“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,” was the rationale of woman who shoved a man to his death. Sunando Sen, the man killed, was apparently Hindu, and it is not explained what Hindus or for that matter the overwhelming majority of Muslims have to do with the terror attacks of 9/11. It appears the victim just looked Muslim, as he was from the Indian subcontinent originally. This last summer a gunman attacked a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin apparently harboring a similar hate towards Muslims. Sikhs wearing turbans was enough of a connection for this murderer.

The issue is not whether these pathetic murderers knew whom they were murdering. Rather, it reveals that they believed that claiming to kill Muslims as revenge for 9/11 would somehow transform them into heroes or at least make their actions more sympathetic to US law enforcement and public at large. More sophisticated haters may not be so blunt but nonetheless transparent. Several US soldiers have been accused of horrendous crimes including Staff Sergeant Robert Bales murdering a family, mostly young children/toddlers. Others have been accused of urinating upon dead “enemies.” The drone wars are executed in high secrecy, but the victims frequently have included children. As no official accountability for such decisions to strike is available for public or apparently judicial review, it is not possible to evaluate if decisions from commander to drone pilots and gunners are rationalized by real threats or simply prejudice and stereotypes.

Dehumanization has been an infectious by-product of conflict before 9/11. The spate of hate crimes directed at Muslims but affecting many who also appear to be Muslim may be indicative in what it reveals in the eyes of US societies most ignorant and/or mentally troubled – going after Muslims can be rationalized by patriotism and revenge for 9/11. After all, US Congresswoman and Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann along with more than a few colleagues has promoted special criteria for Muslim Americans to hold Government jobs. Some simply advocate that any observant Muslim should not be eligible for a Cabinet level position. The New York police have maintained extensive spying programs on mosques and Islamic related institutions – public denials in the face of evidence to the contrary indicate both bias contrary to American values and the willingness by highest law enforcement to engage in duplicity and perhaps illegality all rationalized by security concerns with 9/11 as backdrop.

To even the most ignorant of society, the message is clear, even beyond the official memo for public consumption. The bias goes beyond Muslims and takes on those who are viewed as different in many private and political discussions. Xenophobia is rising even as illegal immigration has dropped and the US economy and innovation also seeks the hardworking and creative from all countries. Every American has been an immigrant to someone else’s land, except the Native American. The debate around the then proposed “mosque near Ground-Zero” though allowed the venom to seep into the open under the cover of patriotism and/or sanctity.

From the recent murders of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown to the Oklahoma City Federal Building, bombings evidence that most terror crimes in the US are domestic born. Nonetheless, there is a tendency to blame the outsider for everything from crime to unemployment to breakdown in America’s social fabric. Such focus on the then perceived outsider as curse and problem has been a persistent scapegoat particularly for authority seeking ever more control over minds and actions – see Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union to former Yugoslavia to Iran. However, more open and democratic societies are not immune either. Perhaps the rage and murder directed by the most ignorant in the name of patriotism and/or revenge evidence that the underlying message is not so subtle, innocuous or consistent with true American values of tolerance and social, creative, political and economic prosperity via diversity.

Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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