Earlier this year a homosexual man told police he was stripped of his clothes and beaten while being subjected to homosexual slurs at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity near the University of North Dakota campus.
The reaction from some was swift and thoroughly political. UND President Robert Kelley issued a statement condemning the incident as homophobic before investigators got a chance to sink their teeth into the case. Gay rights activists had a similar reaction.
But it turns out that the accusation was fabricated. After interviewing over 150 witnesses regarding the case, investigators wrote in their report that the accuser “was not held down by four people, he wasn’t robbed, his property wasn’t taken, he wasn’t beaten with a belt, and he was (not) assaulted.”
Those leaping to conclusions had egg on their face. But it’s a lesson we apparently haven’t learned as, once again, the usual suspects are leaping to conclusions about a vandalism/arson incident at a Somali-owned restaurant in Grand Forks.
Someone painted an “SS” symbol on the side of Juba Coffee House and Restaurant, a reference to the Nazi Schutzstaffel, along with the words “go home.” Someone – it’s not clear at this point if it was the same person responsible for the graffiti – also broke a window at the establishment and started a fire.
Amid a turbulent debate over refugees and extremist Muslim violence, some now want to nationalize this incident in Grand Forks. “The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a statement Wednesday urging the FBI to open a hate crime investigation into the possible arson and the vandalism of the restaurant,” the Grand Forks Herald reports. “The lives of American Muslims have been placed in danger by the rising anti-Muslim hysteria in our nation and by the inflammatory rhetoric used by a number of national public figures,” Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the council’s Minnesota chapter, said in the statement.
This is problematic.
For one thing, we don’t actually know who committed these crimes at the Juba Coffee House. Maybe they were the work of anti-Muslim elements. Maybe they were the work of political provocateurs hoping to silence critics of Islam and/or refugee policy. If it turns out to be the latter this wouldn’t be the first time someone faked a hate crime in a misguided attempt to make a political point.
For another, CAIR is blaming speech for the incidents in Grand Forks. Even if it turns out the crimes against the Juba Coffee House were motivated by racism, that’s hardly cause to indict free speech. I want Donald Trump to go away as much as anyone, but let’s keep the blame for this sort of thing focused on the people who actually commit the crimes. Let’s stop trying to use these incidents as weapons against our political enemies.
It’s getting to the point where reports of crimes aren’t so much a prompt for the public to demand truth but rather an opportunity to sling mud at the opposition. That’s a depressing development in our society.