Det nederlandske paret som drev et hotell i Lancashire havnet i krangel med en av gjestene som kom ned i hijab til frokost. De var klar over at gjesten kanskje ble en smule fornærmet, men fikk sjokk da politiet dukket opp. De er nå tiltalt for religiøs krenkelse og må møte i retten 8. desember.
I Faulty Towers har John Cleese tyske gjester og sier til seg selv at uansett hva som skjer må han ikke snakke om krigen. Det er selvfølgelig det han gjør, igjen og igjen. Om det var noe tilsvarende med ekteparet Vogenenzang er ukjent, men det kan virke som om de har hatt et anstrengt forhold til hijab. De tillot seg å kommentere gjestens klesdrakt og en krangel oppsto.
Men derfra til å bli stilt for retten er et stort sprang. Det føyer seg inn i rekken av saker hvor krenkelser av muslimer blir ført for retten, mens kristne symboler blir forbudt.
Dutch-born Ben Vogelenzang said that Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was a warlord, while his wife Sharon, 54, described the hijab as a form of bondage, it is claimed.
The incident happened in March when the unnamed guest, who was staying at the hotel while being treated at a nearby hospital, came down to breakfast wearing a hijab, a traditional Muslim headdress covering the hair.
The couple had never seen her wear the religious clothing before and a discussion ensued. The guest complained to police and the couple were charged under the 1986 Public Order Act – with using «threatening, abusive or insulting words» which were «religiously aggravated».
They will stand trial at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on December 8.
The Vogelenzangs say that the row at the Bounty House Hotel in Aintree has sent takings down 80 per cent and forced them to sell the business.
Today the couple were unavailable for comment but they are being backed by The Christian Institute.
«Important issues of religious liberty and free speech are at stake,» said Mike Judge, a spokesman.
«We have detected a worrying tendency for public bodies to misapply the law in a way that seems to sideline Christianity more than other faiths.
«Nobody was being threatened and while the Vogelenzangs were fully aware that a robust exchange had taken place and the woman had been perhaps a little offended, they were shocked when the police became involved.