Over the recent Fourth of July weekend, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) interviewed attendees of the 47th annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention about their experiences in dealing with “Islamophobia.” Shortly afterwards, on July 6, CAIR called on the FBI to investigate an act of arson at a Georgia mosque, saying that hate crimes were increasing because of a “vocal minority in our society promoting anti-Muslim bigotry.” The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) referred to it as one of the “incidents of Islamophobia [that] are on the rise in this country.” However, police later arrested a Muslim suspect.
As Daniel Pipes has documented for years, Islamist organizations in the West are quick to label crimes as anti-Muslim hate crimes as part of their effort to make Muslims feel under attack and to paint themselves as Muslims’ protectors. For example, immediately following the Fort Hood shooting, CAIR asked Muslims to respond by donating to it. “We need financial help to meet these crises and push back against those who seek to score political points off the Muslim community in the wake of the Fort Hood tragedy,” the fundraising pitch read. To no one’s surprise, an anti-Muslim backlash did not ensue.
Cutting through the propaganda requires understanding the ways in which crimes are misrepresented as hate crimes — and why. There are two main culprits to consider: Muslims who stage fake hate crimes and Islamist organizations that seek to exploit them.
Why would anyone fabricate a hate crime against himself or his mosque? History indicates a pair of common motives.
In some cases, the faker has an obvious political goal of demonstrating the supposed prejudice against Muslims. A classic example occurred in 2008, when a 19-year-old female Muslim student named Safia Z. Jilani at Elmhurst College in Illinois claimed that she had been pistol-whipped in a campus restroom by a male who then wrote “Kill the Muslims” on the mirror. The alleged attack occurred just hours after she spoke at a “demonstration called to denounce the anti-Islamic slurs and swastika she had discovered … in her locker.” A week later, however, authorities determined that none of this had taken place and she was charged with filing a false police report.
Similar incidents recently unfolded overseas. A Muslim community leader in London named Noor Ramjanally reported that he had been kidnapped by members of the quasi-fascist British National Party; he also said that he had received death threats and his home had been firebombed. His claim received widespread attention, causing him to boast, “I have got the whole UK Muslim community behind me now.” Ramjanally later was arrested for faking the crime. Furthermore, last year in Australia, a prominent imam, Taj Din al-Hilali, told police that his mosque had been vandalized. When confronted with the security tape, which shows that he is the one who kicked in the door, he insisted that it had been manipulated.
In other cases, individuals are driven to fabricate hate crimes not for political reasons, but to cover up more mundane criminal activity. Take the bizarre story of Musa and Essa Shteiwi, Ohio men who received media attention in 2006 after reporting several attacks on their store, the third being with a Molotov cocktail. A fourth “attack” then occurred, when an explosion was set off and badly burned the father and son, injuries from which they later died. CAIR highlighted it as a hate crime. However, investigators found that the two had set off the explosion themselves after they poured gasoline in preparation for another staged incident and one of them foolishly lit a cigarette. The pair had hired a former employee to carry out the previous attacks as part of an insurance fraud scheme.
Now let us turn to the motives of groups such as CAIR for exaggerating the prevalence of hate crimes against Muslims.
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