In Europe, feelings of Muslims now officially trump freedom of speech

According to the European Court of Human Rights, the feelings of Muslims are more important than liberty.  A critique of the Religion of Peace can be deemed a threat to "religious peace."

Becket Adams explains in the Washington Examiner:

The European Court of Human Rights ruled this week that defaming the Prophet Muhammad is not protected speech.  More specifically, the court said an "Austrian woman's conviction for calling the prophet of Islam a pedophile didn't breach her freedom of speech," the Associated Press reported.

The ECHR explained in its ruling 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 explained in 2009 during a seminar discussion that the Prophet Muhammad's marriage to a six-year-old girl was basically "pedophilia."

"A 56-year-old and a 6-year-old?  What do you call that?  Give me an example?  What do we call it, if it is not pedophilia?" she said.

This decision once more shows the colossal divide between the European interpretation of liberty and the one practiced in the USA.

I know most of the readers of this forum are currently more interested in all of those non-exploding bombs going around, but I feel obliged to inform all liberty-loving people across the pond about an important legal decision made here in Europe.

The European Court of Human Rights is the de facto highest court in the "European Union."  It is in some ways comparable to the Supreme Court in the USA: it issues final judgment in legal proceedings by weighing court decisions in individual nation-states against the "European Convention on Human Rights," a sort of European "Bill of Rights."

European Court of Human Rights building in Strasbourg.  Photo credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the rights I have as a European, according to this convention, is "freedom of expression."  Although article 10 of the European convention already places a lot of restrictions on this "freedom" (read it here), many of us assumed we could speak our minds on important issues, just like Americans.  We were wrong.

In 2008 and 2009, the Austrian citizen Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff held a series of seminars concerning Islam in Vienna (Austria).  One of the topics was the famous 6-year-old child bride of Muhammad (Aïsha).  At some point she said that "Muhammed liked to do it with little children."

In ways that are becoming frighteningly common in the Old World, the P.C. police donned its armor, and Sabaditsch-Wolff was convicted by an Austrian court because she had "insulted religion."  (If you are interested in the details of this show trial, the Gatestone Institute ran a good article about it.)  Having the choice between a 480-euro fine (about 550 dollars) and 60 days in prison, the accused chose a third option: the European Court of Human Rights.  She argued that religious groups should tolerate criticism and that her statements served the public debate and were not intended as insults.

This European Court made a historic decision on 25 October 2018 by stating that the Austrian conviction was not in violation of article 10 of the European convention.  Freedom of speech has its limits.

The Court found in conclusion that in the instant case the domestic courts carefully balanced the applicant's right to freedom of expression with the rights of others to have their religious feelings protected, and to have religious peace preserved in Austrian society.

This conclusion should give every freedom-loving person pause.  It is a sentence so frightening, so important, and so far-reaching that it is worth further analysis.  The court's conclusion says freedom of speech is not absolute, but should be balanced against..

1. "... the rights of others to have their religious feelings protected,"

2. "... and to have religious peace preserved in Austrian society."

As for the first point: We all know who these "others" are.  Although insulting Christianity has been a favorite pastime of the higher educated in Western Europe since the French Revolution, it rarely leads to convictions.  There are no shrieking Buddhists protesting in Paris, calling for violence against infidel non-Buddhists.  It is also worth noting that the court does not mention "religious rights."  It mentions religious "feelings."  How do you define that?  Isn't every form of critique slightly hurtful to someone's feelings?  Isn't that what freedom of speech is all about?

But it becomes truly creepy when we read the second point: freedom of expression has to be weighed against the right "to have religious peace preserved in Austrian society."  The Court of Human Rights hereby confirms the fears of many libertarians and conservatives in Europe: that critique of these "others" (i.e., Muslims) may lead to a breakdown of the fragile peace that now exists, thanks to mass immigration, in every large European city.  We all know where this kind of appeasement leads to.

What this shameful episode shows is that the legal elites of the faltering European Union have a complete different idea about liberty, as compared to the ideas of the Founding Fathers in the USA.  In pursuit of a European "Bill of Rights," large treaties were signed, great speeches held, and supranational institutions created.  But when push comes to shove, freedom of speech, one of the basic liberties – maybe the most fundamental one of them all – is deemed less important than the feelings of Muslims.  Moreover, ironically, critique of the "Religion of Peace" is now deemed a threat to "religious peace."