January 10, 2016

No Crime Committed in the Name of Islam is Really About Islam

Fishtown Philadelphia

According to police in Philadelphia, a 33-year old officer by the name of Jesse Hartnett was shot several times while sitting in his patrol car. A suspect is in custody, 30 year-old Edward Archer, and police claim that he provided them with a full confession in which he indicated "he did it in the name of Islam." Wait, what? How can that be?
According to him, police bend laws that are contrary to the teachings of the Quran.
Police have described the alleged shooting as an "attempted assassination," noting that the suspect "tried to execute the police officer." Perhaps Mr Archer was under the impression that someone acting contrary to the Quran deserved punishment of some sort.

There was an interesting development in this story, which is the reason I am mentioning it here. Mayor Jim Kenney was quoted as saying the following during a press conference held the day after the alleged shooting:
In no way shape or form does anyone in this room believe that Islam or the teaching of Islam has anything to do with what you’ve seen on the screen.
Even though the suspect allegedly said that he committed this crime in the name of Islam and referenced the Quran, the mayor somehow knows better. How could he know better? Is he psychic or simply willing to ignore the suspect's claimed motive in an attempt to prevent anti-Muslim bigotry in his city?

Mayor Kenney went on to explain:
It is abhorrent. It is terrible and it does not represent the religion in any way, shape or form or any of its teachings. This is a criminal with a stolen gun who tried to kill one of our officers. It has nothing to do with being a Muslim or following the Islamic faith.
Couldn't the mayor explain that while Mr. Archer may or may not be telling the truth when he says he was motivated by Islam, an act of violence like this is not something with which Philadelphia's Muslim community agrees? Wouldn't that be more accurate? Even if Mr. Archer is being truthful about his motives, that isn't a reason to demonize local Muslims, right? Isn't that the point the mayor should have tried to communicate?

I guess I'm not sure why we are so quick to dismiss the motive provided by the suspect and conclude that this couldn't have possibly had anything to do with Islam. Perhaps Mayor Kenney is right and that this really didn't have anything to do with Islam. Maybe Mr. Archer is just a criminal trying to make excuses. Maybe he has a long and well-documented history of mental health problems and is not a religious fanatic at all. But should we be so quick to dismiss why he's allegedly saying he did it? What if he really did do it because of his religious faith? Surely this wouldn't be the first time someone committed an act of violence in the name of Islam. Isn't it at least possible that there are portions of the Quran that appear to condone violence?

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