It’s Not a Crime to Be a Jerk

Fardoso Mohamed talks Monday, March 20, 2017, in Moorhead about how another customer harassed her and shouted at her to remove her hijab when she went grocery shopping Saturday. Forum file photo.

UPDATE: The original headline to this post used a profane word I felt accurately described this man’s behavior. I’ve changed it to something less apt, but also less profane, at the request of my bosses at Forum Communications.

There was an ugly incident alleged in Moorhead recently which saw a man at a grocery store tell a Muslim woman wearing a hijab that she had to leave the store. Because of the hijab.

The woman was also pregnant and with her young child.

“Mohamed, who was with her 1-year-old son, said she ignored the man. He then shouted at her, telling her not to enter the store,” Archie Ingersoll reports. “He followed her and confronted her again about her hijab, and she told him it was ‘none of your business.'”

She’s right. What she chooses to wear is her business and not anybody else’s.

I understand that something like a hijab can seem alien to Americans. I can even understand finding the clothing unsettling. I will admit to being ill at ease with religious doctrines holding that women must be covered to such a degree while in public.

But those feelings do not justify harassing a woman at a grocery store. A pregnant woman. In front of her young child. That’s something jerks do.

Now, though, a Muslim group wants criminal charges pressed against the man.

“We urge law enforcement authorities to reconsider bringing charges in this case based on Minnesota statutes prohibiting stalking and harassment,” CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said in a statement.

This is a bridge too far.

Law enforcement initially said there didn’t appear to be a crime involved in the incident. They’re now saying that an investigation into it is on-going. That’s fine. Maybe there’s some aspect to the incident we’re not yet aware of which could raise it to the level of a crime. Plus, the man responsible for the incident hasn’t been identified.

I hope he is so that law enforcement can, at the very least, give him a talking to. And maybe the grocery store should ban him from their property too.

But calling for arrests is silly, and emblematic of the sort of overreach from political activists which makes finding comity in diverse societies harder. There’s also a free speech aspect here. While we may not like what this man said, or how he said it, he does have a right to express himself. Since this was a one-off incident it seems hard to believe that it would rise to the level of violating laws against harassment or stalking.

If we’re going to start arresting people every time they say some ugly things to one another we’re going to have some busy cops at sporting events. And traffic jams. And pretty much every single bar in America.

It’s always a struggle when cultures clash. The best way for us to get through it is for all involved to eschew sensationalism and vindictiveness in favor of patience and tolerance.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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