Any Iraqi migrant spotted a t-shirt that seemed to capture the feelings of many Muslims who face assumptions that they are dangerous or unhinged. The 23-year-old wore the t-shirt reading “I’m Muslim, Don’t Panic” back to his asylum home in Berlin and was promptly almost beaten to death by three Muslim refugees who decided that the t-shirt was anti-Islamic.
The Iraqi was hospitalized and two of the alleged attackers, a 27-year-old from Syria and a 33-year-old from Lebanon, were later arrested. Of course, by defending Islam from a perceived insult, the attackers fulfilled a stereotype put forward by critics. It is not even clear how such a t-shirt would “offend” Islam since it was meant to show that there was no reason to fear Muslims.
This would create an interesting question under Europe’s robust hate crime laws. Is this a hate crime when Muslims attack another Muslim who is viewed as disrespecting their mutual religion? The attack is based on the perceived meaning of the message on the shirt rather than the religion of the wearer. Germany does not have a separate category of offenses for “hate crimes” though it does criminalize speech viewed as insulting or disrespecting religion. Yet, hate is considered in sentencing as an aggravating factor.