Muslim Attacks Atheist for Wearing Muhammad Costume… and Judge Lets Him Get Away With It

Back in October, two members of the “Parading Atheists of Central PA” marched in a Halloween parade dressed as Zombie Pope and Zombie Muhammad.

You can decide for yourself whether that was hilarious or dickish. (I voted for the latter.)

But regardless of your answer to that question, we should all be appalled by what happened to Ernest Perce, the atheist in the Muhammad costume. A Muslim man in the crowd — Talaag Elbayomy — ran out and began choking him while trying to rip off his beard and take away his sign.

I bring all of this up again because the case went on to involve the police…:

The Muslim man and Perce both called police to report a crime. Both kept walking, and a few blocks down found Sgt. Brian Curtis. He talked to both and came to this conclusion.

“Mr. Perce has the right to do what he did that evening, and the defendant in this case was wrong in confronting him,” he said.

… and a judge:

Elbayomy was charged with harassment, but District Judge Mark Martin threw it out after criticizing Perce, the victim, and even calling him a “doofus.” The audio is also on YouTube.

Martin, who has done several tours of duty in the Middle East, said Perce would be put to death in those societies for his crime, but Perce wonders why that’s relevant in this country.

“He let a man who is Muslim, because of his preference of his culture and his way of life, walk free from an attack,” Perce said.

In other words, the Muslim attacker got away with what he did — he can walk away with no penalty whatsoever — while Perce got called names by the judge.

You can hear everything for yourself on the video below (and Justin Vacula has some excerpts on his site):

How Judge Martin’s ruling is considered an appropriate response to what happened, I don’t know. (Apparently, Perce’s video wasn’t allowed as evidence during the proceedings.) The verdict the judge issued included these words:

If [Elbayomy's] intent was to harass, annoy or alarm, I think there would have been a little bit more of an altercation, something far more substantial as far as testimony going on that there was a conflict. Because there was not, it is not proven to me beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is guilty of harassment. Therefore, I am going to dismiss the charge.

So… because Elbayomy didn’t physically hurt Perce more, he is allowed to get away with it? Would the judge have issued the same ruling if it had happened the other way around?

Sure, Perce was trying to be offensive, but that gives nobody the right to go after him like that. Knowing Perce, though, he may “fight back” by creating an army of Zombie Muhammads for next year’s parade…

There’s a good summary of the story here:



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Just what I would have expected had this  occurred in the UK. Too bad some judges here are making decisions based on political correctness and emotion rather than the U.S. Constitution.

  • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

    The attacker said his wife and kids were there so he “just had to do something”. I’m trying to think if I were in that situation and someone was making fun of science, or my worldview in any way what I would do. Laugh would probably be the answer. Or tell my kid that the guy was an idiot etc. The judge made the wrong call.

    • Anonymous

      The idea that violence is a way to solve this disagreement, or to save face, is just insane.  Doubly so in front of your family.

      • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

         Former Muslim here. If fear is how you control your family (and others) then this act makes perfect sense. The asshole isn’t insane, he’s a fucking obnoxious primitive with a belief system that demands and requires the use of force. In fact, he fell far short of what he was supposed to do. Technically, he reacted with restraint.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, so maybe atheists need to get aggressive and use intimation when someone challenges or makes fun of  Charles Darwin or the theory of evolution. How about issuing fatwas for burning copies the Origin of Species? Silly, I wonder how that would go over in the judges kangaroo court.

  • cipher

    One of the weaknesses of our judicial system is that there are many judges on the bench with a great deal of baggage, and some are just plain nuts. Unfortunately, the system is set up in such a way that once they’re appointed, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them.

  • T-Rex

    Another fine example of the religion of “peace” at work. An army of zombie Mohammeds is exactly what is needed for next year’s parade. I suggest they all carry baseball bats too.

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

      I agree. Too bad the left has done everything possible to make it difficult in many states to defend oneself effectively without resorting immediately to deadly force.

      • Anonymous

        What movie are you living in?

        • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

           A pretty fucking good one.

          • http://www.twitter.com/a_okafor007 Anthony C. Okafor

            You’re delusional

            • The Godless Monster

               I’m completely devastated that you should think so. Now go fuck yourself.

              • http://www.twitter.com/a_okafor007 Anthony C. Okafor

                I’ll go fuck myself when you skydive with no parachute, fuckboy :D

                • The Godless Monster

                   fuckboy?
                  I see you’ve discovered my superhero alter-ego. Ask your mother how I got it.

        • The Godless Monster

          I spent a good portion of my adult life working in private military in the middle east and corporate security and investigations stateside as well as LE. I’m a former use of force instructor and I have a concealed carry permit (concealed pistol license). The permit also allows me to carry impact weapons and certain other less than lethal weapons that could NOT be carried without a concealed carry permit. It’s bullshit that such options should be limited to certain people like myself. If given additional tools and options to defend oneself without breaking the law, we’d all be better off. I’ve been in dozens of altercations (professionally and otherwise) that didn’t require the use of deadly force, and I was happy to have a less than lethal option available to me. Nobody ethical or sane really wants to kill another human being, even if it’s necessary to do so. A rhetorical question: Who has done the most to limit the access of law abiding citizens to effective self defense options? The loons on the right or the loons on the left? You know the answer to that question.

          • Demonhype

            Sure.  The only problem is the loonies on the Right have created far more circumstances that encourage violence, including the joke of a legal and prison system that causes more problems than it purports to solve (being brutal and focused on being punative rather than rehabilitative–don’t get me started on the privatized prisons and the “school to prison pipeline” that’s been set up in some schools) and the corporate-imperial foreign policies they promote.  I’m in favor of gun rights for civilians, but at the same time I’d still rather live in a world where the need for those guns infinitely less due to a better quality of life available for all people, and the Right wing has absolutely no interest in that, being made up of rightwing corporate militarist authoritarians.

            Not to mention there are no “Lefties” left in politics.  Democrats are center-right and Republicans are batshit-insane rightwing extremists.  It would be incredibly nice if the “Left” everyone keeps whinging about actually existed and had any power in politics, rather than being  blamed for things done by the “proportional” left of the center-right.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              We’re one official party away from what they had in the Soviet Union.

              • Abhilash Dwarakanath

                What did they have in the soviet union?

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Democratic elections. It’s just that everyone was a member of the Communist party. But people actually did vote in elections with multiple real candidates. From what I’ve been told (by Russians and a Poli Sci prof) it was quite representative at the local level. As you went up the hierarchy the elections became more and more of a fixed rubber stamp.

    • Anonymous

      A parade that marches in front of that judge’s courtroom.  No need to wait until the next Halloween parade.  This needs to be organized immediately!

    • Anonymous

      Yes, because *more* bashing of other people’s beliefs is the way to make us all look good.  Good call.

      • James M

        We bash beliefs, not people.

      • Gordon Duffy

         Stop giving in to the bullies.

      • ZombieL

        If people stop dressing up like zombie Mohammed, then the terrorists have won…

        • cohoster123

           I’ve seen so many dumb fucks throughout my life. I haven’t seen someone as fucking stupid as you.
          Its about time for you to start using your head. God gave it to you for a reason, and your reply is certainly not it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/reapsow1 Reap Paden

         I don’t get it. Is there some atheist bylaw that you must be sure your behavior makes all atheists look good? How exactly is one supposed to find out if their behavior is going to make atheists look good/ bad? The fact is people do things in differing ways, accept it. I would suggest also you attempt to limit how much you  allow the behavior of others define you. It tends to be difficult to control the actions of others, I won’t hold it against you…

  • Anonymous

    You have the right to be offended. You do not have the right to assault someone.

    • Demonhype

      This is it in a nutshell.  Is this so hard to understand?  I’d like to see what would happen if I slapped the next person who tells me that atheists are all rapists and murderers–something tells me I wouldn’t be having those assault charges dismissed.

  • Ronlawhouston

    Sounds like the cop didn’t charge the attacker with the right crime.  There is also a concept in the law called “fighting words.”  It allows certain speech to be criminalized because of the likelihood of inciting violence.  The Judge probably came to same conclusion Hemant did.  The victim was a bit of a dick, the incident was minor and since the charge wasn’t correct he let the attacker walk.  No one ever said justice is just.

    • Carrie

      I really don’t think this qualifies as fighting words. You have to be a much bigger dick than that. This is a case of heckler’s veto being given a free pass. 

    • David McNerney

      The judge could easily have encapsulated all that in a judgement: by finding the attacker guilty he would have protected the freedom of speech issue but by handing down a trivial sentence he could have recognised the dickishness of the “victim”.

    • Demonhype

       I guess I don’t see physical assault to be a “minor incident”.  And doesn’t justice kind of imply being just, by right of including the freaking term “just”?

      Also, Carrie is right.  This doesn’t qualify as fighting words.  That’s not just a get-out-of-jail-free card for people who assault others because their feelings were hurt, even if they are religious feelings, but it looks like it’s being invoked more and more  (which was my fear when they started that crap in the first place–who didn’t see it as being used as a justification for silencing unpopular views?).  If that’s true, I should be able to slap anyone who tells me that I’m a morally bankrupt human being because I’m an atheist–that’s not only insulting, it’s personally insulting.  Fortunately, I’m an actually civilized person who doesn’t assault people because I don’t like what they have to say.

  • Anonymous

    I agree it may have been dickish to dress that way but there are no laws I’m aware of against it.  I sure hope no one gets attacked on draw the prophet muhamed day.  Also, no one reserves the right to not be offended.  A reasonable reaction might have been to yell “asshole” at the guy or something but a physical attack obviously crosses the line.  To blame the fella in the costume is akin to blaming the rape victim for “asking for it”.  That judge is seriously suspect and I hope that there is some review of his utterly ridiculous ruling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Larry.Henry.Carter.Center Larry Carter Center

    The Atheist street fight will continue where ever religious nuts are allowed special privilege over all equal secular citizens.  The judge is a defacto theocrat rationalizing Saudi government murder is akin to choking & assault upon a person in Pennsylvania.

            Consider the same “parade” in front of abortion clinics RIGHT NOW 40 Days For LIES is a Catholic scam causing religious terrorism of women & their healthcare workers for 40 days 24/7 nearest medical facilities where reproductive healthcare is provided. 
           We Volunteer Bodyguards need to form human shields around women who park their cars across the street to protect them walking into the clinic from dozens of insane screaming fanatics who demand they “come with us” and stay pregnant.

            Every single crime of assault, vandalism, trespass & harassment IS NEVER resulting in any arrests of a religious criminal for over a decade here in Charleston, SC.

            Judges & cops are enabling these believers JUST AS the judge in PA has a Muslim.

            The brutality of Catholics raping children, their own believer children has been rationalized by the Nazi Pimp Pope himself, Joe Ratzinger alias Benedick as he said it is worse to make a female priest than to rape a child.

            Yes Saudi’s chopped off the head of Sadeq Mullahlah & many others in the past 20 years, but Amerika must be turned away from the road enabling more religious violence.  We Atheists must make this our issue with more than dufus parades & instead qualify to become judges, become the better cops & elect secularists to office.

            843-926-1750 Dial an Atheist Larry

    • Demonhype

       Yet an atheist mocking a religious belief is totally worse than all of that, of course.  What is wrong with this world?

  • TiltedHorizon

    So the next time Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Bigots decide to harass a funeral to promote their anti-gay agenda does this ruling apply?

  • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

    So no “crazy fundy Christian” went after the guy dressed as the Pope?  Go figure…

    • John Purcell

       Bet there were a few who thought about it, tho’…

      • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

         Oh, of course. *massive eye-rolling*

        • Neil

          Yeah, roll those eyes, we all know that christians are never, ever violent to those who they deem heretics, sinners, or enemies…oh, say, what’s that article previous to this one…something about christians destroying families, inciting religious violence, and persecuting innocent children as witches, was it?  (rolls eyes twice as hard as the dumbass dishonest Jinx, and waits for excuses.)

          • Nordog

             Of course the fundie Christians are gonna be upset over Zombie Pope.  Fundie Christians don’t even think the pope is Christian to begin with.

          • http://www.facebook.com/reapsow1 Reap Paden

             I had a waitress at Outback Steakhouse  grab a steak knife off the plate of someone dining with me, point it at me and say “you shut up” because I wouldn’t agree with her beliefs. I don’t think she was going to actually stab me but she was pissed off. I live in CA I can only imagine what happens in other parts of the country

  • http://twitter.com/thesilverspiral Naya Aerodiode

    No. No religion gets a free pass from mockery. Not a single one. This judge needs to go back to the Constitution and re-read it.

    • cohoster123

       You know, people like you are the reason why this world is fucked up. You have no right to mock anyone’s beliefs.
      Everyone has his rights to believe in anything either by being a Muslim or worshiping a fucking ant. Just mind your own fucking business and find something better to do.
      I’m thinking that idiot had it coming.

  • https://www.facebook.com/joebible?ref=tn_tnmn Doug Philips

    Instead of a zombie pope, I wish the other guy was dressed as a zombie jesus. The juxtaposition of zombie jesus and zombie mohammad would have been more effective satire and ridicule for all the fundies here in ‘Merica.

    I have a bunch of friends that are Muslims and they are good dudes, but as Islam grows globally, especially here in the US, this mohammad things is going to become a bigger problem. We may have to have big zombie jesus and mohammad events, and have more incidents like this one, to to protect freedom of speech. Of course, people will get killed. Oh the madness.

    Imagine a day when we no longer have to concern ourselves with all this make-believe nonsense. Then we can focus on improving the human condition instead of appeasing the silly people.

  • Anonymous

    The defendants lawyer brings up Mr Perce’s attitude. What does his attitude have to do with anything? Was he doing something illegal? What ever the provocation, violence was not the answer and the judge was wrong.

  • Michael
    • John Purcell

       In the audio, he says he IS, but he’s now claiming to the journalist who did the story that he’s a Christian.

      • Michael

        Well hopefully the court records are what will count if there’s an appeal.

    • Thesaintsrevenge

      There is absolute fact that he is. Had the poster used a blog that was more thought out and well written, like Reap’s blog and not Justin’s blog the facts would be clear. The Judge was and is a Muslim, he admitted to it. Watch the trial

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv9IyrpOnbs&feature=related
      scroll to 31:15-31:30  He admits he’s a muslim!

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I don’t think ‘admit’ is the right word to use about someone’s religious belief (or lack thereof).  I never ‘admit’ to being an atheist.  There’s nothing wrong with him being a Muslim per se (other than being an adult and believing in any fairy tale).  The problem is that his views on Islam clearly affected his decision.

        • C. Hugh Later

           Correct.  Muslim judges are fine, if they are able to separate their personal beliefs from the administration of justice.  PA has a judicial code of conduct that prohibits a conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest.  The judge’s comments are very revealing, even if he misspoke when he said he’s a Muslim.

  • Ada

    take it to a higher court.

    • John Purcell

       Can’t be done. There is no right of the prosecution to appeal a finding of not guilty, and jeopardy has attached so no additional charges can be brought. It’s a done deal.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I would assume there’s still the possibility of Civil charges, no?

        In any case, my suggested solution is to show up in force next year.  Lots of Zombie Muhammads, with 9-year-old-brides, and dobermans dressed as  Korans.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    Draw Muhammad, dress up as Muhammad, what’s the difference? I dunno why the former is a strong commitment to upholding our rights and pointing out the lunacy of Muslim censorship, while the latter is dickish and alienating.

  • FSq

    This is akin to the old rulings regarding rape. It is the old “she was asking for it dressed so provocatively, so she had it coming. Case dismissed.” 

    This. Sickens. Me.

    • Really??

      How can you watch that video and think it is at all similar to rape?

      • FlyingVee

        I think FSq meant this is a case of “Blaming the victim”, hopefully not meaning it is akin to rape.

      • The Godless Monster

         FSq wasn’t comparing this incident to rape, just that the judge blamed the victim…just like rape victims used to -and sometimes still do-get blamed. I’m sure you agree that this just sucks, right?

  • C. Hugh Later

    Here in Pennsylvania, these low-level judges are NOT required to be attorneys.  This judge is simply a military cop (and perhaps a former civil cop….I’m not sure about that) who was elected by a patriotic (mostly Republican) electorate subject to “soldier sympathy”).  Curiously, in this mixed up world of Mechanicsburg, PA, the Chief of Police *is* a lawyer, but the judge is not.  Additionally, when the TV reporter wanted to interview the judge, the judge declined, but told the reporter to call the defense counsel, who could speak for the judge!!!

  • http://twitter.com/janthewordnerd Jan Rodak

    Silly story on both ends .. but the Muslim did not know this guy was an Atheist, and that had no bearing on the story in any form.

    • C. Hugh Later

       Hello??  Their parade banner said, “The Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania:  Ghoulish, Godless, God=Awful”.  So he should have known.  But he probably would have attacked regardless.  And the judge (who had a Koran on the bench) should have known too and NOT offered a Bible to the atheist.

  • Anonymous

    I mean I guess I could see how dressing up as zombie Muhammad could be seen as making one a dick or a bitch, but we do it all the time for Jesus. It seems kind of hypocritical to treat Muhammad differently. We should decide one way or the other how we will act for all false prophets.

  • LVatheist

    Ernest is an angry atheist, he is not a friendly atheist.  He is argumentative, combative, and seeks out conflict.  He is insulting, his language is derisive, and he puts himself in situations looking for this kind of altercation to occur.  He uses this “attack”, to shamelessly self-promote & self-validate his own personal agenda and a-religious zealotry.   He may have a large soapbox, with his blog & his radio show & his American Atheists officer position – but his behavior, his actions, and his caustic religious intolerance is not representative of, what I believe is, the growing secular movement in this country.   He embarrasses me, for the general public to confuse his “atheism” with my “atheism”.   He does a disservice to this community, by misrepresenting atheists as destructionists with an intellectual superiority complex.

    • scinquiry

       I completely agree.  We, as Atheists, must take the higher road.  I recognize that religious people are people too.  Even if they have irrational beliefs.  Under no circumstance does being a dick serve us well.  I am reminded of a quote from Sam Harris:

      “We do not know what awaits each of us
      after death, but we know that we will die. Clearly, it must be possible
      to live ethically–with a genuine concern for the happiness of other
      sentient beings–without presuming to know things about which we are
      patently ignorant. Consider it: every person you have ever met, every
      person you will pass in the street today, is going to die. Living long
      enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are
      going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to
      be anything but kind to them in the meantime?” – Sam Harris

      I find it ironic that many Atheists portray the same bigotry and cruelty of those religious extremists we are trying to combat. 

      Another cheesy quote, but still good words to live by:

      “Let a man overcome anger by kindness, evil by
      good…. Victory breeds hatred, for the conquered is unhappy…. Never
      in the world does hatred cease by hatred; hatred ceases by love.”

      Of course they were both in the wrong.  But only one was wrong legally.  The other was just being a giant dick.

  • Y2khan4

     They were both in the wrong. But only one was wrong legally. The other was just being a giant dick.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Weaver/100000377905225 Mike Weaver

    This seems like a frivolousness case by Athiests. If he were really being choked he wouldn’t be talking. The “dead Mohammad” didn’t act the least bit threatened. In fact he stood his ground and defended himself. 
    We bring discredit upon ourselves when we act like some professional athlete do  and fall down when someone touches us.

  • SteveS

     I don’t see Ernest as being a dick. I see him  protesting something that is blatantly  ridiculous to all of us here. Maybe this will cause some Muslims to wake up. I don’t think this is a low road; the only low roads I see are violence, slander, and any attempt to deny people their inalienable rights. This was not in the “dick” category. This was a pleasantly surprising and comedic form of activism. I have no problem with ridicule – atheists like us have to tolerate it all the time from idiots like Ray Comfort and Pat Robertson, and we don’t seem to whine about it, but argue against it on rational ground. If we have done that, we may certainly proceed to ridicule these people’s beliefs. It’s sad we can’t trust people to exercise self-restraint.

  • Fastthumbs

    If some guy on the street is wearing a sign that says “The end is near. Repent.” I can assault him for calling me a sinner and offending me? 

  • Ndonnan

    Wellpeople what you found out from this little escapade is the reason i think this whole site hangs crap 99% on christianaty is its much safer to do so than islam.Try it and see what happens! If hermunt posted articals about Muhommad and Islam with all the derogitory comments,it wont be long till hes in hiding like Salmun Rushdie. So my advice is stick to hanging it on Christians,we will love you regardless

  • Keulan

    Mark Martin does not deserve to be a judge, since he clearly has a terrible understanding of the Constitution.

  • Anonymous

    The police officer was impressive in the interview; how often do we see a police officer with a vastly greater understanding of the Constitution than the judge?  Seems to usually work the other way.

  • Anonymous

    Gee, ANOTHER Judge who just
    doesn’t get FREEDOM 

    (nor individual rights and the
    Constitution from which it is based)

  • LifeinTraffic

    There are morons on all sides. An acquaintance of mine on Facebook just linked this story on Yahoo, and then commented “Welcome to Obama’s Amerika! Anyone who thinks peace can be achieved by giving in is a fool!”

  • today

    Ya but when people(anyone) in America is exercising their Freedom of speech, they are attacked by our government….

    First off there’s nothing in the video that shows him attacking him, secondly he never stops talking or has his voice impaired(from choking), thirdly he was obviously fine enough to keep talking shit. 

    I am in no way excusing violent attacks but there was no evidence of that, and people should be more tolerant of each other, including muslims. Bitches get offended… But I wonder what provokes someone to go out and promote this negativity? Being offended, “Hey They’re preaching/talking about something I don’t agree with. I am offended, so now I will retaliate with the same opposite reaction in hopes to offend them” 

    People that do what Ernest did are just trying to create some sort of uprising/reaction out of someone. There is plenty of stupidity, and ignorance, but it barely seems like he attacked him. People are so quick to judge and make their minds up, and this guy honestly just seems like he was rattled, because he was being a dick, someone rattled him, and NOW HE WANTS RESTITUTION! haha dude I’ve been attacked plenty of times for no reason except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You didn’t hear that on the news did you?

    Can’t you see that the only time anything at all is news worthy is when It’s promoting negativity, and trying to fluster you onto their side. How many cases that you know of because you new the person(s) involved and no telling of that gets covered…. Because they are trying to spread separateness and promote/excuse their actions, and get you to the side.

    How many times are you going to allow your worldview created by the reflections of others, portrayed to you by the government/companies/corporations/greedy people determine whether or not you have an outcry…?

    Returning hurt for hurt never helped anyone. We kill people because they kill people and killing people is bad. 

  • Rick

    This Carl sounds like a real dick and I’d laugh if he got his ass kicked but I’d be outraged if a judge allowed it.

  • Guest

    I thought this guy was attacked but then I watched the video. The muslim pulled on a fake beard and tried to take a sign away. I was hoping to see a good ass kicking. 


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