Hitchens Says Oakland Is Soft on Crime Author Christopher Hitchens recently wrote an article about Your Black Muslim Bakery and its alleged criminal activity in Oakland, Calif. In the Slate article, he discusses the recent murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey, who was investigating the finances of the bakery at the time of his death.
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Hitchens Says Oakland Is Soft on Crime

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Hitchens Says Oakland Is Soft on Crime

Hitchens Says Oakland Is Soft on Crime

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This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick.

And more now on that bakery in Oakland, California that appears to be at the center of a lot of criminal activities. This place is called Your Black Muslim Bakery. It's closed now after one of its workers reportedly confessed to murdering a journalist, shooting him three weeks ago.

BRAND: That journalist was Chauncey Bailey, editor of the black newspaper The Oakland Post. He was investigating the bakery's finances. I spoke earlier with writer Christopher Hitchens, who has an article at slate.com about the allegations made against Your Black Muslim Bakery over the years.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS (Journalist): Well, the things they have been accused of now in a court of law, these include the aforementioned murder, shot down in the street, of Chauncey Bailey, distinguished local African-American journalist who'd been inquiring into their finances, and a number of related crimes, usually of intimidation, of either critics or investigators or of other rival businesses stretching back for some time; intimidation of the press, which interests me a lot as a fellow journalist. There is, additionally, the question of Mr. Yusef Bey, the founder of this bakery, now dead, who was going to stand trial for a number of sexual assault crimes before he died of cancer, who seems to have started a kind of Jonestown of his own, of illegitimate children by often underage women. And throughout all of this an extraordinary lack of affect by Oakland police department.

BRAND: Now, why do you suppose that is? This is a city that is plagued with violent crime, so it is indeed possible that, well, they had other things to focus on, to worry about.

Mr. HITCHENS: Well, the suggestion I make in my article in Slate is that the place had political protection of some sort, led the police to give it a wide berth. You would think there's an outfit like this, that openly advertises its racist and nationalist and extremist credentials, would attract condemnation.

I mean, if it was called the Aryan Nations Bakery I think there would have been a picket line around it. I certainly hope so. Whereas Mayor Ron Dellums and Representative Barbara Lee have both in their times praised the place as a circle community enterprise. Now, that seems to me to be too much to put up with.

BRAND: So you're saying that they were politically connected?

Mr. HITCHENS: They're politically protected, and I think also it's a problem not just in Oakland. Any organization in this country that can claim to be faith-based tends to be given a wide berth by the authorities because they didn't want to be accused of upsetting people of faith. This is what you get if you let an outfit like that go uninvestigated or unpunished.

BRAND: So had it been called just Your Black Bakery rather than Your Black Muslim Bakery, you think that people would have looked at it differently?

Mr. HITCHENS: I must say, I think on contemplating baked goods one has to be colorblind, but yes, if they had to say black, fine. But again, I say, if they'd said Your All-White Bakery or your - unless they'd said White Bread Bakery - I don't think they would have got quite the indulgence that they seem to have got in this instance.

BRAND: Let me just clarify. You are saying that the main reason why this organization has enjoyed relative immunity from prosecution and approbation from elected officials is that it associated itself with Islam?

Mr. HITCHENS: Well, I would certainly say with religion, because I think the same would have been true if it called itself a Christian or a Jewish bakery. It is a general problem throughout our society. If you can get yourself called Reverend, there's nothing you can't get away with in this society. This is another instance of that - it happens to be Muslim.

BRAND: Now, Mayor Ron Dellums, to be fair, has only been mayor for a little more than a year, and yet you single him out. Didn't this problem predate him by many, many years?

Mr. HITCHENS: Absolutely it did. But as far as I know, there hadn't been words of sympathy uttered by a Jerry Brown for the - the preceding mayor of Oakland -for the bakery.

BRAND: Christopher Hitchens' article on Your Black Muslim Bakery is at slate.com. He's also the author of the best-selling book "God is Not Great." Thank you very much.

Mr. HITCHENS: Thank you, ma'am.

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