Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, from Austria, is denied the ability to criticize Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, by the European Court Of Human Rights.
It seems free speech used to be such a simple thing, especially when we look back into the past with our rose-colored spectacles. With serious hindsight however, we do see that it has never been simple to simply say what you want to say, especially when that speech revolves around religion. It would be surprising for some to note that England’s common law against blasphemy, enacted in the 17th century, was only repealed in 2008. It is also worth noting however, that these blasphemy common laws only extended to the Christian faith. It might also be surprising to note that Austria’s Criminal Code still has its blasphemy law in place, but its provision applies to any religion extant in the county.
§ 188. Whoever publicly disparages or ridicules a person or thing that is the object of worship of a domestically existing church or religious society, or a doctrine, a lawful practice, or a lawful institution of such a church or religious society, under whose behavior is likely to cause legitimate annoyance shall be punished with imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to 360 daily rates. [Criminal Code, s.8]
The recent case of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff (ESW) may well create a stare decisis, or precedent, when it comes to the ability to simply say what you want to say. The Gatestone Institute neatly summarizes ESW’s legal journey prior to her case appearing before the dystopian-sounding European Court Of Human Rights (ECHR).
In short, ESW held a series of lectures in 2009, giving factual statements about Islam, including her own commentary and opinion. A transcript of her lectures was sent to Austria’s public prosecutor, who brought a charge of denigration of a religion. In 2011, the court found her guilty for stating that, in her opinion, Mohammed was a pedophile for consummating his child-marriage to Aisha when she was nine years old. ESW’s appeal was rejected, and she then went on to take her case to the ECHR.
I remember my sister, I have said this several times already, when [S.W.] made her famous statement in Graz, my sister called me and asked: “For God’s sake. Did you tell [S.W.] that?” To which I answered: “No, it wasn’t me, but you can look it up, it’s not really a secret.” And her: “You can’t say it like that!” And me: “A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? What do you call that? Give me an example? What do we call it, if it is not paedophilia?” Her: “Well, one has to paraphrase it, say it in a more diplomatic way! [Transcript from one of ESW’s lectures]
The ECHR, on October 25th, 2018, ruled that the Austrian court had not interfered with ESW’s rights of freedom of expression under its (heavily conditioned) Article 10 provision, and that implying that Mohammed was a pedophile was not protected expression.
As ESW also noted in one of her lectures, the Quran states that Mohammed is the perfect man, and is to be emulated by all good Muslims. Therefore, how can emulating a man who engaged in child-marriage, statutory rape, a man who killed, looted, and kept and sold slaves, possibly be emulated by good Muslims and still coexist within a liberal democracy? This simple fact escapes the ECHR; it also escapes this august body that now people in Europe cannot even point it out without themselves being punished. Free speech – such a simple thing; so simple it is now non-existent.
Fox News, Lucia I. Suarez Sang; Defaming Muhammad does not fall under purview of free speech, European court rules
Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern; A Black Day For Austria
Austria Criminal Code; VIII, § 188
ECHR – Press Release: Case Of E.S. v. Austria
ECHR – Judgement: Case Of E.S. v. Austria