Gated City Upon a Hill

In New York City you will find about a quarter-million African-born immigrants, most of whom trace their origins to Ghana. Though they are far from birth home, many still consider themselves part of Ghana’s Ashanti ethnic group and are card-carrying members of the Asanteman Association of the USA. The motto of which, Kum Apem a, Apem Beba, or “Kill a thousand, and a thousand more will come,” might suggest we pause for reflection.

The group swears allegiance to their traditional king in Ghana and elect a local chief, who carries the title of “Asantefuohene.” New York’s newest Ashanti chief, formally addressed as Nana Okokyeredom Owoahene Acheampong Tieku, otherwise known as Michael, works in the Bronx as an accountant. One wonders what happens when these Ghanaians become citizens and, theoretically anyway, are compelled by oath to “renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty.”

But don’t wonder too hard, because there is plenty more to ponder. There’s more cooking in New York.

“Looking for Equal Respect”
Appearing with insignia nearly identical to that of New York City police patrol cars, the Muslim Community Patrol & Services (MCPS) have taken to the streets in Staten Island and Brooklyn. We have been assured by MCPS Vice President Noor Rabah, however, their intention is not at all to police dress, behavior, and speech in Muslim enclaves in order to make sure that they conform with the tenets of Islam.

No, they insist this is something like the Jewish community patrol group, Shomrim, implemented by Jews to protect themselves against, among other things, attacks motivated by anti-Semitism in New York. For example, an Orthodox Jew was recently beaten in Borough Park by a man shouting, “Allah, Allah,” and “Kill all Jews.”

How MCPS might differ from Shomrim, or even the Brooklyn Asian Safety Patrol, becomes evident upon examining the origins and patterns of behavior of similar Muslim community patrols in Germany, Great Britain and Austria.

Muslim “community patrols” were formed in Europe under all too familiar appeals to civil and equal rights; and, not long after their establishment, took to terrorizing the infidel. In Germany, “These people’s intention is to provoke and intimidate and force their ideology [upon others],” said Peter Jung, mayor of the city of Wuppertal.

In Vienna, Muslim community patrols were behind a series of brutal attacks, including one in which a teenage Polish girl received 22 blows to the head and face. In a video of the attack, she can be seen spitting out blood.

We would be prudent approach the idea of any sort of special  Muslim community patrols from a point of view of extreme caution and, even, prejudice. Why would we need such a thing in America?

Understandably, the NYPD has some concerns about the MCPS. Department spokeswoman Sgt. Jessica McRorie insisted the NYPD had not outfitted or labeled the group’s cars, adding that the “group is not officially sanctioned by the NYPD and they are subject to the law.” But Rabah issued a valid point in response.

“We’re not looking for someone to ‘outfit’ our car,” said Rabah. “We’re looking for equal respect.”

Presumably, Rabah meant equal respect in regard to the tolerance enjoyed by similar ethnically themed community patrols. Or did he? Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, pointedly said that McRorie’s remark “deserves further clarification by the NYPD.”

NYPD might carry the nightsticks, but if Laura Loomer’s literal deplatforming for criticizing the MCPS program illustrates anything, it’s the existence of formal and informal apparatuses of power in the United States.

Our Assimilation Problem
Still, there is uncomfortable truth in Rabah’s point. If we allow one ethnic group to form a security force to patrol their ethnic enclave, how can we deny the right to others? That would mean exercising prejudice, with prudence, but prejudice nonetheless in a society that cannot so much as stomach a little bit of it in this “nation of immigrants.”

With New York in mind, it was, or should have been, no surprise when Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) celebrated her victory on the road to Congress by draping a Palestinian flag around her shoulders. All things considered, not an eyelash should have batted when she chose a copy of the Koran for her congressional swearing-in ceremony, or when she opted to wear traditional Palestinian garb while being sworn into office.

Elsewhere, to Tom Brokaw’s perfectly reasonable and factual statement that Hispanics should work harder to assimilate, “Meet the Press” co-panelist Yamiche Alcindor fired back angrily: “We also need to adjust what we think of as America.” The National Association of Hispanic Journalists issued a response to Brokaw, too, denouncing what it called “forced assimilation.”

To be clear, Alcindor and the Hispanic Journalists are not against assimilation, nor are they even opposed to “forced assimilation”—so long as it is America that is assimilated, forcibly made to “adjust” if need be, to the cultures of foreigners.

If we repeat “America is a nation of immigrants” over and over enough, it might just come true. And having made communist folk singer Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” our alternative national anthem, who do we suppose are the “fascists” this machine we have created will kill?

Our “shining city upon a hill” is now more of a campfire in the jungle; and the night, said the Red Woman, “is dark and full of terrors.” For as long as we insist on living in fear of being called “xenophobes” for defending what remains of our way of life, it will be impossible for us to issue anything but a nod in resignation when it is demanded of us: “We’re looking for equal respect.”

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Photo Credit: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner

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