An Evangelical Christian couple have been accused of verbally abusing a Muslim guest in their hotel on account of her religion and style of dress. They have been charged with breaching public order.
Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang of Aintree, Liverpool allegedly told the guest, who has not been named, that her Muslim dress was a form of “bondage” and that Muhammad was a “warlord”.
The nature of their dispute is somewhat unclear. The account given by the Vogelenzangs gives the impression of a religious discussion that got out of hand, but the guest has not yet given her side of the story in public.
Sharon Vogelenzang admits describing Muslim dress as “bondage” but her husband denies calling Muhammad a “warlord”.
The police are reported to have questioned the couple twice before deciding to charge them with a religiously aggravated public order offence.
If found guilty, the couple would probably be fined. They also claim that their business, the Bounty House Hotel, has already suffered due to reports of the dispute.
The Vogelenzangs' case is funded by the Christian Institute, which has raised concerns about freedom of speech.
However, the Institutes's spokesperson Mike Judge risked derision by suggesting that Britain was seeing a growing “persecution of Christians”.
The notion that Muslim dress is oppressive is consistently denied by Muslim feminists who emphasise that they wear it as a matter of choice. Anti-Muslim campaigners have in recent years revived claims that Muhammad was a warlord, although he insisted that violence should only be used in self-defence and should be severely limited.
The case is expected to come to court later this year.