Andy McCarthy’s post on a criminal prosecution in Pennsylvania that was dismissed based on an application of sharia law and a recognition of the special, privileged status of Islam is the most chilling thing I have read in quite a while. This is Andy’s account of the events that led to the prosecution:
The victim, [atheist activist] Ernest Perce, wore a “Zombie Mohammed” costume and pretended to walk among the dead (in the company of an associate who was the “Zombie Pope” — and who, you’ll be shocked to learn, was not assaulted). The assailant, Talag Elbayomy, a Muslim immigrant, physically attacked Perce, attempted to pull his sign off, and, according to police, admitted what he had done right after the incident. The defense argued that Elbayomy believed it was a crime to insult the prophet Mohammed (it is, under sharia law), and that because he was in the company of his children, he had to act to end this provocation and set an example about defending Islam.
As you will see, Judge Martin did not lecture the defendant about free speech or how disputes are resolved in a civilized country. He instead dressed the victim down for failing to appreciate how sensitive Muslims — including the judge himself — are about Islam.
The most remarkable thing about this story is the judge’s soliloquy in which he explains why he dismissed the case. It was recorded by the complainant. You can read the whole thing at the link; here are some excerpts:
Well, having had the benefit of having spent over two-and-a-half years in a predominantly Muslim country, I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam. In fact, I have a copy of the Koran here, and I would challenge you, sir, to show me where it says in the Koran that Mohammed arose and walked among the dead.
[Unintelligible.] You misinterpreted things. Before you start mocking someone else’s religion you may want to find out a little bit more about it. That makes you look like a doofus.
And Mr. Thomas [Elbayomi's defense lawyer] is correct. In many other Muslim speaking countries – excuse me, in many Arabic speaking countries – call it “Muslim” – something like this is definitely against the law there. In their society, in fact, it could be punishable by death, and it frequently is, in their society.
So apparently Perce should consider himself lucky.
Here in our society, we have a constitution that gives us many rights, specifically, First Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others. I don’t think that’s what our forefathers really intended. I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.
I don’t think you’re aware, sir, there’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – uh, I understand you’re an atheist. But, see, Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture, their culture. It’s their very essence, their very being.
It is true that Islam is not just a religion, but the significance of this observation escapes the judge.
Then what you have done is you’ve completely trashed their essence, their being. They find it very, very, very offensive. I’m a Muslim, I find it offensive. [Unintelligble] aside was very offensive. [UPDATE: After listening repeatedly to the audio tape, McCarthy has concluded that the transcript is incorrect, and what the judge said was, "If I'm a Muslim, I'd find it offensive."]
But you have that right, but you’re way outside your bounds on First Amendment rights. …
But another part of the element [of the offense charged] is, as Mr. Thomas [the defense lawyer] said, was — “Was the defendant’s intent to harass, annoy or alarm — or was it his intent to try to have the offensive situation negated?”
If his intent was to harass, annoy or alarm, I think there would have been a little bit more of an altercation. Something more substantial as far as testimony going on that there was a conflict. Because there is not, it is not proven to me beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is guilty of harassment. Therefore I am going to dismiss the charge.
In Oklahoma, a ballot initiative barring courts from implementing sharia law passed with 70% of the vote, but was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. Liberals ridiculed the statute, arguing that there is no risk of American courts drawing on sharia law. When the Oklahoma law was struck down, a local Muslim activist said:
This is an important reminder that the Constitution is the last line of defense against a rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry in our society, and we are pleased that the appeals court recognized that fact.
One might have thought that the Constitution is the last line of defense protecting those who exercise their God-given right of free speech. Apparently not, at least in Pennsylvania.