The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that two men are being sought in connection with an arson at a Minneapolis mosque -- a crime that has attracted the attention of the FBI as a potential bias crime. Liberal City Council Member Gary Schiff arrived at the scene to pronounce: "There's no doubt this was clearly a hate crime. It was a very deliberate offense." Alan Silver, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Minneapolis, was also on hand to denounce the fire as "an attack on all of us."
One of the men captured on surveillance cameras was white, sporting a full beard. The other was black, with a beard closely cropped around the jaw line. There are signs that gasoline was used to set the fire. On this evidence, the FBI, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a number of community leaders in Minneapolis are certain a hate crime has been committed. Well, it's possible, of course, but how many multi-racial anti-Muslim hate groups exist in the United States? Twenty to one they'll discover it was just a plain old arson.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, an immigrant from Afghanistan went on a rampage with his SUV, killing one man and wounding 18 others in hit-and-run attacks. Witnesses said he drove up onto curbs deliberately aiming at pedestrians. "Driver Called Unstable," read the headline in the Washington Times. Yes, but according to the San Jose Mercury News, he was also a product of a certain culture. Omeed Popal was 29 years old, but apparently totally sheltered and controlled by his parents, who, according to the paper, "believed they needed to protect him from America's 'evil society.'" He had recently traveled to Afghanistan to be married to a woman his family picked out for him.
Perhaps there was nothing more to the story than mental instability and cultural rigidity bordering on the pathological. But the rampage ended at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, where two of the victims were struck. It also happens to echo a hit-and-run attack in North Carolina last spring. Iranian born Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar used a rented Jeep to plow into a crowd at the University of North Carolina. As Investor's Business Daily reported, he told police that he ran down nine people with his SUV to "punish the government of the United States for its actions around the world." He further explained to the judge that he was "thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah." No one has yet accused him of a hate crime, but news reports in that case as well stressed his mental instability. Students at UNC were deeply divided about whether the attack should be called terrorism.
When Naveed Haq invaded the Seattle Jewish Federation in Seattle last month and methodically shot six women, killing one, the coverage was quiet. The stories tended to focus on Haq's (you guessed it) history of mental instability, and while officials did not hesitate to call it a hate crime, there was a good deal of reassurance about an "isolated act" and all that.
A few years before that, an Egyptian-born immigrant shot up the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport. No significance, we were instructed. Isolated act.
"Beltway snipers" and Muslim converts John Allen Mohammed and Lee Malvo terrorized the Washington area for weeks when they went on a shooting spree. Their religious motivation (they admired the 9/11 hijackers) was soft-pedaled.
What is missing from the response to all of these attacks is some attention to the Muslim spirit of the day. Doubtless all of these criminals are mentally borderline types. But the environment in which they are nurtured affects their willingness to resort to violence as well as their choice of victims. In no case have Muslim leaders stepped forward to proclaim that an attack on a Jewish community center, for example, "is an attack on all of us." Nor do they condemn the assaults as contrary to the tenets of Islam.
CAIR's website offers a link to "Muslim condemnations of terrorism," but all of the quotes date from September 11, 2001. There has been an eerie silence since.
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