Koran thrown in toilet, man charged with hate-crime

23 year old Stanislav Shmulevich is in a boat-load of trouble after putting the Koran in a toilet (twice) on the Pace University campus. Amid pressure from Muslim groups, the school moved from charging the young man with vandalism to reporting him to NYPD’s hate-crimes unit where he is now being charged with 2 felonies. Yes, felonies.

Was he stupid to put a book in the toilet? Yes – there are better ways to express your disagreement with a particular group (debates and discussions usually work well). Should he be punished for putting a book in a toilet? Yes – it’s an act of vandalism, and some poor custodial worker had to fish it out (and plumbing may need to be repaired, depending on whether he tried to flush it or not). Should this toilet incident be considered a “hate-crime”? No. It was the destruction of a book and possibly property, but not an attack on an individual person. Where does freedom of speech end and hate-crime begin? The article mentions that this incident occurred amidst other acts of vandalism “with religious or racial overtones”, but the police don’t link Mr. Shmulevich to those.

I think hate-crimes are a rather dubious charge to begin with, because the person is always charged with whatever act they committed (vandalism, assault, etc) – the addition of “hate-crime” seems like overkill. I don’t support physically harming someone because of their race, religion, gender, orientation, etc, but it is unnecessary to add the “hate” portion to what is already considered a crime. I just wonder whether the school and police would have responded the same if the Bible had been put in toilet instead (or perhaps for atheists who have no “divine” text so to speak, a book such as Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”)?

On the specifics of the charges, see Hot Air

For more general opinion/discussion on the topic:

New English Review
PZ Myers at Pharyngula
Little Green Footballs

2 Comments

  1. July 30, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    […] blog reactions: Infidel Terrorist, Side Effects May Vary, Jihad […]

  2. August 1, 2007 at 9:36 am

    […] To see my earlier post on the topic click here. […]


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