The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently upheld the decision of an Austrian court to fine Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff for the crime of “disparaging religious doctrines” after she commented on the prophet Muhammad’s supposed marriage to a six-year-old. In its decision, the ECHR stated that the Austrian courts “carefully balanced [Sabaditsch-Wolff’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.” Douglas Murray comments:
The first problem brought by the ECHR decision to uphold the Austrian court’s verdict against Sabaditsch-Wolff is that it means that, at least in cases of blasphemy, truth is not a defense. There is—as every Islamic scholar knows—significant evidence from [traditional Islamic texts] to allow someone to make a perfectly plausible case along the lines that Sabaditsch-Wolff did. But the courts went further. They claimed that her statements were based on “untrue facts”—whatever those might be. As I have pointed out elsewhere, this poses a serious problem for Europeans. It tells us that words we can read with our own eyes, and which are in books freely available anywhere in the world, do not say the words that they say. What are we to do? Lie? Apparently so. . . .
[Another] problem is, of course, that such a judgment hands over the decision on what is or is not allowed to be said not to a European or national court but to whoever can claim, plausibly or otherwise, that another individual has risked “the peace.” . . .
Why shouldn’t any other group in Austria other than Muslims claim, on a routine basis, that their feelings have been hurt and announce to the courts that, as a result, “peace” has been put at risk? If I were an Austrian Christian of a fundamentalist bent, I might well think about attending various lectures and sermons at a range of Austrian mosques, waiting until one of the speakers denies the divinity and resurrection of Christ and then run straight to the courts. After all, a denial of the resurrection of Christ by a Muslim could be deemed to be seriously offensive to a Christian and who is to say that “peace” will not be at risk as a result?
There is a complacency that has settled across Europe. This complacency is amply demonstrated by those happy to say that what has just happened at the ECHR is really nothing important. They are wrong. It is extremely important. Not just because it is an awful example of the morally bewildered decade we are in, but because it sets the stage horribly—for Muslims and non-Muslims—for decades to come.