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David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

No Room for Free Thought at the Inn?



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Could it be that things are beginning to turn, and people in the West will at last stand up for their beliefs? First came the referendum in Switzerland that mosques could be built, but no more minarets. Muslims of course protested that this was bigotry, racism, and the rest of it. It was not. The Swiss fully granted freedom of religion, and were merely making the point that they wanted the landscape to look the way it always had. And now comes a follow-up in Britain, in the case of Mr. Ben Vogelenzang and his wife Sharon.

The Vogelenzangs are committed Christians, two among thousands of members of a semi-missionary organisation called The Christian Institute. They own and manage a small hotel in Liverpool, catering specially to patients in a nearby hospital. Mrs. Ericka Tazi, a 60-year-old, stayed for a month in this hotel while undergoing treatment in the hospital. On the final day she came to breakfast in a hijab. Born Catholic and British, Mrs. Tazi has a Muslim husband and converted to Islam about twelve months ago.

In the dining room that morning words were obviously exchanged. Mrs. Tazi said that “the Bible is untrue anyway and Jesus is a minor prophet.” She adds that the Vogelenzangs compared Muhammad to warlords in history, including Hitler and Saddam Hussein. The Vogelenzangs admit to saying that Islam is a form of bondage for women, but also say that Mrs. Tazi exaggerates everything else.

Mrs. Tazi went to the police. Six inspectors from the “hate crime unit” of the local police force — yes, such units act as thought-police all over the country — duly investigated, and the Vogelenzangs were prosecuted. The couple faced costs, the folding of their hotel and bankruptcy. In court, however, the judge took very little time to throw the case out. Freedom of speech was the issue here. The Vogelenzangs, the judge ruled, had every right to speak their mind in a discussion about religion. Incidentally, he also observed that Mrs. Tazi’s resort to dirty language could not be squared with her religious views, and he as good as called her a liar and hypocrite. Mrs. Vogelenzang had the last word: “As Christmas approaches, we wish everybody peace and goodwill.”



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