Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths Part Eleven: Ted Cruz and Muslims

You are probably familiar with apartheid, the twentieth century system of segregation in South Africa under which white minority rule curtailed the rights, associations and movements of blacks. Could a system like apartheid ever come to be in America, where most folks support the idea that everyone is equal before the law? Let's consider some recent remarks by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is running for President. From an official campaign statement:

"Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods.

We will do what we can to help them fight this scourge, and redouble our efforts to make sure it does not happen here. We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized."

It's pretty discouraging to see a leading American politician argue for law enforcement policies based on bigotry. One has to wonder if Cruz will also call for increased law enforcement in neighborhoods populated by whites, given that most terrorist acts in the United States are committed by radical anti-government groups or white supremacists. Cruz did try to reverse himself somewhat on the above statement, saying in a CNN interview, "If you have a neighborhood where there's a high level of gang activity, the way to prevent it is you increase the law enforcement presence there and you target the gang members to get them off the streets. I'm talking about any area where there is a higher incidence of radical Islamic terrorism." Of course this raises the question of what "areas" with "a higher incidence of radical Islamic terrorism" Cruz might be talking about. More on that later.

Unfortunately, Ted Cruz is not alone in calling for continued racial profiling by law enforcement. And I do mean continued. Blacks are three times more likely than whites to be searched during routine traffic stops, despite the fact that they are less likely than white drivers to turn up with guns or drugs when searched. Some years ago, the New York City initiated a program in which police stop, question and possibly search those they consider suspicious. Nearly nine out of 10 people "stopped and frisked" under the policy in 2011 were black or Hispanic, despite the fact that blacks and Hispanics made up only 52.8% of the city's population that year. And once again, data compiled by police department showed that, among those searched under the program, those suspects who were white were more often to be found in possession of weapons and drugs.

In June of 2013, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the city's stop-and-frisk program saying, "One newspaper and one news service, they just keep saying ‘oh it’s a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group.’ That may be, but it’s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the [crime]. In that case, incidentally, I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little." In other words, it's OK to target minorities, as they are known to commit more crimes. Now it's actually true that minorities commit more crimes; they tend to offend more because they tend to be more disadvantaged, living in poorer urban areas with less access to public services and jobs. But that fact is hardly a defense of racial profiling in stop-and-frisk searches given that minorities are known to be less likely to carry contraband.

And racial profiling creates problems. From Evan Horowitz of the Boston Globe:

"When police start targeting people based on their race, it effectively puts a whole community under suspicion. What is more, it virtually guarantees that the innocent will regularly find themselves stopped by police, for little reason beyond the color of their skin.

Racial profiling can also poison relations between police and the populace. When minority groups feel that they’re under constant suspicion, they’re less likely to entrust police with information that can be vital to solving crimes. This is one reason some law enforcement groups oppose racial profiling."

And that brings us back to Ted Cruz, who is more than happy to put entire communities under suspicion. I've already written about Cruz's amazing feat of generating and/or repeating fourteen separate and distinct myths on a single subject (climate change). Let's see how many Cruz can spread in a single op-ed piece he wrote last month for the New York Daily News and the controversy surrounding that article:

Part Eleven: Ted Cruz and Muslims

: "Islamism is a political and theocratic philosophy that commands its adherents to wage jihad, to murder or forcibly convert the infidels (by which they mean everyone else)."
Fact: Let's start here, because it's the biggest and most dangerous lie that Cruz is telling. From

"Islam's holy text, the Quran, describes Jihad as a system of checks and balances, as a way that Allah set up to "check one people by means of another." When one person or group transgresses their limits and violates the rights of others, Muslims have the right and the duty to "check" them and bring them back into line."

"Islam never tolerates unprovoked aggression from its own side; Muslims are commanded in the Quran not to begin hostilities, embark on any act of aggression, violate the rights of others, or harm the innocent. Even hurting or destroying animals or trees is forbidden. War is waged only to defend the religious community against oppression and persecution, because the Quran says that "persecution is worse than slaughter" and "let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression" (Quran 2:190-193). Therefore, if non-Muslims are peaceful or indifferent to Islam, there is no justified reason to declare war on them."

"Finally, the Quran also says, "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256). Forcing someone at the point of a sword to choose death or Islam is an idea that is foreign to Islam in spirit and in historical practice. There is absolutely no question of waging a "holy war" to "spread the faith" and compel people to embrace Islam; that would be an unholy war and the people's forced conversions would not be sincere."

Myth: "One of the causes of this horror has been European bureaucrats restraining law enforcement from fully engaging with the Muslim community in "no go" zones."
Fact: The "no go zones" myth began in the wake of the Paris attacks in January of 2015. From Carol Matlack of Bloomberg,

"Steve Emerson, a U.S. television commentator, set off a firestorm in Britain on Jan. 11 when he told Fox News that "non-Muslims just simply don't go in" to the British city of Birmingham, and that in some parts of London, "religious police" beat people who don't wear "religious Muslim attire." Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson "a complete idiot," and Emerson quickly backtracked, admitting he had made "an inexcusable error."

The story didn't die there. Nigel Farage, head of Britain's anti-immigrant U.K. Independence Party, asserted on Jan. 13 that there were no-go zones "right across Europe. We have got no-go zones across most of the big French cities," he told Fox News. Another Fox commentator, Nolan Peterson, has been posting online reports this week saying that some 750 areas in France have been "marked as off-limits by French authorities, restricting access by police and other emergency services."

While the British were outraged, the French simply seem amused. Paris social-media wags have already posted a guide to "eating and drinking in the no-go zones," which happen to include some of the city's trendy gentrifying neighborhoods.  

In fact, France does maintain a list of 750 "sensitive" neighborhoods. Far from being considered "off limits" to authorities, they've been designated as priority areas for urban renewal and other forms of state aid."

Myth: "I also called for empowering law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they follow the path of Molenbeek (Belgium) and become havens for radical Islamic terrorists."
Fact: The statement above presumes that their are identifiable Muslim "neighborhoods" in the United States. Studies show that there are no such neighborhoods. To summarize an article by W. Gardner Selby of
* The Pew Research Center's map of Muslim populations in America doesn't suggest that they live in particular neighborhoods.
* Texas homeland security consultant Mohamed Elibiary who is a Muslim and a Republican told Politifact: "The reality is there are no Muslim neighborhoods, especially here in Texas. We don’t really have ethnic enclaves like that."
* In 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department scrapped a plan to map Muslim communities in response to an outcry among Muslims and others who said the project amounted to racial profiling, and, "on the ground that unlike in much of Europe, Muslims did not live in their own separate neighborhoods in the United States." 

Myth: Mayor de Blasio of New York City shut down the city's counterterrorism unit, because, "He was taking heat from liberal advocacy groups who caricatured the unit’s work as "spying on Muslims," which it wasn’t."
Fact: Cruz is referring to the NYPD Demographic Unit, which the New York Daily News described as having, "targeted city Muslims in the wake of 9/11."

First of all, did the NYPD spy on Muslims, singling them out for surveillance, without probable cause? Yes it did, quite extensively. And in January of 2016 the city agreed to settle two lawsuits that, (from the Washington Post) "claimed Muslims were the target of baseless surveillance and investigations because of their religion."

As for shutting down the
NYPD demographic unit, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has said that, "There was not one actionable piece of intelligence that came out of that unit." In response to Ted Cruz, Bratton also wrote an article for the New York Daily News last month saying, "Cruz repeated the false reports surrounding the NYPD Demographics Unit and my decision to abolish it because it wasn’t serving any useful purpose. He tried to depict the demise of the unit, as other ill-informed observers have done, as a knuckling under to the forces of political correctness rather than the sensible administrative decision that it was. The fact is that the former administration had allowed the unit to dwindle down to two investigators. Why? Because the work of the unit, which was to map the ethnic makeup of the city to better understand the domain of the New York metropolitan area, was finished. The two remaining detectives simply had little to do."

Bratton went on to add that, in fact, hundreds of NYPD officers are currently working full-time on counter-terrorism and in other critical response and intelligence capacities.

Myth: "The Obama administration has even joined Islamist governments in sponsoring a UN resolution that would shred our First Amendment by threatening to make discussion of radical Islamism potentially illegal."
Fact: I had a devil of a time figuring out what Cruz is talking about in the above quote. It turns out he's referring to updated language submitted in 2009 for the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The only articles I can find about the update come from rabidly right-wing sources like the Weekly Standard, which said in an article by Anne Bayefsky,

"The new resolution, championed by the Obama administration, has a number of disturbing elements. It emphasizes that "the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . ." which include taking action against anything meeting the description of "negative racial and religious stereotyping." It also purports to "recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media" and supports "the media's elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct" in relation to "combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

Ms. Bayefsky makes a hash of different parts of the UN Declaration in order to mischaracterizes what the Declaration is saying as a whole. While it says that the Human Rights Council, "expresses its concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as negative racial and religious stereotyping continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of national or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges States to take effective measures, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law to address such incidents," it also affirms, "the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of their choice, and the intrinsically linked rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, peaceful assembly and association and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs."

Myth: In a statement made a week before his Daily News piece, Cruz said, "Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods. We will do what we can to help them fight this scourge, and redouble our efforts to make sure it does not happen here. We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence."
Fact: The dangerous myth here is that refugees represent a terrorist threat to the United States and its allies. I covered this particular misbelief at length in a post last year. To summarize:
* The current refugee vetting process is incredibly thorough.
* Of the nearly 750,000 refugees admitted to the U.S. since 9/11, the number arrested on domestic terrorism charges is zero.
* U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper has expressed confidence in the government’s ability to screen refugee applicants.

In conclusion, regarding this affair, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton also said, "In the case of Mr. Cruz, he might have saved himself a lot of trouble if he’d kept his mouth closed." Commission Bratton, I have to agree.