British couple not guilty of abusing Muslim

Hoteliers acquitted of verbally abusing guest over hijab


A British court on Wednesday acquitted a devout Christian hotelier and his wife of verbally abusing a Muslim woman guest for wearing a hijab.

Benjamin and Sharon Vogelenzang were accused of subjecting Ericka Tazi, who converted to Islam 18 months ago, to an hour-long tirade at their hotel near Liverpool, northwest England, on March 20.

But judge Richard Clancy dismissed the case after a two-day trial at Liverpool Magistrates' Court.

The Christian couple, who have five adopted children and have fostered a Muslim boy, denied a charge of using religiously aggravated threatening, abusive or insulting language.

Fifty-three year-old Benjamin Vogelenzang was accused of asking her if she was a terrorist, while his wife allegedly said her dress "represented oppression and bondage."

But Vogelenzang said he did not shout at Tazi, although he admitted his wife may have called her Islamic head-covering a form of bondage.

He added that 60-year-old Tazi called Jesus a "minor prophet" and said the Bible was "untrue", but insisted she left the hotel "as cool as a cucumber" after their discussion.

At one point during Wednesday's hearings, the judge ordered Vogelzang to calm down after he lost his cool, raising his voice and thumping the witness box.

The hotelier said he initially thought Tazi was a "nice person" but added: "I was mistaken, you know why? She wasn't a nice person, she wasn't a loving person, she ratted to the police and is trying to make us lose our business."

His comments prompted the judge to warn him: "Behave yourself, please."