Friday, December 18, 2015

Muslim and Sex Offender Panics: NIMBYism as the Common Bond

(Note: For those unfamiliar with the term, NIMBY is an acronym for "Not In My Back Yard.")

It has not yet two full weeks since the mass shooting in San Bernardino, and already there had been a spate of NIMBYism regarding people from Muslim-controlled countries. Even before the shooting, America was already in full NIMBY mode after the attacks on Paris. Because one of the Paris shooters was suspected of entering France posing as a Syrian refugee, a number of US states have vowed not to accept any Syrian refugees. Toupeed Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has made waves with his vow to ban Muslims from the US, a move that has a lot of support among Republican voters. Even Trump's critics have openly expressed their fears of Muslims. 

Just look at this New York Times article on American fears about Muslims in the wake of the recent shooting. Beverly Swanburg, 73, from Milford, NH said, “We should not let any more in, any more immigrants from Mexico or Muslim... [They] went to the shooting range the day before. Somebody there should have looked at them as Muslims at a shooting range and paid a little more attention.” Darlene Linares, 19, a supporter of the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders in San Bernardino,  added that her mother, who immigrated from El Salvador in 1995, was on board with Mr. Trump. “My mom actually agrees,” she said. “She thinks that Muslims are all the same.” Arleigh Clemens, 78, a retired construction worker from North Liberty, Iowa, used a mathematical analogy. “Let’s say you have a jar with 10,000 M&Ms, and only 10 of them are poisoned,” he said. “Would you eat them?” Our fears border on the absurd, as MSN reports that a growing number of Americans now fear "Jihad Brides," foreign-born brides who support the Islamic State group could marry Americans to come to the U.S. to carry out extremist missions.

These fearful Americans are also doing whatever they can to make Muslims in America as uncomfortable as possible. The NY Times reported one Muslim woman who shared her story of being harassed and insulted in a grocery store on Facebook had nearly 300 replies, some from other American Muslims on their experiences with bias — being called a “raghead” or a “Christian killer,” being almost run over, being told to go home, as if home were not here. Many offered solidarity and solace.

Perhaps the scariest response to Muslim Panic has been the presence of armed citizen groups like the  so-called "Three Percenters," armed "Patriots" that have been blamed for threats and vandalism against lawmakers, police and Muslims alike. An MSN article stated the following about these groups: "Followers appear to consist mainly of white, male, conservative gun owners who believe the nation has been pushed to a tipping point by socialists in government aiming to disarm them, strip their constitutional rights and take their property, according to groups that track anti-government movements." Their founder, a former militia member named Michael B. "Mike" Vanderboegh, stresses what he calls "armed civil disobedience." Ironically, people fearing their own loss of rights, particularly gun ownership rights, are quite content with trampling on the rights of others. (As an aside, I have yet to see any real push to take away the right to own firearms. Those folks complaining about gun rights are complaining about background checks and gun restrictions in government buildings and private businesses.)

In Mesa, AZ, similar acts of NIMBYism were conducted against that other group of which Americans tend to share an equally unhealthy fear-- sex offenders. In response to a halfway house for registered citizens opening up in the neighborhood, a group of about 50 white, middle class neighbors organized to attempt to chase them out of the neighborhood. In a news story for ABC 15, Mesa resident Chris Vogt stated, "We are going to make them as uncomfortable as possible." In the subsequent protest against the halfway house, one of the protesters trespassed on the property and started shouting at the reporter and the woman running the halfway house, shouting, Time to go!" When asked to leave the property, the old, white man with the Duck Dynasty beard angrily retorted, "Kiss my royal [unintelligible by I assume he said rectum]." The news report also added “We have verified a zoning violation for operation of a group care facility in a single family residence, without proper zoning entitlement,” said Darren Gerard with the county. Thus, the program is likely to be shut down before it even begins. 

I can't help but to notice the glaring similarities between these two forms of NIMBYism. In both instances, a series of isolated incidents have raised public fears to a level of absurdity matched only by the reactionary responses to this rare threat. People equate Muslim with "terrorist" just as people equate registered citizen with "pedophile." The typical response is various forms of NIMBYism. About 30 states, primarily in the Midwestern and Southern states, have declared they will do all they can to exclude Syrian Refugees from relocating to their states. About 30 states have some form of residency restriction laws, again concentrated in Midwestern and Southern states. We have illegally detained suspected terrorists indefinitely in offshore centers, while states like Minnesota have detained a number of convicted sex offenders who have served out their sentences but have been declared a threat to the public based on an arbitrary system. Protesters harass Muslims; protesters harass registered citizens. People have attacked Muslims and burn down Mosques; people have murdered registered citizens and have even burned down their homes. People want reduced civil rights for Muslim immigrants and visitors; people also push for reduced rights for registered citizens. Muslims and registered citizens alike are unwanted in many communities. Of course, we don't talk about Muslims being raped in prison with glee the way we do a sex offender.

In this country, "stereotypical kidnappings," the event we fear most and the event we use to justify these tough-on-sex-crime laws, are very rare events. In this country, "stereotypical terrorism" is an extremely rare event, and yet, the entirety of the latest Republican presidential debate focused on the "threat of terrorism." While we focus so much of our fears and public policies on these two extremely rare events, issues of greater importance, such as police brutality (far more Americans have been killed by cops than by terrorists and sex offenders combined), are not adequately being addressed. Problems do not get resolved by allowing fear to cloud judgment.

I know many of you are reluctant to make comparisons like this, but, to use a famous quote from the Star Wars movie, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." But law-abiding and peaceful Muslims, folks labeled as "sex offenders," and a host of other unpopular groups in America have felt the effects of this philosophy. While the quote may have been uttered by a fictional character, the words are a harsh reality.

Muslims are taking to the streets to challenge the stereotypes and prejudices espoused by the American people. I hope registered citizens and their loved ones learn to do the same. On April 5 & 6, 2016, the Anti-Registry Movement will be at the steps of the US Supreme Court, the NCMEC, and the SMART Office to educate the public and politicians in an innovative way, and we invite you to join us. If you cannot, support the cause by donating to the upcoming #OpGetSMART. You can donate directly to Once Fallen through PayPal at or mail donations to Derek Logue, 8258 Monon Ave. #3, Cincinnati, OH 45216. (You don't have to specify it is for #OpGetSMART, as all donations I receive between now and April will be for the event.)

If we don't fight for ourselves, who will fight for us? 


  1. It goes even deeper. "NIMBY" is really just another way of saying "we cannot tolerate any risk at all in our lives, no matter how small or well managed." Just consider Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's "100 percent safety" response to the federal ruling against his state's civil commitment program. We would be wise to heed Ben Franklin's warning against trading liberty for security. Unfortunately, an environment where 30 percent of Republicans (and 19 percent of Democrats) polled favor bombing Agrabah - the fictional setting of Disney's "Aladdin" - does not inspire confidence.

  2. I'm not surprised by the "bombing Agrabah" poll. America revels in stupidity.