You have surely heard that three young Palestinian-Americans, Kinnan Abdalhamid, Hisham Awartani, and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, were shot on November 25 in Burlington, Vermont. Two of the injured were American citizens; the other a legal resident. The alleged shooter, Jason Eaton, was captured and appears to be mentally ill. From the NYT:
They were shot and wounded on Saturday by a white man with a handgun while they were walking near the University of Vermont, the police said. Two of the victims were wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs, a traditional headdress.
The young men told family members they were speaking a hybrid of English and Arabic before the man shot at them four times without saying anything before the attack, according to a family spokeswoman.
Two of the victims were in stable condition, the authorities said. The third sustained much more serious injuries.
The one with serious injuries was shot in the spine, and may never walk again. This is a terrible attack, and, while we can be grateful that nobody was killed, losing your ability to walk is horrible. The shooter has been charged with second-degree murder, and, if he’s guilty, which seems likely, will be spending a long time in either prison or a mental hospital.
So far the cops haven’t found any evidence that Eaton was motivated by anti-Muslim sentiments, and yet the media is full of pronouncements that it must have been a hate crime. After all, it was three Palestinians speaking Arabic and wearing kaffiyehs.
It’s not hard to imagine that both Palestinian-Americans and the mainstream media really want Eaton to have been “Islamophobic,” as this fits the desired narrative, which is that Muslims are widely subject to Islamophobia in America, and that has murderous consequences.
Of course there is bigotry in America, bigotry against both Muslims and Jews, but that doesn’t lead to the conclusion that any Jew or Muslim who is victim of a crime was a victim because of his or her religion. That has to be found out via investigation, which could lead to “hate crime” charges. (As I’ve said, I’m still conflicted about we should even have the category of “hate crime”, since many other motivations are reprehensible; but sussing out why a criminal did what he did is important if you think that punishment should involve rehabilitation.)
At any rate, I have seen nothing in the press decrying the rush to judgement against Eaton, who is being touted as a murderous Islamophobe without any evidence. Here’s some stuff from the news showing this rush:
From the NYT, in an editorial which is all about the likelihood that this was an anti-Muslim hate crime (my bolding)
tThe authorities have not yet added a hate-crime enhancement to the charges against Mr. Eaton, who moved to the neighborhood a few months ago and has struggled with depression, according to his mother. Still it’s hard to ignore the current atmosphere of tension and vitriol surrounding the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, which has led to clashes and hate incidents around the country.
Note the devious way that the author connects the shootings with the war, and presumably with “Islamophobia”.
From NBC News:
The mother of one of the Palestinian American college students shot on the street near the University of Vermont has no doubt that the men were targeted and says the shooting should absolutely be treated as a hate crime.
. . .“There is no doubt,” she said. “It just defies logic. Why else would it be? … If they were not wearing the kaffiyeh. … If they were not speaking Arabic.”
She said she would be disappointed if the violence were not treated as a hate crime. “It would be sorely disappointing only because the facts are so obvious,” Tamimi said.
From the BBC, the mother of another of the injured men:
The mother of Mr Awartani, who is the most seriously injured out of the three with a bullet lodged in his spine, told the BBC she believed the attack was a hate crime.
“This man did not accept people who were different from him. And he wanted to destroy that,” said Elizabeth Price, who headed back to Vermont after the shooting, from her home in the West Bank.
From the Associated Press:
“Based on the information that is available, it appears this crime might have been motivated by the victims’ identity and, if that is true, it would be appropriate to seek the hate crimes enhancement,” [ACLU of Vermont Advocacy Director Falko] Schilling said, adding that the motive behind the shooting will be critical in determining whether this is treated as a hate crime.
Still, Chittenden County State’s attorney Sarah George told reporters on Monday that the state doesn’t “yet have evidence to support a hate crime enhancement,” which under Vermont law must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
“I do want to be clear that there is no question this was a hateful act,” she said.
This conflates a “hateful act” with a “hate crime”; George can’t resist implying that this may indeed have been a hate crime. But if the shooter was mentally ill, he may not have even been filled with hate, but with some twisted thoughts that we can’t fathom.
Families of the victims issued a joint statement earlier in the day urging authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime, as did the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a U.S.-based advocacy group.
“The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent,” ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said.
Again, the ADC is assuming that the crime stemmed from hatred of Arabs and Palestinians. Thje tweet below that says the ADC had “reason to believe” it was a hate crime. Is that because the victims were wearing Palestinian scarves and speaking Arabic?
This morning, ADC was contacted about the shooting, after reviewing the information, we have reason to believe that the shooting was motivated by the three vitims being Arab.
The three victims were wearing a Kuffiyeh and speaking Arabic. A man shouted and harassed the victims, pic.twitter.com/b8yoDvK8Nv
— ADC National (@adc) November 26, 2023
Here is a proper response (in Vox): a call to determine if it was indeed a hate crime:
CAIR [the council on American-Islamic Relations] is among the groups that have called on law enforcement to review whether bias played a role in the college students’ shootings in Vermont. “We encourage law enforcement to file state and federal hate crime charges if the evidence confirms that anti-Palestinian racism motivated this attack,” the organization’s executive director Nihad Awad said in a statement.
You can find many similar statements implying that this surely was a hate crime, but I’ll leave you to search.
Now it’s understandable that the mothers of the injured men would want to find a motive, as crimes without known motives are especially disturbing to friends and relatives of victims. But the mainstream media has a responsibility to be, well, responsible, and remind us all that there is as of yet no evidence that Eaton was motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry. The search is on by both local police and the feds, but so far all we know is that Eaton has a history of depression and had been reported to the police for harassing an ex-girlfriend. If -he was Islamophobic, it seems that we would know by now.
It’s curious to me that the MSM has a narrative that seems to want this to be an Islamophobic hate crime. Wouldn’t it be better if it wasn’t one, so that we’d have less violent anti-Muslim bigotry than we thought? But we also know that the liberal MSM is pro-Palestinian, and it may be in their interest to push the idea of pervasive anti-Muslim bigotry in America. (It’s similar to when papers like the NYT credulously reported that a hospital was destroyed by an Israeli bomb when, in fact, it was hit by an Islamic Jihad rocket gone astray).
Let’s just wait, shall we, for the evidence about Eaton’s motives to come out, if it can be found.
Vis-à-vis hate crimes, I see four reasons to punish those who violate the law, as far as I can see
- Sequestration: keeping bad guys off the streets
- Reformation of the criminal
I’m opposed to retributive punishment as it presupposes that the criminal had a choice, and I’m a hard determinist who doesn’t believe a criminal could have chosen not to commit the crime. Gregg Caruso, also a hard determinist, thinks that deterrence is not a valid reason for punishment, either, because it violates Kantian morality by using a person to affect others. (I disagree.) I
f someone is determined to have committed a crime out of racial or ethnic hatred, that would affect the way they should be reformed, but if having an extra-long sentence is supposed to deter others from bigotry, then we need to know if that deterrence really works. (We already have evidence that capital punishment does not deter murder.) I suspect that the “hate crime” charge does not deter bigots, either.
Right now, I’m thinking that juries or judges should determine whether hatred was a motive, but shouldn’t necessarily impose to longer sentences unless those longer sentences act as a deterrent. Thus finding out the motive is important in reforming a criminal, but not necessarily in deciding whether to give him a longer sentence.
Others may feel differently from me about hate crimes, and that’s fine: just weigh in in the comments below. But what’s not at issue is whether Eaton shot the men out of anti-Muslim hatred, for the answer to that is “we don’t know yet, and maybe never will.”