Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe comments on an issue of Time whose cover asked whether America is "Islamophobic" and offers up the following analysis of "hate crime" statistics:
Of course not. Even one hate crime is one too many, but in a nation of 300 million, all of the religious-based hate crimes added together amount to less than a drop in the bucket. This is not to minimize the 964 hate crimes perpetrated against Jews last year, or those carried out against Muslims (128), Catholics (55), or Protestants (40). Some of those attacks were especially shocking or destructive; all of them should be punished. But surely the most obvious takeaway from the FBI’s statistics is not that anti-religious hate crimes are so frequent in America. It is that they are so rare.Not to discount the importance of motive in the comission of a crime, but I will note here that I am still setting aside major problems with the whole idea of "hate crime" being penalized more than "ordinary crime." Jacoby's analysis is nevertheless at once instructive and provocative. It is instructive in the sense that it shows that cries of "Islamophobia" are shrieks of hysteria at best. It is provocative in another sense, in that it brings up indirectly the fair question that is the elephant that the mouse of "Islamophobia" is distracting us from: If the motive for committing a crime is so important, what is wrong with asking whether Islam motivates terrorism?
Regarding those fanning the flames of hysteria about Islamophobia, it is worth recalling the words of the Fountainhead's arch-villain Ellsworth Toohey: "Don't bother to examine a folly -- ask yourself only what it accomplishes."
12-11-10: Holy mixed metaphors, Batman! Elephants, I am pretty sure, weigh far more than 800 pounds. I have changed the phrase "800-pound elephant" accordingly.