15 August 2016
The Queens Whodunit
Local news media may have jumped the gun by reporting that the killer of Imam Maulama Akonjee had been captured Sunday night, a day after the imam and an aide had been shot in broad daylight. But information from a local report already complicates the knee-jerk narrative of Islamophobia run amok. Everyone's first assumption since the news broke Saturday, it seemed, was that here, at last, was a self-evidently Islamophobic murder, something that could be blamed by politicians (and many Muslims) on Donald Trump as if Americans hadn't hated Muslims before Trump came along. I'd held out the possibility that Akonjee -- a Bangladeshi who doesn't seem to have been on anti-Islamic media radar -- had actually been the victim of Islamic extremism. Perhaps he'd been killed by some radical because he wasn't radical enough in some way. However, a New York Daily News report on a suspect in a hit-and-run near the shooting scene, who may have been the shooter fleeing the scene, raises the possibility of something more along the lines of gang violence. Investigators believe the killer at least looks Hispanic, and the News's sources are talking about "an ongoing feud between Muslims and Hispanics in the neighborhood, saying the shooting may have been payback after a group of Muslims allegedly attacked some Hispanics a few weeks earlier." I wonder what that was about. It's clearly too early in any investigation to know who started whatever beef existed or what role the imam may have played in it. But it seems safe to say that any Hispanic man who kills a Muslim is unlikely to have been motivated by Donald Trump's rhetoric. In fact, it looks like Trump can sit this one out, unless it proves that the shooter was an illegal immigrant. Then we'll probably see him show sympathy with a Muslim who can't talk back at him. But blaming Trump as the necessary and sufficient cause of the nation's hatreds in 2016 is as stupid as blaming President Obama for an economy and war on terror inherited from George W. Bush. Of course, just as one is still done so the other will be, at least until November. There's certainly plenty of stupidity yet to come.