Don't touch that head scarf!

Doing so can get you arrested for a hate crime;,0,2955250.story

I would have thought the actions described in that article to be a clear cut example of a hate crime. You can’t just assault a woman because you don’t like the way she looks and not expect to be arrested.

Sounds like a clear cut case of assualt and battery; no need to throw in “hate crime” laws, which are silly as it is.

There wouldn’t have been assault and battery if the woman hadn’t been wearing a head scarf. That’s what makes it a hate crime. According to the report, the assailant made some comments that were meant to inflame hatred towards people from the Middle East (she apparently didn’t use the explicit term “Muslim”).

So if a poor man robs a rich man that would be a hate crime too, right? He wouldn’t have robbed the guy if he wasn’t rich.

Exactly. Hate crimes laws are unneeded - we have sufficient laws already if they are only enforced.


At least he didn’t hack her head off with a rusty scimitar and videotape it for audience amusement on Al-Jazeera.

No, it was the comments from the attacker that made it a hate crime. The attacker saw the scarf and apparently associated the wearer with what happened at Ft. Hood.

I’m on the fence about that one. Yes, assault is assault no matter the motivation and should be punished as such. But there’s something particularly disturbing about assaulting someone just because of the way they look or what they believe–just because they’re different from us. Or what they choose to wear. Some women who are not muslim wear scarves too.

So just because it doesn’t get to that level of violence we shouldn’t care that someone gets attacked for their presumed beliefs?

I am one of those women – I cover my head at every Mass or at adoration. But I still think they are unnecessary, even though someone could consider me a “target” because I happen to have a scarf on my head in the parking lot after Mass.

This is the slipper slope. Matthew Shepard was beaten to death because the guys beating him wanted his money. THAT IS ALL. They had no idea he was gay. But look what has become of that incident - we now have laws to make things illegal that were always illegal to begin with, but NOW we have laws that open the opportunity for the possible censorship of free speech because it could be considered “hate speech” to preach against the homosexual agenda.

We have laws - they are fine and just laws (most of them). We don’t need MORE laws to over compensate for people’s idiocy. **You can’t prosecute someone for their motivation - only for their crime. **The second we start trying to call motivation IN AND OF ITSELF a crime is the time we have stepped over the line of being a free country — oh, right, we’ve done that already. :rolleyes:


That’s absolutely true and a good point. But too often it’s not a matter of simple assault. Often there’s an element of stirring up others’ hatred too, to sway other people to participate in the attack (whether its verbal or physical). This is very different from attacking someone for their money. That element of trying to get others to go along is separate from the attack itself and should be punished separately. IMHO


If someone assaults you, I want them arrested & prosecuted because they assaulted you, not because you’re a muslim, a gay, a black or a woman or because of anything they might have said or didn’t say. Hate Crime Laws create a situation where THOUGHTS, which only God can know, are prosecuted, not actions, which we can try with evidence. It also creates a situation where crimes against some groups, such as Pro-Lifers and Christians, aren’t prosecuted to the full extent of the law, if at all.

Is that the type of country you want to live in? or, Would you rather live in a country where the laws equally protect all, equally bind all and are equally enforced no matter who the victims of the crime and those who commit the crime are?

At the same time, for all we know, the assailant in this case might have lost a son, daughter, husband, brother, sister or a close friend in the Fort Hood attack, or some other recent terrorist attack, and been particularly upset about it. If so, would we really want to prosecute someone for a Hate Crime whose primary motivation was grief over the loss of a family member or friend to a Jihadi?

In Christ, Michael


If it’s not a matter of simple Assault, we have laws for that - Allow me to list a few:
Charge Low Grade High Grade
Assault - Misdemeaner – Felony
Battery - Misdemeaner – Felony
W/ a Deadly Weapon – Felony (no Mis. Avail.)
W/ Great Bodily Injury – Felony ( " " )
Attempted Murder – Felony
Conspiracy (probably charged as a Felony)
Disturbing the Peace (Misdemeaner)
Inciting a Riot (Misdemeaner)

I didn’t list them all - only a few of te ones which would figure more prominently. Even with that, they’re enough charges here to keep someone who does some real harm imprisoned until he (or she) is old and gray (or possibly dead). I don’t know what else you would want.

Remember, we can’t know what’s in people’s hearts & minds, and attempts to force people to “tolerate” each other or to “not hate” each other don’t work. However, We legislate how people are to act towards each other - what they can and cannot do, and what they must do, and we legislate these things because these things can be known and judged. I can prove to a reasonable certainty whether or not so and so murdered his neighbor - I can’t prove that he hated him because he was a Catholic. I can prove to a reasonable certainty whether of not so and so (& friends) robbed the local B of A, and whether or not they used firearms and explosives in the commission of the crime. I can’t prove that they picked the bank because the bank manager was Turkish.

If you want to try to prosecute people for "stirring up others’ hatred*"* or "trying to get others to go along with the attack", you’re asking for THOUGHTCRIMES to be prosecuted, you’re asking for our society to prosecute people, not for what they actually did, but for what we think they did. There is NOTHING more harmful to a Democracy or to our liberty than what you’re proposing.

Your Brother in Christ, Michael

I’m not “proposing” anything, just thinking out loud (so to speak) and maybe playing devil’s advocate. I said before I’m on the fence about the issue of laws for hate crimes. Stirring up hatred in others is not just a thought, it is an action with a purpose – to incite violence. No, I would not want to see free speech eliminated, but there is a point when it stops being merely an expression of your beliefs and becomes something worse. As for this particular attack, we don’t have to guess the motivation, we know what it was because the attacker was quite vocal about it. And since when did grief become an acceptable excuse for bad behaviour?

Greetings Michael.

I accept that hate crime laws have the capacity to be abused, however that in itself is not a reason to dismiss them totally. I do not advocate creating ‘thought crimes’ or second guessing people’s motives; but that is an irrelevent factor regarding this case, where the attacker is reported to have shouted loudly the reason why she assaulted that woman. If it can be proven in a court of late that this is an accurate description of the incident then that would be clear evidence that this was a hate crime.

I honestly don’t care if the assailant lost a relative in the Fort Hood massacre. Recognising being ‘upset’ about something as a legitimate defence for attacking an innocent person would create mayhem. I don’t want to pull the thread off-topic with this, but as an illustration of my point if you look at the background of Palestinians who’ve attacked Israeli civilians during the last Intifada you’ll find almost all of them have had relatives/friends killed by the Israeli army, which they’re probably upset about. Does this make their attacking innocent civilians any less of a crime?

To those who have made the claim: How is touching a piece of someone’s clothing either assault or battery?

Did you read the article? The attacker came up behind the woman, grabbed the scarf and tugged hard enough to pull the woman’s head back, presumably to try to take the scarf off. The same as if someone came up to you, grabbed your crucifix and tried to break it off the chain around your neck.

Again - slippery slope. It is not a crime to try to get others to go along - isn’t that was we Catholics try to do every day? If you say that it is a crime to get others to go along with one thing is a crime, but along with another thing is not - who is going to make that determination? I certainly would not want someone to decide that it’s a crime to evangelize publicly because it is a hate crime to try to get someone to change what they believe.

Inciting VIOLENCE is a different matter. But again, we don’t need extra laws to say that one form of inciting violence is different from another - inciting violence is inciting violence - regardless of the motivation.


That’s debatable. From what I read, apparently they did know he was gay at the time they beat him…something to do with Matthew making a pass at one or both of them. The question is whether homosexuality was part of the motivation behind robbing and attacking him in the first place.

This is the first time I have heard anyone make that claim. Could you share your source?

You can’t prosecute someone for their motivation - only for their crime.

That’s not true; the difference between first and second degree murder often comes down to motive, and the same goes for many of the different types of manslaughter. Motive is an essential ingredient in determining which crimes are which, and how much they are punished.

And its also a fairly accurate way of doing things: If I attack you because I don’t like you (and I don’t dislike you in any way at all, just for the record…:D), then I’m not likely to repeat my crime by attacking some random woman coming out of a church. On the other hand, if I attack you because I don’t like women wearing headscarves, then I’m likely to attack somebody else for the same reason.

Furthermore, there is an intimidation element. It can sometimes be outdated, but let’s look at a historical example: when the Ku Klux Klan attacked a freedmen back in the 1870’s, it wasn’t just an attack on one man, it was both assault and a message to every other freedmen: act like hime, and we will attack you, too. The intimidation factor makes the crime worse. It doesn’t exactly apply here, but its a legitimate reason for a hate crime law.

And also remember the difference between hate speech and hate crime laws: a hate crime law only adds the motive as another factor to consider when a crime has already been committed. It does not create any new crimes.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit