Stan Smulevich has been charged with two felonies; he’s accused of tossing two Korans in a toilet at Pace University in New York on separate occasions. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) these acts constitute hate crimes, and they have lobbied the authorities in New York to charge them as such. The authorities complied.
As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for because you might get it. This case if carried forward will constitute an effort to redefine hate crimes based on religion. The bar is quite high to change that, and considering the fact that all other religions in america have been attacked by various means without it being classed as a hate crime, it’s strategically stupid and tactically a blunder to bring this forward at this time.
If it goes forward then eventually it will be determined that people in america are free to toss Korans in the toilet, and that might not be the verdict CAIR is seeking. (There is history and precedent, I would not be surprised if there isn’t case-history in New York state with Bibles or Torahs for instance.) There is also the question of whether the Koran deserves protection above and beyond all other books.
I submit that if this were the book of Mormon, or the Bible, or the Communist Manifesto then charges would not have been brought. What makes Islam more equal than other religions? Is it ok to burn a flag or the bible, but not ok to burn a Koran? If so, then why? Are muslims somehow special and above other religions?
I don’t agree with what Stan did, but the Hate Crime charges turn Stan into the victim. This should be charged as a misdemeanor, Stan should pay for the books he damaged and that should be the end of it. What elevates something to a hate crime? Should the laws enacted for these types of crimes be used sparingly?
They should not be used everytime someone is offended; this is a free country and there’s nothing in the constitution granting you the right not to be offended. Trying to make a minor offense like this into a hate crime diminishes real hate crimes, such as killing someone because they are gay, or killing someone because they are black, or desecrating a church because you believe in something else. Indeed a search on “hate crimes” will reveal a lot of stories that mostly involve physical assault or violence. Again, nobody was harmed here.
We don’t know Stan’s motives, it could be that he wanted to express contempt for Muslims who profane a religion through terrorism. Perhaps he wanted to make an artistic statement about the future of Islam. Perhaps he didn’t like the way the cover looked, or perhaps he did not even do this. Perhaps he thought the book did not belong in a public meditation room conceptually open to all religions, not just one. That remains to be seen in trial.
Regardless, the precedent set by this will in my prediction be little to CAIR’s liking — Stan will find stalwart support, and will be defended. If the suit carries onward, then this could go as high as the Supreme Court, but in the end freedom of speech will win over hate crime since nobody was harmed here.
I can hear my muslim audience saying “But they’ve defamed my religion!”, to which I reply: get used to it if you plan on staying in the US. This is america, all religions are provided equal treatment. You are free to pursue your religion and anyone is allowed to ridicule it.
UPDATE: here is the New York Legislation that is being applied to this case
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