2013: The Year To End Hate Crimes Against American Muslims

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    In this Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 photo, New York City Police Department detectives escort Erika Menendez, second from left, out of the 112th Precinct in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Newsday, Danielle Finkelstein)

    In this Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 photo, New York City Police Department detectives escort Erika Menendez, second from left, out of the 112th Precinct in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Newsday, Danielle Finkelstein)

    (MintPress) – A few weeks ago Sunando Sen, an immigrant to America who had recently achieved his own American dream of opening a small business was murdered in New York City when a stranger pushed him onto the subway tracks where both Sen and his dreams were crushed in an instant by a fast moving train.

    Although Sen, the owner of a copy shop in Upper Manhattan, had called New York home for years, his attacker saw him as “other.”

    His roommate, MD Khan, described Sen as a soft spoken man who liked to stay up late watching comedy shows and listening to music. “He was so nice, gentle and quiet … It’s broken my heart,” Al-Jazeera reported.

    Erika Menendez, 31, was arrested for the crime by the NYPD after she was seen on security footage fleeing the scene after Sen had been pushed and later confessed to Sen’s murder, stating, “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims … Ever since 2001 when they put down the Twin Towers, I’ve been beating them up.”

    While hate groups and hate crimes in the U.S have been climbing at an alarming rate in recent years, the fact that a steadily growing amount of these hate crimes have been committed specifically against Muslim-Americans is just now coming light.

    However the “why” and “what” — as in why should the American people care about this epidemic and what can be done to turn this terrible tide of discriminations against Muslims and those perceived as Muslims in the U.S. — has gotten little media attention.


    FBI notes trend of hate crimes against Muslims in US rises

    Recently, MintPress reported that the FBI released documents detailing that hate crimes against Muslims, including vandalism, intimidation, assault, rape and murder, have continually risen in the past few years. In 2011, the FBI reported 157 anti-Muslim hate crimes, an insignificant drop from the some 160 hate crimes reported in 2010.

    In 2010, the FBI reported a dramatic 50 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims for the first time since levels dropped since 2001, after a surge in the amount of anti-Muslim propaganda by the media. The FBI maintains that the continuance of a high level of hate crimes against Muslims in 2011 is tied to a continuance of Islam-bashing propaganda, including battles over the construction of new mosques and the alleged plan that Muslims were to impose religious Sharia law on the U.S.

    In early December of 2012  a mutilated pig was left in front of a mosque in Texas. Islamic community leaders called the gesture a hate crime. Mustafaa Carroll with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told a local Houston-area TV station, “I think it borders being a hate crime at least from our perspective, because we’ve seen these before and generally when people put pigs or have dead animals, it’s really something hateful.” Muslims, like Jews, do not eat pork and traditionally regard the pig as an unclean animal.

    Other infamous incidents of hate aimed at Muslim communities in 2012 include the attacks on mosques and Islamic schools, including the College Preparatory School of America in Lombard, Ill., where an acid bomb was thrown at the school during the nighttime Ramadan prayers. Or the shooting at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, in which six people were gunned down by neo-Nazi skinhead Wade Michael Page, who is thought to have mistaken members of the faith for Muslims.

    Perhaps even more alarming is information from the Department of Justice which reveals that the numbers from the FBI are notoriously understated, and the real amount of hate crimes in the U.S. is more than 15 times higher than the number reported.

    In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in a report, “Hate Crimes Reported by Victims and Police,” discovered in the last 15 years, the real level of hate crimes has been between 19 and 31 times higher than what was reported.


    As 2012 ends, hate crimes against Muslims increase

    Also, in recent months in New York  a string of murders was reported which specifically targeted Middle Eastern shopkeepers in Brooklyn, the last of whom, a 78-year-old Iranian immigrant named Rahmatollah Vahidipour, was shot to death while closing his store. His body was then dragged to a back room and hidden with merchandise from the store.

    “We’re not sure of the motive,” a police source told the New York Daily News. “Is it robbery and it’s a coincidence that these victims all have a Middle Eastern background? It could be … Or, is this guy targeting men because he hates Muslims or hates Arabs?”

    In the same week, another Muslim man was savagely beaten by two men who asked the victim if he was “a Hindu or a Muslim” before committing the crime, and another man was stabbed several times outside a mosque by a perpetrator who yelled, “I’m going to kill you Muslim,” then stabbed the victim repeatedly.

    “While correlation does not necessarily imply causation, the question must be asked — what effect do advertisements such as these have on the psyches’ of people such as Erika Menendez? Was Sunando Sen, a law-abiding, hardworking immigrant who had given his life to achieving the American dream and who was pushed to his death by a woman who ‘hated Muslims’ a direct victim of this campaign of bigotry? That he lost his life on the same subway system which for months has played host to hateful, incendiary advertisements,” writes Murtaza Hussain for Al-Jazeera, who references anti-Muslim hate-mongering fostered in New York City subway campaigns over the past year and in the ideology of figures such as Robert Spencer and Pamela Gellar.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which tracks hate groups classifies Pamela Geller as “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead.”

    Hussain concludes that the death of Sen and other horrific incidents committed against American Muslims are “a tragic irony but is in many ways the natural result of a national culture of anti-Muslim bigotry that has become mainstream in both politics and popular culture. The sad, inescapable truth is that Sen will likely not be the last victim of the accelerating phenomena of violence against Muslims in the United States – the only question today is how far into the darkness America must travel before it decides to take a stand against it.”

    I think now that in 2013 it’s high time Americans step up and speak out against anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions. Let’s make this year a year to remember not because of more violence and an increase in the epidemic of hate crimes across America thus proliferating the threat of domestic extremism, but one in which we work toward peace and truly extending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all.

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