Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sometimes, We Are Not Our Brother's Keeper

Jack Mirkinson writes (with video below accompanying his piece)

A segment that aired on CNN this past Sunday was such a perfectly rotten emblem of the Islamophobia poisoning our discourse that it felt like another instantaneous historical document, a time capsule being created as it was happening.

In the segment, anchors John Vause and Isha Sesay demanded that Yasser Louati, a member of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, tell them why French Muslims didn’t do more to stop the attacks in Paris.

“Why is it that no one within the Muslim community there in France knew what these guys were up to?” Vause asked—a patently ludicrous question.

“The Muslim community has nothing to do with these guys,” Louati replied. “Nothing. We cannot justify ourselves for the actions of someone who just claims to be Muslim.”

“Surely someone beyond the seven guys who’ve been killed over the last 48 hours would have to have known something and that was probably within the Muslim community, but yet no one said anything,” Vause said—again, as though the “Muslim community” all hang out together on one street corner in France.

When Louati pointed out that it was actually the government’s job to catch criminals, Sesay took over, badgering him about why Muslims weren’t taking more “responsibility” in stopping people like the Paris attackers. As the interview ended, Vause muttered, “I’ve yet to hear the condemnation from the Muslim community on this, but we’ll wait and see,” seemingly forgetting that he’d just been talking to a Muslim who had condemned the attacks. “The word ‘responsibility’ comes to mind,” he added.

"The responses to this sort of thing can come to feel tedious," Mirkinson laments, as he does that "nobody seems to remember all of the Muslims who are condemning these attacks" and "that Muslims are the biggest victims of ISIS brutality."

ISIL is perfectly fine with murdering Jews and Christians also, however. Further, emphasizing its bloodlust for other Muslims might incur a reaction similar to the response of many conservative whites to inner city crime: the mantra of "black-on-black crime," which carries with it the whiff of indifference, if not bigotry.

Slightly agitated, the female anchorperson asks rhetorically

Given the fact that the finger of blame is pointed at the Muslim community, rightly or wrongly, does that not shift the (word indecipherable) situation Muslim community and the ledership should step up and take a greater role in looking at the young people and the road they're going down.  You have to accept that responsibility to prevent the bigger backlash that comes your way when these things happen.

The best answer (as Mirkinson provides) is "nobody asks all Christians or Jews to account for their most extreme elements."   Surely, few people ask all Christians to account for terrorism committed by far-right, extremist Christians, and not only because in the USA it has been discrete, scattered, and far less deadly than the attacks of September 2001 or any which may currently be in the planning stage.

The most directly analogy (though involving an ethnic group, rather than a religion) is the case of La Cosa Nostra, which once was a scourge upon society, a particular threat in large and medium-sized cities, and which brought down a US president 52 years ago to the month.  The History Channel explains

In the early 1960s, U.S. Attorney Robert Kennedy (1925-1968) stepped up government efforts to fight organized crime and corruption in labor unions. One of Kennedy’s top targets was Jimmy Hoffa (1913-1975), the head of the million-plus-member Teamsters union. Kennedy also pressured FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who had been slow to pursue the Mafia, to intensify his agency’s efforts against mobsters. The FBI, whose investigators up to that time had scant knowledge about the Mafia’s operations, began an electronic spying program that netted valuable information. Another important development came in 1963, when convicted New York mobster Joseph Valachi broke the Mafia’s sacred code of silence, or omerta, and became a government informant, revealing and confirming details about the Mafia’s structure and customs for the first time.

Starting in the later part of the 20th century, the government began winning its war against the Mafia. In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which proved to be one of the most powerful tools used to take down mobsters, as it allowed the government to “attack criminal enterprises on a broad front, stripping them of their leadership and sources of both illicit and legitimate revenue in one massive prosecution,” according to a 1992 report in Congressional Quarterly. During the 1980s and 1990s, RICO laws were used to convict high-ranking mobsters, who in the past had been able to avoid prosecution. (Similar laws were effective in producing mass convictions in Italy during this time.) Some Mafiosi, faced with long prison sentences, opted to testify against fellow mobsters in exchange for a place in the witness-protection program. Additionally, Mafia membership in the U.S. declined as insular Italian-American neighborhoods, once a traditional recruiting ground for mobsters, underwent demographic shifts and became more assimilated into society.

By the early 21st century, the American Mafia was a shadow of its former self...

Relatively few individuals blamed the American Mafia (La Cosa Nostra) on the Italian-American community, and the stereotyping of that ethnic group as conniving and criminal typically was considered unfair or even completely rejected.  La Cosa Nostra was not defanged and nearly destroyed by the Italian-American community, notwithstanding residence of most of its members in close-knit neighborhoods, fairly homogenous neighborhoods. It was brought down by law enforcement, most notably by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, during whose term convictions of organized crime figures (then, but not now, of Italian descent) rose approximately 800 percent, and which probably cost his brother's life.

There is a disturbing tendency among Muslims worldwide to support values antithetical to progressive, western values. ISIL, moreover, probably is genuinely Islamic, in the way that, for instance, Larry McQuilliams probably was an extremely fundamentalist and deluded Christian. Still, responsibility for cracking down on terrorism committed by a Muslim group lies not with other Muslims but with national governments, augmented by international cooperation.

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