It’s time to reconsider hate crime laws

Recently, four Muslim men were murdered in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area. Fear understandably gripped the Muslim community, as it was suspected the attacks were either racially or religiously motivated. If true, they could have constituted hate crimes.

However, as it turned out, the suspect is a fellow Muslim named Muhammad Syed from Afghanistan. One victim was from Afghanistan, and the other three were from Pakistan.

Many are relieved these attacks were not based on religion or race. The motive remains unknown and may be related to a family dispute. Some suspect Syed hunted his victims because he is a Sunni Muslim and they were Shia Muslims. If that is the case, it could be determined to be a religious hate crime based on a religious sect.

This tragic incident validly raises the issue of what determines legal hate crimes. The emotion of hate is quite inscrutable and unknowable. Many, if not most, of us are often unaware of our own motives. Importantly, hate crime laws do not protect everyone; they protect specific classes of people and, as such, do not treat everyone equally.

Image: Mugshot of Muhammad Syed—an alleged killer regardless of which hatred motivated him.

Some of the hate crime laws are named for people who may not have been victims of hatred tied to their specific identities. One example is Matthew Shepard’s death, which was a cause célèbre as an anti-gay hate crime—except it wasn’t. According to one of the murderers, Shepard’s death was related to a robbery gone bad, and drug money was involved, while the main perpetrator had also been involved in gay sex.

Then there was the Jessie Smollett case in which he alleged he had been attacked because he was black and gay. A jury determined he instigated the attack himself. No law has been named for him, but it reveals how false accusations of a “hate crime” can easily and falsely be made.

Finally, there was John Wayne Gacy. He was either bi-sexual or homosexual and responsible for raping and killing at least 33 young men and boys. But his crimes were never labeled “hate crimes.”

Even if people belong to a “victim class,” it’s entirely possible, as the above examples show, that the perpetrator is not motivated by that identity. Violent crimes committed against spouses or sexual partners often represent love turned into hate. Yet they are never treated as “hate crimes.”

In addition, crimes committed against Whites by someone from another race are never considered “hate crimes,” even though they too can be based on race, religion, or hatred. Other victims are denied “hate crime” protection. In St. Louis, where I live, Blacks murdered two Asians, one Vietnamese and the other Burmese. Indeed, Blacks frequently attack Asians, yet they are never considered “hate crimes.”

However, the inference of a “hate crime” never enters the narrative. Yet one cannot ignore the fact that had, had Whites murdered or assaulted these Asian victims, they probably would have been considered “hate crimes.”

One must reluctantly concede that the “hate crime laws” do not fairly, justly, or equally treat such crimes equitably. Isn’t it time to reconsider “hate crime laws” and the fact that they do not apply to or cover everyone equally?

This latest crime against four Muslims by another Muslim reminds us that hate cannot be narrowed down to only some or several classes of people. Hatred isn’t narrowly restricted to certain races, religions, or sexual orientation. Hatred can be found in all classes of people and against all classes of people and individuals. Hate crime laws are too selective, as hatred is all-inclusive.

Isn’t it time to reconsider the justice or validity of “hate crime” laws? Blacks kill Blacks. Whites kill Whites. Asians kill Asians, Hispanics kill Hispanics, etc. Are such murders devoid of hate? When women are killed by men or men killed by women, can’t hatred be involved? The emotion of hate is elusive and inscrutable. Isn’t it true justice to punish the deed, regardless of the motive? The motive of hatred might support the outcome, but more people bear hatred in their hearts who don’t murder anyone.

It’s time to return to true justice where the objective and visible deed is clearly recognized, and the subjective, invisible motive is inscrutable and unprovable. This isn’t based on or about Muslims only. It’s about all of us.       

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