Brutality by the Bay
Why did the Oakland police do so little about Your Black Muslim Bakery's thuggery?
Here is the situation regarding the enterprise known as Your Black Muslim Bakery, located on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, Calif. Its founder, a man named Yusuf Bey, was arrested in 2002 and charged with forcing an underage girl to have sex. Subsequent investigation suggested that he had a long history of rape and abuse of his followers and had by this means fathered numerous children out of wedlock. Bey died in September 2003 before his case could come to trial. His son Yusuf Bey IV has since been arrested twice, first on suspicion of leading a gang that had trashed two Oakland liquor stores and intimidated their owners, and second (and perhaps less Islamically) for running over a San Francisco bouncer with his car. Nedir Bey, one of Yusuf Bey's "spiritually adopted" sons, is also alleged to have beaten a possible business rival with a flashlight, while another member of the gang tortured the victim with a heated knife.
These and several other crimes of violence were investigated by the East Bay Express, a local community weekly. Reporter Chris Thompson was subjected to threats and to aggressive stalking, and, for his own safety, worked in a different county for several months after his series about YBMB ran. The paper's editor, Stephen Buel, has been quoted as saying that his office and staff were deluged with threats and haunted by unpleasant characters and that the threats indicated that they originated with Your Black Muslim Bakery. "We have several threats left on voice mail that we obviously had a record of. One of the threats featured a taped quotation of a speech from Yusuf Bey the elder," said Buel. At a certain point, Buel admits, it became more trouble than it was worth to write about YBMB.
Oakland is a city fairly hardened to criminal violence, but beginning last December, there was what the papers like to call a "spree." In that month, a car was raked with bullets from several weapons. In May, two people were kidnapped and one was robbed and tortured. In July, two citizens were murdered by gunshots in the northern part of the city. The bullets all appear, according to the police, to come from the same source, which by now you may have guessed. The late Herb Caen, imperishable columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, used to refer humorously to "Baghdad by the Bay," but by that he meant Beach Blanket Babylon and not this gruesome horror show.
Now, I'm just asking, but: rape, polygamy, intimidation, torture, murder, all these actions emanating from one address and some of them performed in the name of a fanatical ideology. What does it take before the police decide to raid the premises? Should we wait until unveiled women are attacked on the street or until honor killings or female circumcision take hold? (There is no official connection between YBMB and Louis Farrakhan's racist and cultish Nation of Islam, though it seems that Yusuf Bey Sr. did convert to some form of Islam under that sinister organization's auspices.)
My question was answered last Friday, when the Oakland Police Department finally did storm the premises, along with three neighboring homes, and arrested seven people, including Yusuf Bey IV. This, however, was too late to save the life of Chauncey Bailey, the well-liked editor of the black-owned Oakland Post, who had decided to take up where the East Bay Express had left off and to investigate the finances of YBMB. He was shot dead last Thursday in broad daylight on an Oakland street. A young handyman from YBMB named Devaughndre Broussard has been charged in the Bailey case, and other members of the group are being investigated for involvement in the earlier crimes. The "bakery" itself owes more than $200,000 in back taxes and filed for bankruptcy protection last October.
Now, again, I am just asking, but what if this racket had been named the White Christian or Aryan Nations Cookie Parlor? (Motto and mission statement: "Don't F*** With Us.") I think that Oakland's mayor, Ron Dellums—who I was startled to find was still alive—would have joined a picket line around the store (as would I). The same would doubtless have been true of Rep. Barbara Lee, in whose district the YBMB was situated. But instead, in its role as a "community business," the YBMB enjoyed warm support and endorsement from both the mayor and the congresswoman. And the guns for past and future slayings were inside the store.
If this isn't softness on crime, then the term is meaningless. Residents have been complaining for a long time about the atmosphere of hatred and violence—and about what some have called the YBMB's attempt to "cleanse" the neighborhood, either of godless liquor stores on the model of jihadism or simply of business rivals and journalistic critics. What were the police doing all this time, and why did Chauncey Bailey have to be murdered before they could be moved to act? Perhaps they were doing what they do best: confiscating marijuana and rousting whores so as to painlessly improve the crime statistics. I called Bob Valladon, the extremely rude and graceless head of the Oakland police union, but I didn't even get to put my question before receiving a large flea in my ear. Other California law-enforcement officials were adamant in refusing to be quoted in any way. I can't say I blame them: Thousands of their voters and citizens are living in Third World conditions of fear, with a "no-snitch" policy openly enforced at gunpoint, and they cannot be troubled to do anything about it.
This official apathy—amounting to collusion—is undergirded by a culture that cringingly insists on "respect" for any organization, however depraved, that can masquerade as "faith-based." If I had stood outside that hideous bakery with a sign saying "Black Muslims Are Racists and Fanatics," I think the cops would have turned up in a flat second and taken me into custody. I might well have been charged with a hate crime. As I have written before and am sure I will write again: This has to stop, and it has to stop right now, before shariabaking comes to a place near you.
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.
Photograph of Yusuf Bey IV by Dan Rosenstrauch/AP Photo.