamist fanatics who benefit the most, because they are, by choice, the most visible. A secular Muslim who has adapted to modern values does not wear her/his religion on her/his sleeve—or head. Referring to the hijab as “Muslim” clothing is grossly misleading as a modern Muslim woman would not wear such an antiquated, misogynist costume. Furthermore, it is an insult to the many women who in Muslim countries have fought so hard, risking their freedom and sometimes their lives, for the right to move about, outside the home, without hiding under a tent.
Harassment of Women Wearing an Islamist Veil
This raises the question of what attitude to adopt towards women who wear the Islamist veil in one of its several variants—hijab, tchador, niqab, burqa, burkini, etc. (I am not referring here to non-Islamist veils such as that worn by, say, Christian nuns or head-coverings worn for purely functional reasons. Islamist veils are easily recognized. There is rarely, if ever, any ambiguity.) In Muslim-majority countries, women are generally forced to wear this type of clothing; they rarely do so by choice.
Any woman who willingly wears an Islamist veil is a religious fanatic; if she wears the full veil, such as a niqab, then she is an extreme religious fanatic […]
First of all, it must be kept in mind that political Islam is current waging a campaign to impose its symbols, clothing standards and values wherever it can find a opening to do so. The promotion of the various forms of the Islamist veil is part of this Islamization campaign. Any woman who willingly wears an article of clothing of this type participates in some small way in this campaign of provocation and identity exhibitionism and thus associates herself with the most backward, fanatical and politicized currents of Islamism. Thus, a certain antipathy towards veiled women is completely legitimate. Any woman who willingly wears an Islamist veil is a religious fanatic; if she wears the full veil, such as a niqab, then she is an extreme religious fanatic (such as Zunera Ishaq, infamous for winning the “right” to wear her niqab during her Canadian citizenship ceremony).
Furthermore, given that many political leaders utterly fail to confront this major threat appropriately and reasonably—J. Trudeau and T. Mulcair in Canada and B. Obama and H. Clinton in the USA all respond with total complacency, whereas American President-elect Trump fails to distinguish Islamists and foolishly stigmatizes all Muslims—this can only make the citizenzy even more anxious, thus increasing hostility.
However, this of course does not in any way justify harassing or haranguing an individual woman wearing an Islamist veil going about her business as a private person in a public place. I am considering here the specific case of a veil which is clearly Islamist, or at least is perceived as such by the harassing person, and where that veil is clearly the motive for the harassment.
Such harassing behaviour is clearly unacceptable, and for at least three reasons:
- The veiled woman has ever right to go about her business like anyone else, without being pestered by some obnoxious stranger. Whatever the politics of the situation might be, the woman is a private individual going about her personal affairs. The harasser’s utterances are unwelcome. If she has not clearly indicated a willingness to debate, that she must be left alone. Our quarrel is with the Islamist movement, not anonymous individuals!
- Unless endowed with telepathic powers, the harasser cannot know the woman’s motivation. Disapproval of the Islamist veil is completely legitimate. However, she may be forced to wear the veil by members of her family or community, in which case she is a victim of the very ideology the harasser is criticizing and should not be the target of that criticism, even though her costume makes her objectively a standard-bearer of that ideology. This may be the case even in non-Muslim countries such as the USA and Canada where women have greater freedom of choice.
- The motives of the harassing person are questionable, because such incidents are often the result of religious bigotry from adherents of competing religions. For example, the harasser may simply be a Christian bigot, hostile towards Islam, who fails to see that Christianity, when given unbridled license, can be just as dangerous. Such individuals may be just as fanatical as the veiled women they are haranguing. If so, their behaviour is pure hypocrisy.
Having said that, some provisos must be added:
- If the woman is wearing a full veil such as a niqab, then it is only reasonable that some services may be denied to her, especially those where identification, communication and security issues are involved. However denied services need not be limited to such situations. The full veil is a sort of ambulatory isolation chamber by which the person cuts herself off from all others; it is only normal for others to avoid interaction with her. This is especially true if the person refused service becomes hostile or threatens legal action: we must support those who fight back against what must be called “legal jihad,” i.e. the use and abuse of legal procedures to advance the cause of Islamofascism.
- Any accusations of so-called “Islamophobia” should be met with determined resistance as use of this term is a strategy used by Islamist fanatics and their dupes to silence legitimate criticism of their ideology. There is nothing irrational about fearing or opposing a religion. If the situation is one of harassment, then the harasser is guilty of anti-Muslim bigotry, not Islamophobia; the distinction is crucial. However, if we are dealing with denial of service to a person wearing a full veil, then the action may not be anti-Muslim; the person refusing service may be guilty of nothing.
- Referring to the veiled woman as “Muslim” is problematic because such attire is NOT representative of Muslim women in general. Indeed, Muslim women generally dress like most other women and are not obviously distinguishable from them. Rather, the Islamist veil, in all its variants, is an accoutrement adopted by a certain fringe, one might say a lunatic fringe, not the mainstream (although Islamists do indeed have as their ultimate goal that the veil should become the norm among Muslim women).
- Harassment of an individual, veiled or not, is unacceptable.
- Accusations of “Islamophobia” are always unacceptable.
- The denial of service to a person wearing a full veil is often legitimate and is not, in general, an act of religious discrimination.
Finally, non-Muslim women who foolishly adopt the Islamist veil temporarily as an act of “solidarity” are behaving irresponsibly. Such gestures are inexcusable as they simply facilitate the advancement of political Islam.
- Why do I put the word “hate” in quotation marks when speaking of so-called “hate” crimes? Because the word “hate” identifies an emotion and is therefore highly subjective. It should be replaced by something more objective, such as violence or calls for violence against the targeted group. See my previous blog Dubious Words.
Next blog: Carl Sagan’s Achilles’ Heel