We are endlessly being misdirected in search of the crude “hate crime.” After centuries of racial oppression and violence, our society eventually became uncomfortable with the overtness of the racism of the past. Slavery is taken for granted as a horrific thing, something that couldn’t be assumed a few generations ago. For mainstream America, to be accused of being racist is to have been labeled something despicable. Few would willingly accept this charge upon themselves, defending themselves adamantly against such accusations. However, even worse than the racist label for those within the dominant culture, is for a person to be accused of a hate crime. Hate crimes have been created to isolate the most heinous of offenses that have been committed because of prejudice.
European countries are asking how to deal with hundreds of young Muslims who went to Syria to fight and then returned home. Denmark is experimenting with rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Returning fighters are treated not as criminals but as troubled youth who lost their way and need a second chance. The program, first used with neo-Nazi youth, is voluntary and includes counseling, mentoring, opportunities for more schooling, and meetings with parents. So far the program seems to be working. Denmark has the second highest number of foreign fighters per capita. They “only become ticking bombs if we don’t integrate them” back into society, said a Danish psychologist (New York Times, December 13).