From The Telegraph U.K.
Christian hoteliers received violent threats over Muslim guest ‘insult’
Christian hoteliers Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang received hate mail after they were accused of insulting a Muslim guest because of her faith.
Published: 2:34PM GMT 12 Dec 2009
The couple said they have been “living a nightmare” since they were charged in July with a “religiously-aggravated” offence of causing harassment, alarm or distress.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the couple have told of their relief at being cleared of insulting Ericka Tazi, a Muslim woman who was staying at their hotel.
They said that they had suffered emotionally and financially since the prosecution began, received threats warning they would be attacked and nearly lost their business due to an 80 per cent decline in takings at their nine-bedroom hotel, the Bounty House in Aintree, Liverpool.
“The last nine months have been a nightmare for us,” said Mr Vogelenzang.
“We’ve been drained emotionally and financially. We have, sadly, received some threats and hate mail. That has been upsetting.
“Our business has almost been destroyed.”
Mrs Tazi, who converted to Islam 18 months ago, stayed at the couple’s hotel in March. She claimed they asked her if she was a murderer and a terrorist after seeing her wearing a hijab. She also alleged that Mr Vogelenzang called the Prophet Muhammad a murderer and a warlord and likened him to Saddam Hussein and Hitler.
The hotel had been reliant for much of its business on a local hospital, which routinely referred outpatients to stay, but hospital chiefs put a stop to this once they heard about the court case.
The couple said that they had been encouraged by the support of Christians from around the world, some of whom sent them financial donations.
The Vogelenzangs have five adopted children, including one who is a Muslim. They have put their names forward to foster other Muslim youngsters, and stressed that they were not Islamaphobic.
However, they said that they are concerned that their ordeal suggests that people are losing their freedom of expression, and they criticised the police for prosecuting them.
“We are unhappy that the police pursued this case with such enthusiasm, and we feel the law needs to be clearer about free speech,” said Mr Vogelenzang.
“We are delighted that our legal system eventually came to the right decision, but we regret that it came to court at all.
“We are glad that we live in a country which has free speech. Many people have given up their lives in the last century to protect those freedoms. It seems such a shame that we appear to be losing our liberty.”
They said that they forgave Mrs Tazi despite the stress caused by her claims and her alleged insults against Christianity.
“We have no ill feelings for Mrs Tazi and we are looking forward to getting on with our lives. We wish her all the best,” said Mr Vogelenzang.
Richard Clancy, the district judge at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, dismissed the case, which had been brought under the Public Order Act.
The judge explained that the Muslim convert’s claim that she was verbally abused for up to an hour had not been backed up by other witnesses. He also said the language Mrs Tazi used in the exchange “did not quite form the same religious view” that was put to him on the stand.