The basic facts are these. On Halloween night, the victim was in a parade dressed as a zombie mom and on the theory that in the Koran it says that Mohammed was raised from the dead and walked among the living, and therefore he must've been a zombie. [I don't think the Koran says that, but no matter.] The defendant Taraaq confronted the victim at the parade. According to the victim, Taraaq grabbed him and turned him around and tried to choke him. Both parties called the police. The responding officer says that Taraaq did not recall precisely what happened, but admitted touching the victim. Taraaq was charged with harassment, the operative terms of which statute are as follows:
(a) Offense defined.--A person commits the crime of harassment when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another, the person: (1) strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects the other person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same; ....The trial was apparently held in a court not of record where the police officer acted as the prosecutor. Taraaq was defended by a lawyer. The judge found Taraaq not guilty for failure of the state to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt due to conflicting testimonies. The judge calmly lectured the victim about sensitivity to persons of Islamic cultures, but never similarly lectured the defendant Taraaq about the rights under the First Amendment to insult religion. Here is an audio of the entire trial:
To those who suggest that the judge admitted to being a Muslim, I say that the judge's comment has been misconstrued and should appropriately be understood to be a colloquialism in form. It should be understood to mean, "[If] I am a Muslim, I find it offensive."
This Internet controversy and the many threats to the judge's security (he has been moved to another County for security purposes) would never have happened if the judge, after lecturing the victim, had turned to the defendant and said something like,
"While I find that the government did not meet its burden of proof to convict you of this crime, I must warn you that here in America the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects every person's right to speech, including speech that insults another's religion. While I do not approve of speech that offends other people, in the religions are allowed otherwise, you Mr. truck must realize that if you are going to be in the United States, you must be prepared to tolerate speech that insults Islam, just as you must expect others to tolerate speech that insults Christianity or Judaism. It is never appropriate in the United States to touch another in response to an insult to your religion. That is just not the way things are done here."I think the judge made an error in judicial judgment by not lecturing the defendant after choosing to lecture the victim in this case. I do not think that means that the judge is applying Sharia law or giving some advantage to Muslims merely for being Muslims. The case has been seriously exaggerated in the conservative blogosphere.
The judge gave the appearance, however, of partiality when he lectured only the victim. I hope the judge has learned a lesson and takes this to heart.