FL: COMMUNITY MUST CONFRONT HATE CRIME AGAINST MUSLIM FAMILY
On July 6, a Sarasota family's home was vandalized with obscenities and destroyed by arson while they were away (Herald-Tribune July 14, "Action sought on hate crime"). Apparently, the family of Hasib Sejfovic was targeted because they are Muslim. The family is from former Yugoslavia, where Bosnians and other Muslims faced genocide in the last decade because of their identity. They are political refugees sponsored by a local church.
The open attack on decency and civil society must be swiftly and publicly addressed.
Holocaust survivor and activist Elie Wiesel said, "The opposite of love is not hate; it's indifference." In the face of the religious slurs and destruction of a family's home, our community has two choices. One is to do nothing and let hate go unchallenged. The other option is to combat heinous offenses with acts of goodness.
In the face of hatred, inaction is interpreted as acceptance -- by the perpetrators, the community and the victims. Caring people in the community cannot simply shake their heads to themselves. They must act to support victims of hate crimes, speak up against intolerance and demonstrate acts of caring, or else hate takes root in the community and grows stronger. As one neighbor said, "I speak Spanish, and what if the people who burned their house decide they don't like Spanish-speaking people? This is horrible, and none of us should stand for it."
It is not only civil rights organizations that advocate for publicly dealing with hate. Consider this excerpt from a bulletin by the U.S. Department of Justice: "When perpetrators of hate are not prosecuted as criminals and their acts not publicly condemned, their crimes can weaken even those communities with the healthiest race relations. Of all crimes, hate crimes are most likely to create or exacerbate tensions, which can trigger larger community-wide racial conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots. Hate crimes put cities and towns at risk of serious social and economic consequences."