They weren't Muslim. As Jeane MacIntosh and Todd Venezia report in today's New York Post, the people who killed the Armanious family were two thugs with the Christian-sounding names of Hamilton Sanchez and Edward MacDonald. This revelation comes after a steady stream of accusations that Muslims might have taken revenge on the Copts for posting internet messages critical of Islam. In the days following the murder, understandably upset individuals leveled harsh denunciations of the religion, and threatened Muslims who attempted to show solidarity with the Armanious's friends and relatives. Even now, some people won't accept the fact that their rush to judgment was wrong.
But it was. As prejudgment and guilt by association usually are. True, the degree of animosity directed at Muslims was relatively low, particularly when compared to other outbreaks of xenophobia and scapegoating this nation has witnessed. Still, for that reason alone, it's worth reminding ourselves of one of the fundamental concepts of democratic freedoms: presumed innocence. This means religions, too--they, no less than people, are guiltless until proved otherwise. And if it is wrong to abandon democratic principles in the name of multicultural "tolerance." it is equally wrong to jettison those principles in moments of terror and fear. Cultures that falter in either of these directions soon become lost. Just ask the Dutch.