Recently, a man was arrested for flushing two Qur’ans in the public restrooms at Pace University for hate crimes. Apparently, after the first Qur’an was found in the toilet on October 13 last year, Pace University officials called it vandalism, but after pressure from Muslim student groups referred it the NYPD hate crimes unit, which made the recent arrest.
Personally, I think that University officials were correct to call the incident vandalism, because that’s what it is. Media reports have not directly stated whether or not the Qur’ans were his property or whether they belonged to someone else, though from this report:
He was busted after cops discovered a surveillance camera that filmed him leaving the meditation room where the Korans had been kept before the vandalism.
It does seem like the books were stolen. If that is indeed the case, the student, Stanislav Shmulevich, should be held responsible for stealing, destruction of property, and clogging the toilets, which are public property, but he should not be charged with hate crimes.
Before I continue with why this is, I’m going to bring forth the reason that desecration of the Qur’an is being considered a hate crime. In Islam, the Qur’an is held as sacred and its desecration represents a violation of Islamic law. This makes the desecration of the Qur’an, at least in principle, more insulting to Muslims than an equivalent act of desecration performed on the Bible would be to Christians. This is why Muslim groups including CAIR, which was involved in this case, have pushed for this to be considered a hate crime.
So why is this not a hate crime? The answer is simple: it was not a crime against an individual but a crime against property. Flushing the Qur’an is powerful statement, akin to burning an American flag, which has caused many to seek legal prevention of those acts but the fact of the matter remains that it is a political expression, which is protected by the Constitution.
The First Amendment was intended especially to protect the most provocative forms of expression, not just those that the majority find most comfortable. The whole point was to avoid a tyranny of the majority (or of any vocal minority for that matter). We United States citizens are protected from legal suppression of opinions by the laws to which we are subject, which do not include the laws put forth in the Qur’an.
So to restate, Stanislav Shmulevich should be held responsible for the stealing, destruction of property, and vandalism of the public restrooms. This is clear. But holding him responsible for hate crimes is a precedent that should not be set anywhere in the United States of America.