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The way they love hate crimes!
The recent incidences of hate crimes in US and across the world highlight the importance of promoting greater tolerance at all levels
Issue Date - 30/05/2012
Hate crimes have long been a part of the history of mankind. Under European colonial rule in the 16th and 17th centuries, native Americans had to undergo social discrimination. Similarly, Nazis in Germany practiced the Final Solution to execute European Jews during World War II. In the last two centuries, hate crimes against African Americans and xenophobia have become rampant in Western countries.

For all its claims of being a land of liberty and tolerance, US boasts of some fairly unimpressive statistics. The FBI recorded the number of criminal incidents with a biased motivation from 2000 to 2008 from 14422 law enforcement agencies representing 278 million people. In all, it noted 777 incidents that were linked to ethnicity/national origin (1109 victims) and 1,303 incidents linked to religion (1575 victims). The recent brutal murder of an Iraqi-American woman Shaima Alawadi in San Diego (on March 24, 2012) and the shoot-out of an unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida (on February 26, 2012), have highlighted the increase in crimes against minorities like Muslims, Black, ethnic Jews & Latinos.

In particular, America has witnessed a surge in the number of hate crimes against Muslims post 9/11. A report by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology explored that the number of anti-Muslim attacks in America in 2001 increased exponentially from 354 to 1501 following the attack. But the crimes were not limited to Muslims only. Other minorities were on target as well. As per the FBI’s recent Hate Crime Statistics, around 6,628 criminal incidents involving 7,699 offenses were reported in 2010. Along with Islamophobia, anti-Latino crimes have also increased manifold. A study conducted by Pew Research revealed that in 2003, there were 426 hate crimes against Latinos, while in 2007, there were 595 nationally. Hate crimes have also surged immensely in Canada. Canadian police services reported 1,401 hate crimes in 2010, which boils down to a rate of 4.1 hate crimes per 100,000 people.

Unfortunately, the trend in hate crimes, especially Islamophobia, is spreading like wildfire in Europe as well. According to the French Muslim umbrella group, French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), hate crimes against Muslims rose by 20% in the first nine months of 2011 in France. A record 15,284 people were prosecuted for hate crimes in England and Wales in 2010-11. However, the official data revealed by governments may be much lower than the actual figures on the ground, as research has found that many victims of hate crimes are often reluctant to come forward. The research further revealed that only one-third of the police reports were filed by the victims, while many incidents went unreported and were also swept under the carpet.

In some instances, indifference, bias and discrimination towards other cultures are shamelessly supported by politicians as well. For instance, in US, Herman Cain, a GOP candidate, promoted himself as the Islamophobia candidate and announced, “I will not” appoint any Muslim “if I am elected as President.” Moreover, 25 states in US demanded a ban on Sharia Law, which was actually unconstitutional and created fissures among communities. On the same lines, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made labeling of halal meat an election issue, which led to resentment among 6 million Muslims and made them feel unwanted. A similar reaction was seen following the heated debate post the burqa ban in 2011.

So while it is important to tackle perpetrators of these crimes with an iron fist, it is equally important for lawmakers and politicians to handle issues relate to race, ethnicity, religion, et al, responsibly & sensitively. Expectably, the basis of terrorism is hate and today’s hate criminals have quite a good potential to be tomorrow’s terrorists.


Amir Hossain           

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