‘Can a hate crime be committed with words alone?’ Riasat Raihan aptly problematise issues of hate crime in Bangladesh.

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Hate crime is considered as a ‘criminal act.’ The reasons behind hate crimes could be so many. But, generally these crimes happen against race, sex, religion, disability, transgender issue and more. I think the difference between hate-crimes and other crimes is the role played by the personal characteristics in motivating the offender.
Most of us always wonder why hate crimes occur. We always speak up against it and condemn it but really we never think that hate crimes often occur because of our ignorance and prejudice. Our lack of mutual respect and understanding about the difference among people and their beliefs contribute to fear and intolerance. If these sentiments are left unaddressed, it may often lead to acts of intimidation and ultimately hate-motivated violence. Most hate crimes have been committed against race or religion. For instance, we Muslims have been major victims of hate crime because of our beliefs and culture in global platform today. Recently, many reports have stated that, national cricket team’s opener Tamim Iqbal’s wife and son were attacked in London. Tamim was in London to play county cricket with a local team in England. Reports said that Tamim’s wife was allegedly attacked because of her hijab. Although, Tamim completely denied the incident and said it was some personal reason to leave England. These racial and religious differences are by far the most common motivation for hate crimes. Africans are hugely criticised and abused both physically and orally by the white people because of their skin colour. Another major victim of hate crimes is the transgender community. They are not accepted in the so called ‘civilised’ society. The society thinks they are a burden to the world that’s why they are subjected to neglect and suffering. Similar to these biases, heterosexism remains persistent. Despite recent improvements in attitudes toward homosexuals, anti-gay violence is still common and widespread. What is unique about sexual orientation and gender identity victims is that they can also be members of any of the groups discussed as well as a minority within their family. The people who commit these crimes, they intend to send a message not only to the targeted but also to the community as a whole. The damage done to victims and to the community through hate crimes cannot be qualified adequately if one considers just physical injury. The damage to the very fabric of a community where a hate crime has occurred must also be taken into account. To that extent, crimes of this nature can traumatise entire communities. This brings me to the question, ‘can a hate crime be committed with words alone?’

In my point of view, the use of bigoted and prejudiced language violates hate crime laws. This type of offense is frequently classified as a bias incident. However, when words encourage violence, or when bias-motivated graffiti damages or destroys property, hate crime laws may apply. Since, bias incidents have been classified as the most occurred offense, many questions may arise, but does bias have to be the only motivation in order to charge someone with a hate crime? NO, although the answer may depend on how courts conduct the situation. Records say, many hate crimes are successfully prosecuted even when motivations in addition to bias are proven. Contrary to common belief, most hate crimes are not committed by people who belong to organised hate groups, but are generally executed by individuals who are considered to be ‘average’ teenagers or young adults. In fact, studies indicate that most common profile of a hate crime perpetrator is that of a young, white male, who works along with a small group of individuals, has had little previous contact with the criminal justice system, and is not a member of an organised hate group.
Besides, there are some situational factors that seem to influence and interact with the human factors that affect the occurrence and the brutality of hate crime. These situational factors include: a) the crime is often conducted in small groups, b) the victim is most often a stranger, and c) the crime is expressive rather than instrumental (physical aggression). Two other factors that affect the brutality of hate crime are — unknown person being the victim lacking any personal ties with the offender and the motivation of the offender itself. Research indicates that it is much easier to dehumanise or hate a person who is not known personally. Since hate crime perpetrators often offend against strangers, this increases the likelihood that the victim will be dehumanised and hurt significantly more. In addition, since the motivation of the offenders is typically not instrumental (e.g. to gain money) there is no end point to the offending behaviour. Offenses that are instrumental have a stopping point, the assault ends when the victim hands over his wallet or her purse. Since hate crimes are expressive, there is no end point, making higher levels of brutality more likely.

If we see the events from the perspective of Bangladesh, we actually don’t know the term ‘hate crime’. We are unaware of hate crime as there is no precise law for it. We do commit hate crimes and we don’t even know it. We have seen so many times in news or in papers that other minorities like Hindu or Buddhist are neglected in laws and subjected to discriminations. No steps have been taken to stop this type of racism in Bangladesh. In recent times, homephobia, violence against third gender are all reported in newspaper. Government is silent on this matter. This is where we should and must work to protect the minorities in Bangladesh. It is stated in the constitution of Bangladesh that every citizen has the equal fundamental human right.

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