Is It Any Surprise NYPD Would Investigate Anti-Muslim Terrorism as a “Bias Crime”?

A number of people have observed the NYT’s description of 4 arson attacks apparently targeting Muslim sites (though one was actually Hindu) as “bias crimes.”

A wave of arson attacks spread across eastern Queens on Sunday night, and the police said the firebombings were being investigated as bias crimes — with Muslims as the targets.

But the choice to call this a “bias crime” rather than terrorism appears to come from the NYPD, not the NYT; the WSJ uses the same formulation.

Police on Monday were working to determine whether a series of suspected arson attacks against an Islamic cultural center and three other locations in Queens were linked, and were investigating the incidents as bias crimes against Muslims.

So it appears that someone mapped out four locations they believed to be Muslim sites and threw Molotov cocktails at them (in the case of the mosque, during a worship service at which 80 people were present). As the WSJ noted, the attacks followed closely on threats specifically mentioning Molotov cocktails posted on an anti-Muslim site.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the advocacy group, said CAIR recently called on the FBI to investigate threats targeting mosques posted on an anti-Islam blog called “Bare Naked Islam.”

One comment on the site read: “Throw 10 Molotov cocktails into these mosques and burn them down,” according to Hooper. By Monday, the comment appeared to have been taken down by blog operator

Now, let me be clear: nothing excuses the behavior of those targeting Muslims and Hindus; nothing excuses this kind of terrorism.

But it is worth noting that the same entity–the NYPD–that is treating these crimes as “bias crimes” rather than terrorism is the same entity that has set out to “map ethnic residential concentrations” and “ethnic hot spots” in NY, purportedly in pursuit of terrorism. It has called houses of worship a “key indicator.” It has mapped out some of the very same neighborhoods in which the attacks were launched.

You see, if the NYPD called this terrorism, they might have to start mapping out entirely different neighborhoods to find terrorists.

Update: Now that I think about it, using NYPD’s logic, the first place NYPD would have to profile if they considered this terrorism is Starbucks, given that 3 of 4 of the Molotov cocktails were made out of Starbucks bottles.

Update: NYPD has the hate crimes unit and precinct cops, but not the intelligence unit, investigating the attacks.

Meanwhile, political leaders spoke out against the incidents. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said New York Police Department hate crimes unit detectives were working with precinct detectives and looking into whether there were any connections to incidents outside the city.

35 replies
  1. PeasantParty says:

    Darn It! Just shut twitter down, but caught a line about NYPD not reporting all offenses so that their yearly numbers of crime would not look so bad.

    I guess Brown people are more important than regular police duties.

  2. bmaz says:

    Dammit, can someone at the NYT please explain the factual basis for saying the other three victims were Muslim targets? I get the Islamic center, what is the requisite suspect class status nexus for the other three victims??

  3. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: I was wondering that myself, though given that they’ve identified that one is a Hindu location, they must have some basis.

    I’ve tried to check Google Street View for the bodega, but I’m not sure I’m doing it right.

  4. PeasantParty says:

    @bmaz: Did we not have Hate Crime legislation passed? Was I reading the wrong page about that?

    Are they giving out new witty words to replace Hate Crime?

  5. bmaz says:

    @PeasantParty: Yes, “bias crimes” is being used interchangeably with “hate crimes” it appears. I personally have real problems with so called “hate crimes” legislation, I think it gives inappropriate preferred victim status in contravention to basic Constitutional guarantees. So far, the courts have not agreed with me though. That is a topic for another day though (although I did touch on it here and here a couple of years ago).

  6. PeasantParty says:

    @bmaz: Thank you. I was also just about to catch up with your NDAA post and see if you had a chance to answer my question there.

    Progressives will just have to rename some other actions like Bribery, Treason, Traitor, and few other un-Constitutional things.

    When media starts profiling Dumb Blonde Females, and Stupid White Man in their reporting we will know they have finally came full circle.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: Note my update. This is institutionally being investigated as a bias crime (by the hate crimes unit).

    Also note the bodega and one of the two private homes were close, so I wonder whether they bombed first the bodega and then the owner’s home?

  8. EH says:

    I have to think that the logic is that if non-religion politics isn’t involved, it’s not terrorism. It may have to be religion on politics that gets the moniker, but then that wouldn’t get around the abortion-sniper problem. Indiscriminacy?

  9. emptywheel says:

    @EH: So I guess all those “terrorist” attacks in Israel aren’t?

    (Not reacting to your expression of these thoughts, just pointing out how quickly any logic that doesn’t treat this as terrorism falls apart.)

  10. bmaz says:

    @emptywheel: Well, we are up to the Islamic center, the Hindu house place and still two locations with no stated nexus if I am reading this correctly between the NYT and Fox reports.

    Progress I guess.

  11. P J Evans says:

    The story I saw at teh Great Orange Satan indicated that one of the firebombs was thrown into a location where there were people at the time, and the one at the bodega was thrown from inside the place. (They may be looking for a guy who was kicked out of the bodega for repeated theft.)

  12. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: That’s where we were from the start–though the Hindu place is also a house of worship. I tried to look on Google views at the bodega though I’m not sure I got the right place. There is a place in the immediate vicinity, though, that seems to have an Arab name. And again, the second (non-Hindu) house is in the immediate vicinity.

    Frankly, I’m rather surprised they gave the addresses, one of which is to a private residence–though that seems to be the one to which by far the most damage was done, so it’s not like anyone will be living there anytime soon.

  13. Mack says:

    IMHO this is the way all racially/faith/etc motivated crimes should be handled. I understand the point being that profiling and hassling white bigots would be sauce for the gander, but the hate crimes team *should* be the best bet for aprehending the actual perpetrators of hate crimes regardless of the target.

  14. Mack says:

    I tend to agree with you on ‘special’ crimes which are defined by the victim rather than the act. Murder is murder, assualt is assault and theft is theft. If enforcement is lacking for some victims, creating a new class of crime does not address the root cause of the problem, though it can lead to task forces which at a minimum give the appearance of addressing the effect.

  15. EH says:


    any logic that doesn’t treat this as terrorism falls apart

    Yeah, that’s the point I was going for. I would like to see a journalist ask why it isn’t, but this is really the wrong venue for such hopes. :/

  16. pdaly says:

    From the pattern I’ve seen lately, the terrorism label is attached to the arrests of aspirational terrorists whom the FBI and NYPD have successfully ensnared in a fake terrorism unit. Terrorism is stopped by the Precrime unit.

    Completed crimes, such as the molotov cocktails above, cannot be labelled terrorism without harming the statistics of the PreCrime Unit.

    Just a thought.

  17. emptywheel says:

    OK, to answer bmaz’s question, the second home is owned by Christian African Americans–though that’s the one that didn’t use a Starbucks bottle, so they’re trying to figure out if it’s related.

    The bodega is run by (not clear whether owned by) Muslims. THe arsonist went in there last week and threatened them and stole, among other things, a Frapaccino.

    Another news source says the NYPD says that all attacks on synagogues or mosques are automatically investigated as hate crimes. Which is interested, bc there are a number of aspirational terrorists the NYPD intelligence unit has set up as terrorists whose targets were synagogues.

    There was also an attack just inside Long Island that may or may not be related. The owners’ name sounds like it might be South Asian though not clearly Muslim. [

  18. rosalind says:

    In L.A. we’ve had an arsonist torching cars the last four nights, total is now over 50. the suspect was caught last night and the info released so far:

    * He is a German National
    * He was carrying papers from Chechyna
    * His car was registered in Canada
    * He caused a scene at his mothers immigration hearing
    * The crack in the case came from a tip from the State Dept.

    It will be interesting to see how they charge him, especially as the initial reporting had the tip coming from Immigration Officials which was then amended to State Dept.

  19. rugger9 says:

    @emptywheel: #23
    One wonders if there is some kind of legal / regulatory hoop that is different between hate crimes and terrorism. One would think that “terrorism” defense would have deeper pockets to draw on for grants and stuff, due to the federal interest level.

  20. Bob Schacht says:

    @rugger9: The big diff is that terrorism is a national issue, involving military detentions and such, whereas a “bias crime” would be a state or FBI matter. The difference is both legal and jurisdictional.

    Bob in AZ

  21. rugger9 says:

    @Bob Schacht: #28
    So, why would the NYPD softpedal the charges unless the assertions raised are correct? Of course, the MSM won’t ask that, but if we are subject to equal protection under the 14th, and we know about the anti-Muslim hysteria propagated by Faux News and their wannabes like CNN, etc., is it the RW money and noise machine that is actually preventing calling this quacking waterbird a duck?

    The Wurlitzer worked to keep Shrub, Cheney, Condi, Dougie, AGAG, Skeletor, Wolfie, etc., out of jail for now. One wonders just how cowardly Ray Kelly is to bow so meekly to the noise machine. I thought a real cop had more pride than that.

  22. cc says:

    May ask what it is that distinguishes “hate crimes” from “terrorism”, in your opinion? Is it the same thing that distinguishes “Srebrenica” from “genocide”?

  23. emptywheel says:

    @Bob Schacht: I actually think that if there’s a place for bias crimes (I’m sympathetic to bmaz’s distaste for them) they should be primarily federal, in that the need for them has a lot to do with local prejudices, and the unwillingness of local authorities to adequately prosecute crimes as crimes.

  24. bmaz says:

    @emptywheel: Or, alternatively in the paradigm, the willingness of locals to prosecute aggressively that which they either should not, or are doing so selectively and arbitrarily. It is a complicated sword.

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