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Pennsylvania “Sharia Court”: Loons Jump the Gun AGAIN on Ginned up “Legal Jihad”

Zombie Atheists

Zombie Pope and Zombie Muhammad Marching in a Halloween Parade

by Ilisha

(H/T: CriticalDragon1177)

All across the looniverse, there is an uproar over an alleged triumph of Sharia in a Pennsylvania court case presided over by a “Muslim” judge.  It’s not the first time anti-Muslim bigots pounced on a story of so-called “legal jihad” before they got their facts straight.

This time, Pennsylvania State Director of American Atheists, Ernest Perce V, was parading down the street as “Zombie Muhammad,” when an outraged Muslim bystander allegedly grabbed him, choked him from behind, and attempted to remove a “Muhammad of Islam” sign from around his neck. Both men complained to  police, Perce for assault and Elbayomy because he apparently thought insulting Islam was a criminal offense.

Perce filed charges, but a judge dismissed the case after he allegedly said, “I’m a Muslim,” and chastised the atheist in question for his misinterpretation and lack of understanding concerning Islam. Judge Martin is not a Muslim, and later said himself he is Lutheran.

Parts of the court video are garbled, and it seems he either misspoke or part of his statement was inaudible.  In any case, his statements and decision to dismiss the case have sparked a fresh controversy over  the limits of free speech.

The judge said in part:

Before you start mocking someone else’s religion you may want to find out a little bit more about it. That makes you look like a doofus…

Here in our society, we have a constitution that gives us many rights, specifically, First Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others. I don’t think that’s what our forefathers really intended. I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.

I don’t think you’re aware, sir, there’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – uh, I understand you’re an atheist. But, see, Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture, their culture. It’s their very essence, their very being. They pray five times a day towards Mecca. To be a good Muslim, before you die, you have to make a pilgrimage to Mecca unless you are otherwise told you cannot because you are too ill, too elderly, whatever. But you must make the attempt…

Then what you have done is you’ve completely trashed their essence, their being. They find it very, very, very offensive. I’m a Muslim, I find it offensive. [Unintelligble] aside was very offensive.

But you have that right, but you’re way outside your bounds on First Amendment rights.


The inflammatory headline was followed by, “Infidel victim, Ernest Perce, has received 471 verifiable threats.” No source was cited to substantiate the claim.

Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch declared:

This is enforcement of Sharia in a Pennsylvania court. The attacker supposedly got off because he “is an immigrant and claims he did not know his actions were illegal, or that it was legal in this country to represent Muhammad in any form. To add insult to injury, he also testified that his 9 year old son was present, and the man said he felt he needed to show his young son that he was willing to fight for his Prophet.”

Though part of the statement on Jihad Watch is in quotes, it’s unclear who Spencer is quoting. A full transcript of the judges statement is here, and the defendant’s immigrant status and lack of legal knowledge are not cited as reasons for dismissing the case.

Spencer also doesn’t explain how this is an example of Sharia. What Islamic Law did the judge cite in this case? Spencer doesn’t say, and apparently that’s fine with his no-evidence-required audience.

Although Eugene Volokh of  The Volokh Conspiracy strongly disagreed with the judge’s decision, he said:

…This is not a situation where the judge “applied Sharia law” in any normal sense of the phrase. The judge claimed that he simply didn’t find enough evidence against the defendant. Perhaps the judge was biased against the victim because of the victim’s anti-Muslim speech, but an anti-Sharia law wouldn’t have helped avoid that. More broadly, a law banning judges from “consider[ing] … Sharia Law” (in the words of the Oklahoma anti-Sharia amendment) wouldn’t keep judges from concluding that someone who insults members of other religious groups should be admonished, punished, or even stripped of the right to legal protection — they would just conclude this based on their own notions of refraining from offending other groups….

The case has nothing do with Sharia, and everything to do with the interpretation and application of American Law.

In the US, free speech is protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, and in most cases, speech that is distasteful, inflammatory, racist, sexist, or even outright hate speech, is usually permitted. However, there are exceptions, including “fighting words” and “incitement to imminent lawless action.” Though the judge did tell the plaintiff it was his opinion he’d gone way outside the bounds of free speech, this was not the stated reason for dismissing the case.

In response to the controversy, Judge Martin gave a statement clarifying :  ((H/T: Just Stopping By)

This story certainly has legs. As you might imagine, the public is only getting the version of the story put out by the “victim” (the atheist). Many, many gross misrepresentations. Among them: I’m a Muslim, and that’s why I dismissed the harassment charge (Fact: if anyone cares, I’m actually Lutheran, and have been for at least 41 years).

I also supposedly called him and threatened to throw him in jail if he released the tapes he had made in the courtroom without my knowledge/permission (Fact: HE called ME and told me that he was ready to “go public” with the tapes and was wondering what the consequences would be; I advised him again to not disseminate the recording, and that I would consider contempt charges; he then replied that he was “willing to go to jail for (his) 1st amendment rights”- I never even uttered the word “jail” in that conversation).

He said that I kept a copy of the Quran on the bench (fact: I keep a Bible on the bench, but out of respect to people with faiths other than Christianity, I DO have a Quran on the bookcase BESIDE my bench, and am trying to acquire a Torah, Book of Mormon, Book of Confucius and any other artifacts which those with a faith might respect).

He claims that I’m biased towards Islam, apparently because he thinks I’m Muslim. In fact, those of you who know me, know that I’m an Army reservist with 27 years of service towards our country (and still serving). I’ve done one tour in Afghanistan, and two tours in Iraq, and am scheduled to return to Afghanistan for a year this summer. During my first tour in Iraq, I was ambushed once, attacked by a mob once, sniped at once, and rocketed, bombed, and mortared so many times that I honestly don’t know how many time I’ve been attacked. Presumably by Muslim insurgents. My point: if anyone SHOULD be biased towards Muslims, one would think it would be me. I’m not, however, because I personally know or have met many good, decent people who follow Islam, and I shouldn’t characterize the actions of those who tried to kill me as characterizations of all Muslims.

When I asked him why he dressed up as “Muhammad zombie,” he told me that it was because he was reflecting the Muslim belief that Muhammad rose from the dead, walked as a zombie, and then went to heaven. That was one of the reasons I tried to spend 6 whole minutes trying to explain and de-mystify Islam through my own knowledge, and in an attempt to prevent an incident like this recurring in my community. Unfortunately, the message was obviously not received in the vein that I had intended. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I did use the word “doofus,” but didn’t call him that directly; I said something akin to “ if you’re going to mock another religion or culture, you should check your facts, first- otherwise, you’ll look like a doofus.”;

In short, I based my decision on the fact that the Commonwealth failed to prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that the charge was just; I didn’t doubt that an incident occurred, but I was basically presented only with the victim’s version, the defendant’s version, and a very intact Styrofoam sign that the victim was wearing and claimed that the defendant had used to choke him. There so many inconsistencies, that there was no way that I was going to find the defendant guilty.

A lesson learned here: there’s a very good reason for Rule 112 of Rules of Criminal Procedure- if someone makes an unauthorized recording in a Court not of Record, there’s no way to control how it might be manipulated later, and then passed off as the truth. We’ve received dozens upon dozens of phone calls, faxes, and e-mails. There are literally hundreds of not-so-nice posts all over the internet on at least 4 sites that have carried this story, mainly because I’ve been painted as a Muslim judge who didn’t recuse himself, and who’s trying to introduce Sharia law into Mechanicsburg.

Attempts to link the case to Islamic Law are illogical and absurd, but will no doubt provide convincing “evidence” for those already inclined to believe “creeping sharia” is a genuine threat to America.

However, the case may very well spark a wider debate. The idea that a judge may have sacrificed free speech on the alter of religious and cultural sensitivity is bound to attract attention, especially as Western democracies increasingly grapple with issues of multiculturalism, provocation, and the boundaries of free speech.


The judge’s controversial statements begin in minute 29:

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  • Patrick James

    Ilisha, thanks for your detailed reply. I readily agree with you that Sharia was not invoked in dismissing the complaint. I was not arguing that myself.

    What I was concerned about was that the judge told the plaintiff that he had stepped well outside the boundary of his first amendment rights. But from what I have read on other blog sites, the judge’s assertion is inaccurate. Do you agree?

  • Just Stopping By

    @Ilisha and @Patrick James: I should have also noted that Zombie Muhammad was also not “the complainant” as Patrick James said.

  • Just Stopping By

    @Ilisha says, “Zombie Muhammad was the plaintiff, not the defendant,…”

    Actually, this was a criminal case, so the government was the plaintiff, as in “the people versus alleged assailant.” Zombie Muhammad was technically just a witness, as well as the (alleged) victim. In part, that’s part of the reason for somee of the outrage: Zombie Muhammad was not a party to the case and one could argue in some sense therefore did not sign up to be lectured by the judge.

  • Ilisha

    @Patrick James

    I repeat:

    People who plainly don’t have the first clue about Islamic Law immediately made the unsubstantiated claim the judge based his decision on Sharia.

    Sharia is derived primarily from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Did the judge cite some primary or secondary source of Islamic Law? Did he mention Islamic jurisprudence or Islamic case law of any kind? If he did, please show me the evidence.

    The judge is not a Muslim and he didn’t employ Sharia. If someone wants to say otherwise, produce the evidence.


    Simply throwing around the word “Sharia” doesn’t constitute evidence.

    As I have also mentioned several times, the judge dismissed the case because of insufficient evidence. The rest was commentary.

    Usually a free speech defense is invoked by the defendant, not the plaintiff. As I mentioned in the article, most speech is permitted in the US, with very few exceptions.

    Zombie Muhammad was the plaintiff, not the defendant, and thus he wasn’t using a free speech defense. He didn’t need to because he wasn’t defending himself. He was scolded and may have felt on the defensive, but he was not the person charged with an offense.

    The judge didn’t deprive anyone of free speech rights. He gave a controversial lecture.

    Some argue he was biased, or that he failed to protect Zombie Muhammad’s right to exercise free speech unmolested. However, if there isn’t enough evidence for a conviction, then what options does the judge have? Should he manufacture evidence?

    The plaintiff is still free to exercise his right to free speech by parading around as Zombie Muhammad.

    As I said before, people are free to judge the arguments/evidence and draw their own conclusions. I’m still open to changing my position, but that would require actual evidence.

  • Patrick James

    Illisha, the judge lectured the complainant about how he had hurt a Muslim’s feelings, how he had offended their very essence. This was done by insulting Mohammed. This is Sharia Law in action, it is the very same Sharia that has seen the rage over the accidental burning of the Korans in Afghanistan. Those who mock Mohammed die. Would the judge have lectured the complainant if an aggrieved Catholic had attacked him? I doubt it. I am an Aussie and I do not pretend to know all the ins and outs of your first amendment, but I would be surprised if “He hurt my feelings by what he said” is a legitimate reason to restrict free speech.

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Ah, THAT would agree with, though in all fairness I wouldn’t be likely to take either individual’s story at face value. People lie, and more often than not about dumb things, but especially about things that could get them in trouble.

  • Believing Atheist

    @Zakariya Ali Sher,

    Sir, I believe you misunderstood. The multiple translations of his name is not what makes him a liar. In my opinion telling two different and contradictory stories makes him a liar.

    According to the Dictionary a liar is:

    a person who has lied or lies repeatedly

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    @ Believing Atheist:

    Spelling variations are not uncommon for many Muslim names, given that many of us have roots in countries where the Arabic script or some variant is used, and many sounds such as qaf (ق), ghayn (غ) and kha (خ) simply don’t exist in English. Turkish and Azeri have standardized the Latin script, but even so, I fear most Americans wouldn’t recognize ‘Ramazan’ as being ‘Ramadan.’ I’ve seen DOZENS of different spellings for Gaddafi/Qadhafi/Khaddafi/Gadhafi/Qaddafi/etc, but in ARABIC his name is consistently spelled as قذافي, and indeed can ONLY be spelled as such.

    I wouldn’t say that multiple transliterations of his name automatically make him a liar; it could very well be that other people are having difficulty transliterating his name.

  • Ilisha

    @Believing Atheist

    “Now if you contradict yourself and tell two different stories what does that make you? A truth-teller?”

    If everyone who tells a lie is immediately transformed into a “big time liar who lacks credibility,” then I think that describes pretty much everyone.

    Maybe he lied. Maybe he was nervous and confused, and maybe his English isn’t very good. You’re simply assuming that he not only lied, but that he is a liar.

    Have you read the police report?

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume he lied.

    That doesn’t change the fact there was insufficient evidence. The evidence in the case remains unchanged.

    We have the sworn, contradictory testimony of the plaintiff and the defendant, and a poor quality video that doesn’t really tell us what happened.

  • Believing Atheist

    First we should not be threatening this Judge. We are not a nation of vigilantism. We are a nation of law. If you don’t like the judge there is a legal way to remove him.

    Furthermore, let’s tell the whole story. The judge is not alone in receiving death threats.

    “I have also been informed that both Perce and Martin have received death threats, which is a sad reflection on our society. Perce was exercising his free speech and this Judge was doing what he believed was required under the law. I obviously have questions about the decision and objections to some of the comments. However, there are some people who seem eager to add mindless threats and violence to such disagreements. The suggestion that Judge Martin was “applying Sharia” law in the United States is silly. He never suggested that he was applying the same standard or approved of putting people to death for insulting the Prophet. While I believe his comments were worthy of criticism, the attacks on his character and loyalty are grossly unfair.”

    Now if you contradict yourself and tell two different stories what does that make you? A truth-teller?

    I will inform you about why the Judge didn’t let Zombie Pope testify once I know.

  • Ilisha

    @Believing Atheist

    “So Elbayomy is a big time liar who lacks credibility.”

    How did you come to that conclusion?

    I would like to know why the judge wouldn’t let Zombie Pope testify. Is there evidence of this, besides the plaintiff’s word? If so, what reason was given?

    From the Washington Post article:

    “The uproar led the court system on Tuesday to temporarily move Martin as a security precaution to the county courthouse in Carlisle, about 10 miles from his regular courthouse in the Harrisburg suburbs.

    The judge had to leave his regular courtroom as a security precaution? Over this?!? Given the uproar, you’d think he let a confessed child serial killer go free.

    All this hysteria and outrage…largely from people who regularly rail against Muslims for their alleged hair-trigger outrage. Amazing.

  • Believing Atheist

    First I want to say that I just got this update from the Washington Post a half an hour ago.

    “Martin said he dismissed the case for lack of evidence after Elbayomy testified that the confrontation was not physical, an apparent contradiction of what he told police the day of the parade. Court records spelled his first name Talaag, an online listing had Talaat and Perce’s video called him Talaaq.”

    So Elbayomy is a big time liar who lacks credibility.

    As for the comments concerning eyewitnesses:

    “Perce says that the person dressed as the Pope did appear in court to testify but Martin refused to allow him to testify. Perce notes that on 33:15 on the tape you can hear the witness (the VOmbie Pope) and the judge say, “put your hands down you’re not a witness.”

    Turley also says:

    Putting aside the basis for an assault charge, it would seem that the video shows at a minimum an intent “to harass, annoy or alarm another person.” (Same source).

  • Ilisha

    @Believing Atheist

    “…admitted he attacked the atheist because he felt there was an insult to Islam.”

    No, he didn’t admit that he “attacked” the plaintiff. He admitted he was offended and confronted the plaintiff, but in court, the defendant testified he didn’t actually touch Zombie Muhammad.

    Zombie Muhammad says he did touch him, and that’s why the judge said it’s one person’s word against the other. The plaintiff wasn’t injured and there was no destruction of property.

    Once again, let’s remember that the prosecutor apparently didn’t think this rose to the level of an assault, because the charge was harassment:

    The only evidence we have of harassment is:

    1) a grainy video that doesn’t show what actually happened
    2) a phantom eyewitness police report no one can produce
    3) the defendant’s “confession” that he was offended and confronted the plaintiff.

    The controversy seems to arise largely from the judge’s editorial comments. But there is a distinction between holding and dictum–editorial comments are not usually authoritative in the case.

    Now, some may argue his commentary exposes bias, but either there was evidence to convict or there wasn’t. The judge dismissed the case due to insufficient evidence, and the rest is his commentary.

    In short, I agree with what Garibaldi wrote, and especially this: “In the end I’ll just say this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion.

    Obviously, visitors are free to evaluate the evidence/arguments and decide for themselves if they want to sign a petition against the judge.

  • Just Stopping By

    @Believing Athiest says, “I quote professor Turley: Notably, however, Martin says that he didn’t doubt that the incident occurred…”

    That’s obviously a second-hand source. Do we know exactly what Martin stated the he believed occurred? Did he say that “some incident” occurred, for example, or that one guy got physical with another, or that there was a loud argument?

    I don’t have the time to review the tape of the hearing, but if someone who is interested could post a link and a cite to the right point in time (and if they are really nice, their own transcription of what the judge said), perhaps this discussion would be a lot clearer for everyone.

  • khushboo

    Did the muslim defendant actually admitted to hurting the so-called victim? were there any bruises? is there proof that he physically hurt him? or was it just the defendant admitting to removing his mask and a verbal attack?

  • Believing Atheist


    That’s not entirely accurate because the Judge admits the Muslim admitted he attacked the atheist because he felt there was an insult to Islam.

    I quote law professor Turley:

    Notably, however, Martin says that he didn’t doubt that the incident occurred and the defendant admitted that he acted in response to an insult to Islam. Yet, this is not viewed as sufficient to sustain a harassment charge.

  • Believing Atheist

    Okay everybody see if this is a factually accurate petition. Again it was not written by me but I think it is the best one I’ve seen so far.

    It reads:

    Last October, Ernie Perce was attacked during a Halloween parade by Talaag Elbayomy. Elbayomy’s motive: Perce was wearing a “zombie Mohammed” costume, which offended Elbayomy as a Muslim. He believed that he needed to defend his Prophet and show his young son that those who insult Islam must b silenced.

    There was video evidence (Elbayomy cannot be seen on the video, but he can be heard yelling at Perce and the sounds of a struggle can also be heard) of the attack and testimony from a police officer to whom Elbayomy ADMITTED attacking Perce. Judge Mark Martin excluded this evidence and dismissed the charge of harassment against Elbayomy, then lectured Perce, the victim, on Islam and scolded him for his behavior (which is protected under the First Amendment).

    There are many countries where assaults on those who speak against Islam are permitted or even encouraged by the government. America should not be one of those countries. Judge Martin’s actions show that he believes that if an atheist expresses his beliefs and offends a religious person, then the religious person has a right to batter the person who offends him. No judge should be allowed to use his position to condone violence against atheists or any other religious group. No judge should be allowed to essentially confer immunity from the law on a person based on his religion. This is America, and we are not barbarians. This is a country of laws. Our right to free speech is enshrined in our Constitution, and that right is meaningless if the justice system allows people to be assaulted for exercising it. The Bill of Rights does not include right not to be offended, for Muslims or anyone else.

    We must demand that this situation be taken seriously by the state of Pennsylvania and that Judge Mark Martin be investigated for judicial misconduct. No judge should be above the law he is sworn to uphold.

  • Garibaldi

    Here are some facts:

    1.) Judge is NOT a Muslim.
    2.) Judge has affinity to faith in general, due to his tour in Iraq he believes he has knowledge of Islam and can speak on it. (I believe he never should have said anything)
    3.) Judge lecturing the atheist using the language he did was inappropriate, however did he violate a procedural rule or any other rule in this regard? This point seems to me to be the reason why so many got upset at the judge.
    4.) Judge did throw out the video. The video is not convincing to anyone that the zombie atheist was attacked. Is there another video? I thought there was another one that I had seen but can’t find anymore which I find strange.
    5.) Did the judge throw out the Police officer’s report? If so, why?
    6.) Judge claims he based his decision solely on the law and the fact that there is not enough evidence against the defendant, nothing else.

    I also find it interesting the group think that emerges…even amongst *gasp* atheists. Atheists do not have an infallibility cloak when it comes to logic and reason. They are as susceptible when they feel one of their tribe has been injured or dealt with unjustly to get heated and upset. Clearly this is how the story has reached them, even though there are many conflicting accounts as to what happened. The zombie atheist himself has a part to play in spreading misinformation, claiming the judge was Muslim, buying into the “sharia” hype, etc. He is also clearly antagonistic and not shy from trying to capitalize on this through media attention.

    If the Muslim did put his hands on the guy that would be assault. We know the Muslim got offended by the zombie portrayal, for some reason he thought it was illegal (maybe cuz he’s an immigrant), there was an incident, but did he actually assault the zombie atheist, did he harass him, or in anyway go beyond the law? The police officer said the Muslim admitted to such, however the Muslim claims he didn’t at court. The main thing I’d like to know is why was the police officer’s report deemed not worthy of being admitted if indeed it wasn’t as @The Truth claims above.

    In the end I’ll just say this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion.

  • Ilisha

    @Believing Atheist

    You’re once again making assumptions. I haven’t said what I think of the judge’s decision. I try very hard not to make snap judgments, especially without a careful evaluation of the facts.

    TheTruth made assertions, and I asked for the evidence. Where’s the clear video, and where’s the police eye witness testimony? I would like to see this evidence.

    If people are going to sign a petition against this judge, they should have the facts first, so they can make an informed decision. This is important when your actions may have an impact on someone’s career and reputation.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    @Believing Atheist

    Thanks. I’ll take a look at your sources.

  • Believing Atheist


    Come on you need more proof that the Judge was wrong?

    I gave you the Muslim man’s confession.

    A previous link to Turley’s blog contained the video.

    Now here is the latest update of the bias of this IMBECILE JUDGE MARK MARTIN:

    First, while the judge insisted in his later statement that there was simply no witnesses to the incident to support the charge, Perce says that the person dressed as the Pope did appear in court to testify but Martin refused to allow him to testify. Perce notes that on 33:15 on the tape you can hear the witness (the VOmbie Pope) and the judge say, “put your hands down you’re not a witness.” Second, Martin refused to allow the admission of the cellphone video (though he did allow the admission of a statement of Perce on the YouTube video that Perce made later to show his alleged bias against Muslims).

  • Ilisha


    “The judge threw out the evidence (video tape and police eyewitness testimony) and then concluded there was a lack of evidence.”

    I must not have seen the correct video, or I missed something, because I couldn’t make out exactly what happened. Can you link to a video (maybe from a different angle) where we can really see the altercation? Maybe highlight the time frame for us?

    Also, please provide a link to the “police eyewitness testimony.” The reports I read (as noted in this article) suggested both men searched and found a police officer. There’s no mention of an officer on the scene.

    I think your sources would be helpful for people trying to evaluate the evidence, especially if they’re considering signing a petition against the judge.

  • Believing Atheist

    @Critical Dragon,

    Please read below:

    Notably, however, Martin says that he didn’t doubt that the incident occurred and the defendant admitted that he acted in response to an insult to Islam. Yet, this is not viewed as sufficient to sustain a harassment charge.

    So the Muslim admitted that he attacked the atheist for what he deemed to be an insult to Islam. That’s a confession. How much more evidence do you need?

  • TheTruth

    The judge threw out the evidence (video tape and police eyewitness testimony) and then concluded there was a lack of evidence. In fact, the judge claimed that the evidence was against the plaintiff rather than simply concluding there wasn’t enough evidence. Say what?

    Also, apparently, as mentioned in the comments, the defendant admitted to attacking the plaintiff and used the argument that he thought it was legal to attack people who mock religion in this country.

    So, no, this wasn’t about a lack of evidence. Perhaps apart from the loony judge’s mind.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    @Believing Atheist

    If you can come up with a convincing argument I will consider it, but I was under the impression that the Judge throw out the case for lack of evidence.

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