Muslim woman says she was abused by hotelier

A disabled woman who recently converted to Islam was subjected to an hour long tirade of religiously aggravated abuse by the Christian owners of a bed and breakfast hotel after she appeared dressed in the hijab, a court heard today.

Ericka Tazi, aged 60, had been a guest at The Bounty House Hotel in Aintree, Liverpool, for a month when she appeared for the first time wearing the veil and a traditional gown. The change from Western dress on the final morning of her stay in March is alleged to have turned the proprietor Benjamin Vogelenzang into a “whirling dervish”.

It was claimed he demanded to know whether Mrs Tazi, who suffers from the debilitating condition fibromyalgia and walks with a stick, was a murderer or a terrorist. Liverpool Magistrates Court heard that Mr Vogelenzang, 53, described the traditional Muslim outfit as a form of “bondage” and a symbol of “oppression” before accusing the prophet Mohammed of being a “warlord” and comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler.

Members of the Christian Institute were outside the court singing hymns in support of the hotelier and his wife Sharon, 54, who both deny a charge, under the 1986 Public Order Act, of using threatening, abusive or insulting words which were religiously aggravated.

Giving evidence yesterday in the first of a two day trial, Mrs Tazi dressed in a hijab and kissed and swore her oath on the Koran. The mother of two said she was left “absolutely traumatised” and frightened by her experience.

Describing herself as a “normal Warrington girl who liked the Beatles” she said she had been a member of the Catholic Legion of Mary and “many religions” before converting to Islam when she married 18-months ago.



Mr Vogelenzang followed her into the dining room and was “jumping up and down” with his “arms flailing”, it was claimed. She said: “He just couldn't accept the way I was dressed. He was laughing at me and it seemed to trigger something, I don't know why, I kept saying 'I'm Ericka', it was my outfit that had triggered him. He asked me if I was a murderer, if I was a terrorist. I'm a 60-year-old disabled woman, I couldn't understand where it was coming from, it was shocking to me.”



She said Mrs Vogelenzang had been alerted by the sound of the dispute. "Sharon came running in, she was shouting 'you started this with your dress' and she was pointing in my face and I was frightened at this stage,” she said



Mrs Tazi, who had been attending a four-week pain management course at The Walton Centre at nearby Aintree Hospital, denied trying to make a religious statement by wearing the hijab or having religious arguments with other guests. Mrs Tazi contacted the police later that night. When questioned by detectives, the couple said they had been sharing their "faith views". The court heard that Sharon Vogelenzang told officers she did not mean to be disrespectful when she referred to the hijab as bondage.

She said she was entitled to respond when her faith was challenged and insisted she was merely expressing her opinions. Benjamin Vogelenzang said he had referred to historical figures, but not Mohammed, and had not meant to be offensive or insulting. The trial continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent