*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
Nearly all parents and school teachers have, at some point, endeavored to teach children that words have consequences. It’s probably safe to assume that when parents and teachers talk about the consequences of careless or hurtful words, they are referring to someone’s hurt feelings, but when adults are involved it is likely that more than feelings get hurt. Obviously, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump’s parents or teachers never counseled him on avoiding words that are hurtful, because he has no qualms spouting hate-speech that has had deleterious consequences; possibly deadly consequences.
That is the thinking in and around a Queens, New York mosque after a man walked right up behind a popular 55 year-old Imam and his 64 year-old assistant dressed in traditional Muslim garb and fired five shots at close range resulting in two deaths. The Imam died instantly and his assistant passed away at a local hospital shortly thereafter. Law enforcement officials did not contradict the witness statements, but they did stop short of calling it a hate crime. A high-ranking police source said the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force would investigate, but that it was “too early to say” what the motive was.
The two men had just finished their afternoon prayers and made it just a block away from the al-Furqan Jame Mosque when a man shot them. The Imam, Maulama Akonjee was highly-regarded in the community and friends and relatives said that he had no problems with anyone. The Imam’s nephew, Rahi Majid said “You would watch him come down the street and watch the peace he brings. He would not hurt a fly.”
Although law enforcement was hesitant to designate the murders as a hate crime, local residents, friends and family of the slain imam were not reticent to say, “That’s not what America is about. We blame Donald Trump for this . . . Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia.”
The president of a different, but nearby neighborhood mosque, Kobir Chowdhury, said “We are devastated. We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to know if they did this just because of our religion.” However, it seems Mr. Chowdhury had an idea that the brutal killings were just because of religion and said later, “Please, read my lips. This is a hate crime no matter which way you look at it.”
With all due respect to local residents, this is “what America is about” or Donald Trump would not be the Republican Party standard bearer. And, one understands blaming Donald Trump for inciting his bases’ hatred and fear of Islam’s adherents, but he or his drama has not created Islamophobia. That achievement belongs to Republicans and began after the terror attacks on 911; long before Trump was spreading his anti-Islam message. However, it is more than understandable why local residents suspect Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric played a role in the death of their revered Imam and his assistant.
Remember, that besides proposing to ban Muslims from America, Trump did channel Adolf Hitler and the dreaded East German Stasi and call on “real Americans” to spy on Americans they either think or know for sure are Muslims. At a speech in South Carolina Trump encouraged the audience to “police” their own neighborhoods and besides closely monitoring their neighbors, he encouraged them to spy on Islamic places of worship. He said, “There’s something going on in the mosques and other places. There’s some nastiness, there’s some meanness there. We know there’s something going on.” Yes, they are praying.
Trump hasn’t been alone of late in inciting hatred towards American Muslims, and that is besides an increase in American flight crew members having American citizens thrown off airplanes because they “look a little too Muslim.” An Oklahoma legislator called for a “final solution” to Muslims existing anywhere in the world because according to his evangelical bona fides “Islam is not a religion.” The Republican doing his best impression of Donald Trump said, “We have no long term alternative but to quarantine them… prohibiting them from residing anywhere within the civilized nations of the Earth.”
With comments like those above and the constant refrain from Trump and his nativist base, it is little wonder the Muslim adherents in Queens blame Donald Trump for the murder of their beloved Imam and his assistant. However, since this is America, bloodthirsty and violent as it is, it is probably the proper course to at least wait until the shooter is in custody before assigning a motive. But it seems there can be no other motive than hate based on religion because the shooter walked up behind the two Muslims in broad daylight and brutally shot them dead and made his escape.
The sad fact is that even if the shooter is captured and says he was driven by Donald Trump’s anti-Islam rhetoric, this is America. There is still no prohibition against inciting Americans to target other Americans for death or stalking or Donald Trump would have been arrested and thrown in jail several times; including for inciting violence by way of a Second Amendment remedy against Hillary Clinton.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.