On February 10th, three people were shot to death in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Immediately afterwards, the media starting proclaiming that this was a hate crime, despite the only “evidence” of that being that the victims were Muslims, and the shooter was a Southern white male. Harvard University was quick to jump on the hate crime bandwagon by initiating some tolerance sessions across the campus “to discuss your thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and concerns related both to this event and to the important issues of inclusion, diversity, and belonging.” An e-mail sent out by university faculty stated, “Many details are not yet known, but early reports suggest that the shootings were motivated by religious intolerance.” Despite there being absolutely no evidence (in fact the police and FBI have still found no evidence of the murders being religiously motivated), Harvard University decided to go right ahead and start telling students that it was time for a booster shot of tolerance.
Ironically enough, on February 14th, two men were stabbed at a bus station in Michigan after being asked if they were Muslims. (They were not. However, the man accused of the stabbing is a Muslim.) Was there an outcry from the Harvard Administration, or from the left in general, over this attack that had all the indicators of a hate crime? No. No e-mails were sent. No tolerance sessions were held. No mention of this crime was made. Not one word of this attack was mentioned by the University, but because one Southern white male shot three Muslims, promoting religious tolerance became a hot topic. Leaving aside any subjective opinions, and acknowledging that any time a violent crime is committed there is some level of hate exhibited by the attacker, it does seem to be what an objective observer would call a double standard that official Harvard, like so many other “elite” liberal institutions, becomes deeply concerned when Muslims are the victims, but not when non-Muslims are targeted.
Sadly, this sort of selective tolerance has become all too common place in our society. Our liberal friends, who are constantly crying for tolerance for all, refuse to mention anything that could be a hate crime against non-Muslims. According to the New Gospel of Toleration as promulgated by the liberal elite, religious violence takes place when Muslims are the victims. If the perpetrator belongs to a group that falls among those listed in the ever-expanding roll of Any Group That Ever Discriminated Against Anyone at Any Time, the ferocity of the charges of religious violence is redoubled. Yet, when Muslims are the perpetrators of crimes, religion as a motivating factor, or hate, or any other word associated with unpleasantness, is immediately ruled out as any motivating factor. There is no need to discuss tolerance, because tolerance has become a one-way street as clogged with misconceptions as slush-filled Cambridge alleys. Deciding that one crime merits sessions on tolerance, and another crime doesn’t get a mention, perpetuates the culture of pseudo-reality and does a disservice to the cause that brought students to Harvard – education and preparation for the real world of life.
If the University wants to hold sessions where students can discuss discrimination and religious bias, so be it. There are plenty of biases and lots of discrimination afoot. But these sessions should not be knee-jerk reactions whenever Muslims are the victims are crimes that aren’t even hate crimes. According to the FBI’s 2012 statistics on hate crimes in America “of the 1,340 victims of an anti-religious hate crime, 62.4 percent were victims of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias…” That is astronomically high, a far cry higher than the “11.6% where the offender had an anti-Muslim bias…” Yet, despite these horrifying statistics, Harvard rarely, if ever, makes mention of crimes against Jewish people. Hate crimes perpetrated by Muslims are never discussed openly at Harvard. Even after a man who had converted to Islam, and was screaming verses of the Quran as he plugged a knife into her, beheaded a woman in Oklahoma last year, Harvard was silent. Tolerance as a one-way street is a shameful and shabby thing, not worthy of this institution.
There is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that hate crimes occur in America all the time. Be they Muslim against Jew, Christian against Muslim, or any combination of religions, people sometimes use religious reasons to commit horrible acts. Any murder (or attempted murder) is wrong, and each loss of innocent life is a tragedy. However, picking and choosing from these hate crimes, as though at a buffet, to decide which are condemned and which, by the lack of condemnation, are tacitly condoned or deemed unworthy of concern, does absolutely nothing to solve the problems of American society. As an institution that is generally regarded as the number one college in America (and arguably the world), Harvard should be setting an example for how to react to all crimes, not by picking the ones that might get the most publicity, but by addressing the problem in general. Furthermore, Harvard students, who by and large trend to the left of the political spectrum, should not need to be told to be tolerant only after events that fit within the realm of their political framework. Toleration for all is built upon challenging assumptions about who is valuable in society and who is not – and not by taking the approach shown at Harvard. The cause of toleration for all demands that Harvard not pick and choose which crimes it wants to deem noteworthy for purposes of teaching toleration; either it covers them all, or it covers none of them.
This is by no means saying that the issue of religious intolerance in America should go unaddressed. However, there are better ways to do it than presenting one side of the issue. Encouraging liberal college students to be tolerant when their “causes” are attacked isn’t going to do anything but solidify prejudices. However, perhaps some public events sponsored by Harvard, or similar institutions, at which the true diversity of opinions on tolerance could be presented could go a long way. These events could address all forms of religious violence, not just ones where any single chosen group comprises the victims.
There is a clear need for increased toleration in America. Crimes motivated by religion are just the tip of the problem. No change is going to happen if Harvard doesn’t use it’s standing to address the root cause of these crimes, rather than simply present a one-dimensional image of a multi-faceted problem. Progress was never made by toeing the company line. It’s time to Harvard to do more than provide liberal pabulum to cure the ills of our society; it is time to take a bold stand that says intolerance is wrong, period. Feathers may be ruffled. Debates may get heated. But in the long run, this would be meaningful action that will actually change things for the better.
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