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Love vs. Hate: On the Pittsburgh Attack and Other Atrocities

Screen shot / YouTube

Once in Iraq War days I was interviewed on PBS and I said, “I am alarmed.” A viewer wrote me and said, “It would have helped if you had *looked* like you were alarmed.” Sometimes I’m too Zen for the hot medium of television.

But I really am alarmed about the wave of hate crimes sweeping our country, and I think all human beings with a heart join Rabbi Jeffrey Myers in weeping at the senseless loss of life inflicted by irrational hate on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last week.

We mourn our siblings, Joyce Fienberg, 75, Rich Gottfried, 65, Rose Mallinger, 97, Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, David Rosenthal, 54, Bernice Simon, 84, Sylvan Simon, 86, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, Irving Younger, 69. They were all way too young to check out like that.

I think any dispassionate observer will also agree with Rabbi Myers that the hateful rhetoric of our current president contributes to an atmosphere in which extremists and supremacists are emboldened to act.

It is incredible to me how the issue of semi-automatic weapons has been sidestepped by the reporting on this chilling attack. Our country has a big gun problem, which turbocharges extremism.

I am heartened by the efforts of Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue (including Mpowerchange and many others to raise money for the families of the victims.

They have led the way toward healing, by underlining our unity as Americans across religious and racial divides. As have the efforts to have more Americans of Christian heritage attend Jewish and Muslim religious services. All the social science shows that if people actually know someone from a minority group they are much less likely to have a poor opinion of the group.

The only way to defeat hate is love. Extremists are trying to polarize us and set us against one another. They only effective response is to refuse to be divided, to refuse to fear, to refuse to despise. The powerful negative emotions are the helpmeets of extremism, and only positive emotions, only reaching out and showing affection and compassion, can disrupt them.

But the other thing to say is that all this underscores how absolutely essential it is for every single one of us to vote on Tuesday.

This massacre did not take place in a vacuum. Informed Comment has been forced repeatedly to take up these issues. That is why I am alarmed. Here are some other such instances:

2. Trump-inspired felon allegedly torches Fort Pierce, Fla., Mosque, says “All Islam is radical

09/15/2016

Joseph Michael Schreiber stands accused of having carried out an arson attack against a mosque in Fort Pierce, Florida, about an hour’s drive north from West Palm Beach.

The mosque was burned down on the first night of Eid al-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice, a major Muslim holy day that in part commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command. The fire was set after midnight and it wasn’t until 5 am until the local firefighters could put the blaze out.

The small congregation of 100 vows to rebuild the edifice.

Those who want to contribute to the rebuilding can do so at this page by clicking on “support.”

The Fort Pierce Islamic Center had a web page that wished visitors “peace be upon you” and described itself this way:

“In the name of God, the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate,

The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce is the oldest mosque in the Treasure Coast area, located on West Midway Road in White City. The purpose of this mosque is to cater to the needs of the greater Muslim community by providing a wide range of services, activities, programs, and classes. Over the years, the mosque has been a central point for the Muslim community and the center has been used for events, lectures, meetings, classes, and much more. We strongly condemn all acts of terror and violence.”

It serviced a diverse community from 22 countries. Muslim-Americans in the Fort Pierce area have been living in fear and suffering from severe harassment for several years.

Schreiber, 32, is single and is likely to remain so. He has a history of petty theft and faces 30 years in prison if he is convicted of the arson as a hate crime.

He at one point posted to his Facebook page a GOP National Committee picture showing Trump/Spence and the words “The team that will make America great again!” . . .

3. Our reply to Dylann Roof’s Hate: Donate to “Mother Emanuel” AME Church (Excerpt):

06/19/2015

There are many essential responses to the racist terrorism that attacked Emanuel AME Church, which the state of South Carolina should take. It should stop flying the Confederate flag. It should undo the gerrymandering by the white Republican Establishment that keeps the one-third of the population that is African-American disenfranchised (hint: one third of its congressional seats are not held by African-Americans).

But those of us who don’t live in that state can also take action. The Emanuel AME Church webpage has a donation button. I just gave to it, and hope all of you will, too. If many give small sums each, we can further build up this essential institution of American life. Dylann Roof’s act of terrorism left behind family members who need our support, including the family of the pastor, the Reverend Honorable Clementa C. Pinckney, a South Carolina state senator who was executed in cold blood.

PBS NewsHour: “Rev. Clementa Pinckney talks about black political participation”

This from his webpage:

“Rev. Pinckney answered the call to preach at the age of thirteen and received his first appointment to pastor at the age of eighteen. . . He serves as the pastor of historic Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, South Carolina.

Rev. Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1996 at the age of twenty-three. In 2000, he was elected to the State Senate at the age of twenty-seven. He is one of the youngest persons and the youngest African-American in South Carolina to be elected to the State Legislature. He represents Jasper, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, and Hampton Counties. His committee assignments include Senate Finance, Banking and Insurance, Transportation, Medical Affairs and Corrections and Penology. Washington Post columnist, David Broder, called Rev. Pinckney a “political spirit lifter for suprisingly not becoming cynical about politics.”

Rev. Pinckney has served in other capacities in the state to include a college trustee and corporate board member. In May 2010, he delivered the Commencement Address for the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
He and his wife Jennifer have two children – Eliana and Malana.”

All our hearts go out to Mrs. Pinckney, to Eliana and Malana. America gives them a hug of love and support. And to the families of the other victims: Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, member of the church choir; Ethel Lance, 70, who worked for three decades at the church; Susie Jackson, 87 years old; Cynthia Hurd, 54, St. Andrews Regional Library branch manager; Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 Allen University graduate (so young!); Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a church pastor and high school coach; Myra Thompson, 59; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, a retired pastor from another Charleston church.

4. Juan Cole on America’s Terrorism Double Standard

(Excerpt):

August 16, 2012 by 

From Billmoyers.com

On his oft-cited blog Informed Comment, author, scholar and historian Juan Cole writes about the Middle East and American politics. In the wake of the attack at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Cole compared our nation’s response to what he calls “white terrorism” with its response to “other” (read: Islamic) terrorism. We reached him by phone to learn more.

Lauren Feeney: The two recent mass shootings at a movie theater in Colorado and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin — were they terrorism?

Juan Cole: The federal code contains a definition of terrorism — it’s the deployment of coercion or violence against civilians for the accomplishment of a political purpose. The movie theater incident wasn’t terrorism, as far as anybody can tell. That was mental illness. As for the Sikh temple shootings, I think there’s ample evidence that this individual was motivated by a political program of hatred for what he considered to be non-whites. The likelihood is that he thought he was targeting a Muslim congregation, because Sikhs wear turbans and beards and a lot of uneducated Americans mistake Sikhs for Muslims.

Feeney: CNN’s CNN’s Peter Bergen recently reported that militants linked to al-Qaida or inspired by the jihad-instilled ideology have carried out four terrorist attacks in the US since Sept. 11, while “right-wing extremists” like Wade Michael Page have committed at least eight. Why then do you think Americans still equate terror with Islam?

Cole: There is a certain amount of, frankly, latent racism in this issue. Sociologists have long remarked that there’s a kind of mainstream, who are unmarked, and minorities, who are marked. In other words, if a bank robber is white, the reporting on the bank robbery won’t mention that in its news. It’ll just say, “The bank was robbed.” If the bank robber is a member of a minority, then the ethnicity of the bank robber will typically be mentioned. I think the same thing, marked and unmarked identities, operates with regard to terrorism.

Feeney: What’s been in the difference in government response between mass shooting incidents carried out by white men, and the Fort Hood shootings for example, in which the perpetrator was Muslim?

Cole: With the Fort Hood shootings, there were very strong suspicions that the shooter acted as part of a plot, part of a network. Congressional hearings were held. The fact that he had ever read or viewed YouTube videos from Muslim radicals in Yemen was brought up. It was very difficult for investigators to see this person as a loner or as a mentally disturbed person. The instinct was to find the network, find the plot.

On the contrary, when a Department of Homeland Security employee, Daryl Johnson, in 2009, wrote a position paper on the need to track hate groups and white supremacists, there were congressmen who attacked him.

Some of the themes that are invoked by the white supremacists are themes that have become relatively mainstreamed in right-wing thinking in the United States. I’m not saying that the right wing is necessarily sympathetic to white supremacism, but I think that they don’t view it as being as alarming as it actually is.

Feeney: What about the killings that happen every day in our inner cities? How does the government reaction compare when the crime isn’t necessarily terrorism per se, but people are still losing there lives?

Cole: The use of a weapon or a device for the purposes of terrorism typically draws a very strong response from law enforcement. Ways are thought of to try to block the use that weapon. But the use of semiautomatic weapons by drug gangs, white supremacist terrorists, the mentally ill and so forth typically draws no law enforcement response. Occasionally police chiefs will say they wish the things were banned, but among the political establishment, because of the influence of the gun lobbies, there’s not a serious national dialogue on the banning of semiautomatic weapons . . .

Feeney: The Sikh temple shooter had been followed for years by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center, but he still managed to carry out this attack. What can we do to end this sort of violence?

Cole: The man was a known member of hate groups and was able to easily buy a semiautomatic weapon and get it the second day. To my mind, there’s simply no excuse for semiautomatic weapons, which are military weapons, being available to civilians in the United States. You don’t need such a weapon to hunt or for self-defense. These things can be done with an ordinary rifle or pistol.

If someone wants to quickly kill large numbers of innocent civilians, a semiautomatic weapon is ideal for the purpose. With the rash of these incidents, the lesson should be drawn that it’s a very dangerous kind of weapon to have freely available in our society. And as long as these weapons are freely available, it seems to me that we have enough terrorist-minded individuals in the United States that we’re going to go on facing these massacres from time to time.

 

Juan Cole / Informed Comment
Juan Cole
Contributor
Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan and the proprietor of the Informed Comment e-zine. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in…
Juan Cole

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