MENTAL ILLNESS, ONE OF MANY CAUSES OF ISLAMOPHOBIA

Bennett editorial cartoon
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From The New York Times; Ms. Menendez’s years of inner and outer turmoil culminated in the deadly assault on an unsuspecting man who was waiting for a train on Thursday. Beyond stirring fear among riders on crowded platforms across the city, the attack also raised new questions about the safeguards in a patchwork private and public mental health system that is supposed to allow mentally ill people to live as freely as possible in the community while protecting them and the public.
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“How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”
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The following from Mondoweiss deals with the latest incident …
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After Islamophobic hate crime in New York City, mayor wants public to ‘keep death in perspective’

by Annie Robbins and Alex Kane
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Sen
The Passport photo of 46-year-old Sunando Sen, pushed to his death because a woman thought he was Muslim (Photo: Christie M. Farriella for New York Daily News)
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A horrific crime if we’ve ever seen one–and a reminder that Islamophobia affects many communities outside Muslim ones.

From the AP:

A woman who told police she shoved a man to his death off a subway platform into the path of a train because she hates Muslims and thought he was one was charged Saturday with murder as a hate crime, prosecutors said.

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“I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up,” Menendez told police, according to the district attorney’s office.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep Sen’s death in perspective as he touted new historic lows in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals.

“It’s a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York,” Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.

What kind of perspective is Bloomberg referencing? If someone said “I shoved a Jew in front of a train because I hate Jews,” would Bloomberg be touting drops in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals? Quite an insensitive comment, at the very least.

After this news broke, Twitter was aflutter with people pointing to Pamela Geller as one culprit pushing anti-Muslim sentiment in the city. Geller’s organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, recently put up a new crop of ads that features the World Trade Center burning with a Qu’ran verse printed to the right of the towers. 

Geller’s role in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment of the sort that leads to Islamophobic hate crimes should not be in dispute. But what should also be highlighted is how New York City’s own police force has promoted anti-Muslim bigotry time and time again, from surveillance of Muslims that places the whole community under suspicion to training officers with an Islamophobic flick. 

Friend of Mondoweiss Lizzy Ratner made this point in her excellent piece on Geller in The Nation:

Though Geller and her crew are fringe elements, they are not random or spontaneous, idiopathic lesions on the healthier whole. They are, quite sadly, part of this country, outcroppings of something big and ugly that has been seeping and creeping through the body politic for years. In the decade since September 11, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry has become an entrenched feature of our political and social landscape. It lurks in the hidden corners of everyday life—in classrooms and offices and housing complexes—as well as in the ugly scenes that occasionally explode into public consciousness. In the special registration of Middle Eastern men after 9/11. In the vicious campaign against Debbie Almontaser, the American Muslim school teacher who tried to open the Arabic-language Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) and was tarred as an extremist. In the attack on the Park51 Islamic center, more commonly (if less accurately) known as the Ground Zero mosque. In the New York Police Department’s selective surveillance of Muslim communities. And that’s just New York City. All of these instances should have called on our horror and outrage, and in all too many of them, society hasn’t lived up.

This crime appears to be the latest manifestation of New York City’s Islamophobia. This time, it cost a life.

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