• European Court of Human Rights: criticizing Muhammad isn’t free speech

    In 2009, Austrian far-right politician Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff likened Muhammad —one of Islam’s main characters— to a paedophile. Sabaditsch-Wolff was denounced and condemned for these words.

    Sabaditsch-Wolff appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) arguing —correctly— that condemning her for expressing an opinion (which, to add salt to injury, is objectively true) was a violation of her free speech.

    Yesterday, the ECHR decided that convicting Sabaditsch-Wolff for calling Muhammad a paedophile did not violate her free speech (!):

    The European Court of Human Rights says an Austrian woman’s conviction for calling the prophet of Islam a pedophile didn’t breach her freedom of speech.

    The Strasbourg-based ECHR ruled Thursday that Austrian courts had “carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected.”

    The woman in her late 40s, identified only as E.S., claimed during two public seminars in 2009 that the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to a young girl was akin to “pedophilia.” A Vienna court convicted her in 2011 of disparaging religious doctrines, ordering her to pay a 480-euro ($547) fine, plus costs. The ruling was later upheld by an Austrian appeals court.

    The ECHR said the Austrian court’s decision “served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace.”

    What the hell? Giving legal protection to feelings —religious or otherwise— is stupidly ridiculous; legal protections are for people, and questioning, criticizing, attacking or mocking ideas that someone holds to be sacred does not in any way represent damage to their property or their rights.

    Damn it! The ECHR guys should be clear about the most elementary aspects of their job, rather than having others explain those to them.

    One would think that behaving according to the rules of Islam, for instance, by not criticizing Muhammad, is only for people who practice Islam… and only if they want to!

    The icing on the cake is that Sabaditsch-Wolff’s political agenda benefits more from a conviction than from acquittal. If Sabaditsch-Wolff wants to deny rights to Muslims and stop immigration from countries where Mohammedan superstition reigns, the ECHR has just given her a big-ass Christmas gift in advance. That’s the thing about liberal democracy: it cannot be defended by antithetical means.

    This is a terrible precedent which will surely cost horrors.

    (pic: ECHR)

    Category: PhilosophySecularism


    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Fact-checker
    • Outwest

      Is there an article, or even a clause somewhere, within the laws of the EU that guarantee free speech? As far as I know, the answer to that question is “no”, as is the same with most, if not all of the EU member states. So, not surprising given that there’s no basic right to free speech anywhere in the EU, that this decision would be affrimed.

      • The ECHR is not part of the EU jurisdictional system.

        I’m not so sure about the no-free-speech-law argument, for those countries have signed the Declarations of Human Rights, where free speech is among the first ones to be protected.

        Even if free speech is not legally protected, that wouldn’t change the fact that this is ethically wrong.