Judge dismisses hijab case against Christian couple

A Christian couple who ran a bed and breakfast hotel were cleared yesterday of insulting a Muslim guest because she was wearing a hijab.

The decision to dismiss the case against Benjamin and Sharon Vogelenzang was greeted with loud applause from their supporters in the public gallery at Liverpool Magistrates Court at the end of a two-day trial. District Judge Richard Clancy said the evidence presented had not borne out the claim by white British Muslim convert Ericka Tazi, 60, that she had been the victim of a religiously aggravated hour-long tirade. Witnesses said the exchanges had lasted for only seven minutes.

The judge said politics and religion had acted like a "tinderbox" at the Bounty House Hotel in Aintree in March, and highlighted Mrs Tazi's use of language. Describing how she was provoked by the couple about her hijab, she used words to the effect of: "Would you prefer it if I got my tits out?"

He said: "I mention this because when I read that together with what she said about 'them taking the piss' it doesn't quite form the same religious view that was put to me on the stand." Mrs Tazi, who suffers from fibromyalgia, claimed Mr Vogelenzang called the prophet Mohammed a murderer.

Mrs Vogelenzang admitted saying the hijab was a form of bondage but said this was her opinion based on media reports.

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