A German Victory for Free Speech
In a letter dated October 10, 2012, and received by its addressee four days later, the Marburg, Germany state prosecutor announced a suspension in the prosecution of medical historian Dr. Armin Geus. As discussed in my recent FrontPage Magazine article, Geus had run afoul of German authorities because of his book Die Krankheit des Propheten (The Sickness of the Prophet), in which Geus had argued that Islam's prophet Muhammad was not divinely led, but rather psychologically disturbed. Despite this victory for free speech with respect to Islam, briefs submitted by Geus' defense lawyers and a public declaration by a German Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) highlight various long-term issues still seeking ultimate resolution.
One such brief from September 8, 2012, requesting document review, petitioned for an immediate end to the prosecution, as "indices for a possible criminal liability are far and wide not recognizable and therefore a criminal procedure should not have even been initiated." Geus' "unjustly incriminated Work" was rather a "strictly scientific examination, which rests upon facts and the methodical research and presentation of facts." In fact, Germany's "most respected" top ten non-fiction book list compiled by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) selected Die Krankheit des Propheten for the month of June 2011. Serving on the selection committee were twenty jurors, almost all with doctoral degrees and including many professors. Geus' book "therefore falls under scientific freedom and simply cannot be a charge under criminal law."
Along with a reference to Germany's constitutionally anchored freedom of science in Article 5(3) of the Basic Law or Grundgesetz, the brief noted that:
... in states ruled by law there is no forbidden science and there are no intrusions into the freedom of science as an intrusion into a basic right on the basis of ideological and/or religious reasons, but rather only in ideology directed states like national-socialist Germany, the Stalinist Soviet Union, or the Wahabi Saudi Arabia.
Geus' case elicited from his lawyers the "greatest of concern" about German "rule of law." It was "precisely" the King Fahd Academy (König Fahd Akademie) in Bad Godesberg-Lannesdorf, a Saudi-founded and funded secondary school, that "was able to unleash a criminal prosecution evidently not grounded in the criminal code by a German state prosecutor." "Indeed," conceded Geus' lawyers, "Saudi Aramco sits upon 40 billion tons of crude oil and is therefore presumably the greatest existing world power." Likewise, "Sama Foreign Holdings sits upon at least half a trillion dollars [sic] investment capital and is therefore one of the most important investors for the struggling German economy." German firms were also about to deliver "at least" 800 Leopard 2A7+ main battle tanks to Saudi Arabia "in order to secure long term places of work in the German armaments industry." "Nonetheless, this may not lead to the introduction of sharia here."
To substantiate such suspicions, Geus' lawyers actually proposed calling German chancellor Angela Merkel as a witness (or perhaps merely in a written deposition). The defense team wished to show that the foregoing economic factors forced Merkel:
actively to participate in Germany's Islamization and shariaization, and that this pressure from the federal government and the provincial governments is also transferred to the ministries of justice, which in turn increasingly impose upon the state prosecutors a particular and Grundgesetz-incompatible Islam-sensibility. Only in such a climate of intellectual downfall can it come to pass that a distinguished scholar, who objectively examined the pathological backgrounds of the visions, hearings, and aggressions of Muhammad, would ever be exposed in Germany to a criminal trial.
With respect to Geus' thesis concerning Muhammad specifically, his lawyers had already begun to commission psychiatric expert opinions. The lawyers assured in advance that "every professionally competent psychiatric and therefore every independent expert witness commissioned by the state prosecutor or the court, in so far as he is not a Muhammadan, will confirm" various contentions. Among these was that "visions and hearings always and without exception prove a schizophrenic psychosis, that is to say that prophets irrespective of religion are and/or were schizophrenic psychotics." Moreover, the "aggression potential in the Koran and the hadith goes beyond every healthy measure, even for a battlefield commander, and distinguishes a sickly, sadistic personality." Accordingly, Geus' scholarly Muhammad biography treatise was "completely and utterly free from polemic and insult and provocation."
Geus' lawyers warned that his case presented the question concerning whether "Political Correctness, which covers this land like mildew, is now metastasizing like a cancer into Scientifical Correctness [sic] and destroying freedom of research and teaching in the sense of Islam and sharia." The German anti-sharia group Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa (BPE, or Citizens Movement Pax Europa) later echoed this discussion of "political" and "scientific correctness" with a declaration in Geus' name at the September 24, 2012, opening of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) 2012 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
Geus' lawyers argued that the German public would judge the "intellectual climate in Germany" on the basis of "how fast" the Marburg prosecutor "is able to stop this thoroughly embarrassing prosecution" and whether higher, more politically minded authorities would exhibit "enough backbone" against the complainant. The "fact alone" of Geus' prosecution "threw Germany back centuries into a time of state recognition of an Index librorum prohibitorum and the dark night of rule by religion instead of reason, of ideology instead of scholarship, of opinion instead of knowledge, of fear instead of freedom."
The lawyers concluded their brief with ominous analogies to Nazism, so historically important for Germany in particular. "If Germany is supposed to have learned something from National Socialism," they declared:
... then certainly this: A psychologically disturbed violent perpetrator does not become healthy and peaceful in that he has millions of followers. What is valid for Adolf Hitler, is also valid for Muhammad, who, with the 'Koran', wrote a violence-glorifying book, which actually does not take second place to Mein Kampf in any repulsiveness: If one may no longer critically analyze and objectively criticize the master, then his disciples will have soon violently conquered the world.
Despite such gloomy conclusions, a second brief of Geus' lawyers dated October 10, 2012 seemed positively to relish the prospect of a forthcoming trial. The fourteen-page brief contained a long evidence list intended for introduction at trial. In addition to Chancellor Merkel, the defense team sought statements from a host of scholars in disciplines such as psychiatry, theology, and history, including Robert Spencer and Bernard Lewis. Lastly, the brief also sought to introduce into evidence a FrontPage Magazine article concerning Geus written by the "renowned American legal scholar Andrew Harrod," a "proven expert on legal problems of shariaization." As for Die Krankheit des Propheten itself, the brief foresaw a three-day courtroom book recitation.
This reading would presumably contrast with the statement sought by Geus' lawyers from his initial accuser, König Fahd Akademie director Dr. Megren Al-Megren. Therein they wanted to show that he had not even read the book and even would "not possess the intellectual capacities, academic training, and character integrity to understand" Geus' work. Al-Megren's charges against the book as a "provocation," "irresponsible action," and "not acceptable defamation" of Islam were thus unsubstantiated.
The brief similarly sought a statement from Bonn's Chief Inspector (Kriminaloberkommissar) Kesseler. This statement would have shown that his officially recorded estimation of Die Krankheit des Propheten as an "evidently ... pseudo-scholarly study, which cannot be taken seriously" was "intellectually conceited" and "cheeky," given that Kesseler possessed "no pertinent academic training." Another law enforcement official, Marburg's Detective Chief Superintendent (Kriminalhauptkommissar) Muller, officially recorded Geus as being "unobliging [uneinsichtig]" during pretrial investigations.
This second brief concluded that in any forthcoming trial, "political Islam and its courtiers would have the entire scholarly world against themselves." It would become evident that "Marburg still does not belong to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and that the Grundgesetz, and not sharia, claims validity." Rather, in what the defense team apparently envisioned as a kind of Islamic Scopes trial, "Islam would experience the greatest defeat of its history," something more devastating than "all seven Crusades together." Complete validation of Geus' arguments would make everyone with "common sense" assess Muhammad "not as God's messenger, but rather as a poor, sick person" who deserved not the "devotion of an obedient son, but rather the pity of a healthy brother." The brief thus proclaimed the defense as "downright thankful" for a trial that would finally force a German judicial examination of Muhammad and "his misanthropic teaching."
With Geus' legal victory, though, such visions of Islam in the dock before a legally regulated tribunal, however realistic, considering German legal provisions and Geus' defense resources, will have to await another day. Yet the various threats to intellectual inquiry concerning Islam that almost brought Geus to trial remain.