If you’ve been watching the news I’m sure you’ve heard about Stanislav Shmulevich – the 23-year-old Pace University student who is under fire for his treatment of the Koran. I’ve spent the last few days following the story in its entirely and I have to say – it’s a complicated one. Shmulevich has been charged with felony hate crimes for dunking the Koran in a toilet at his former university. First and foremost, what this guy did was wrong. Any clear-headed American can be sure of that. I can honestly say that as a Christian, I would be personally offended if someone took the Bible and defaced it in such a matter. After all, holy books are holy books. With that said, the felony charges Shmulevich has received are bogus. A hate crime? Doesn’t an individual actually have to harm someone for such an allegation to stand?
Sure, I agree more than anyone that he should be severely disciplined by his university, but I’m not entirely convinced that he’s committed a crime worthy of a four year prison sentence (the possible time he may get if convicted). Michelle Melkin points out the fact that there has been a whole slew of tension on Pace’s campus between Jewish and Muslim students and that this was not necessarily an unprovoked action. Again, I think we can all agree that Shmulevich’s actions were disgusting and offensive to the Muslim faith, but there are certain free-speech components here that worry me. Also, what about equality? People say whatever they want about Christianity and Judaism on a daily basis and they aren’t being charged with hate crimes. Just do a Google or a Technorati search and I’m sure you’ll find some gems out there – and it stands for all faiths and belief systems (The Daily Kos is just one example in the political realm).
Come on people – even the KKK has a web site that it operates to spread its hateful messages, as do many other individuals with less-than-pleasing sociopolitical mindsets. I wish they didn’t have a voice, but they do and that’s freedom of speech I suppose. But in this situation we have a 23-year-old student who didn’t really harm anyone (other than religiously or emotionally, if that) – a young guy who may not be able to complete his education before heading off to the slammer for what I and many other political analysts consider a non-crime.
If a self-admitted pedophile can run a web site that focuses on the best locations to “observe” young girls and still be running free, than how is it that this kid faces such a severe charge? We need to remain consistent. At the end of the day if you are truly a proponent of free speech you simply cannot support such an imbalanced conviction for Shmulevich.