I have to say, I was initially kind of skeptical of this story about the judge who threw out a lawsuit against a Muslim for assaulting an atheist. Several people have emailed us looking for a comment on it, and I hesitated to jump on it until I knew the whole story.
It’s not that I thought a Muslim wouldn’t attack an atheist, it’s just that people have cried wolf on exaggerated versions of imaginary creeping Islam in the United States — with several southern states going so far as to pass essentially useless and redundant legislation banning Sharia law, as if that were a serious threat.
In this case, though, having read the details of the case and listening to much of the court’s audio, a judge did, in fact, come out with something that sounds very, very dumb.
“Whenever it is very common, their language, when they’re speaking to each other, it’s very common for them to say, uh, Allah willing, this will happen. It’s, they’re so immersed in it. And what you’ve 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. I find what’s on the other side of this [sign] very offensive. But you have that right, but you are way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights.”
Yeah, except, the thing is… he’s not. The first amendment has many exceptions established by legal precent, but “doing things that other people find offensive” is not one of them. Both the judge and the defendant, of course, have the right to find it offensive, and to publicly state all day that they find it offensive, and many people might even be sympathetic to them.
But you know, tough luck. Assault is assault, and its legal status is in no way affected by the fact that the person committing the assault felt really, really mad about their religion not being respected. Illegal stuff doesn’t become legal just because religion is involved, and that should go equally for every religion.
I shall, however, remain skeptical about the noise right wing blogs are making about how the judge was somehow following Sharia law, and therefore THE THREAT IS BACK, PEOPLE! The judge’s dumb decision was his own, and I hope this gets further appeals.
Oh yeah, and also, notice that this story contains data points both for and against the notion that atheists are the most hated group in America. In a case where Islam is against atheism, the atheist lost. However, the same people who can usually be expected to hate on atheists, seem to be largely siding with the plaintiff. So there’s that.
* Note: Although the copied transcript claims that the judge said “I’m a Muslim,” he emphatically denies that this is the case.
Edit: It sounds to me as if what he really said was “I’m a Muslim, I’D find it offensive.” I think what he was trying to say was “Hypothetically speaking, if I were a Muslim, then I would find it offensive.” However, he took an unfortunate verbal shortcut that completely changed the apparent meaning.