Attacking the messenger
by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff
The following text is adapted from remarks delivered by the author in Montreal on June 20 at a pro-free-speech event organized by the group ACT Now for Canada.
For far too long, many of us in the West have taken our basic freedoms for granted. These rights include freedom of individual conscience, the right to assemble peaceably, and the right to practice our religion freely, or to have no religion at all. Perhaps most importantly of all, they include the right to voice our opinions freely and to publish them without hindrance.
Nowhere is this attack on free speech more evident than in Europe. The Framework Decision of the European Union states that “each member state shall take the measures necessary . to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable.” Such “intentional conduct” includes “conduct which is a pretext for directing acts against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.”
Dutch politician Geert Wilders, me and numerous other Europeans who have criticized Islam have been punished as a result. For several years, I gave lectures and seminars on the dangers that Islamic law, known as Shariah, posed to my country, Austria. A year and a half ago, I was made aware that “hate speech” charges might be filed against me because I had “denigrated religious teachings.” Eventually, I was tried, convicted and fined for little more than repeating passages from the Koran itself.
My case was not based on law. It was a political trial. It was intended to silence criticism of Shariah law. It was also intended to discourage anyone who might consider following in my footsteps. The European establishment fears a frank discussion of Islam and its legal doctrines — and is reverting to the methods of a totalitarian state to enforce silence on the topic.
This has a historical precedent [in the Second World War era]. Totalitarianism did not come quickly to Austria: It took five years, from 1938 to 1943 for a full-fledged dictatorship to appear, and for people to realize it. If it had come overnight, Austrians would have fought against it. Instead, there was creeping gradualism [in the erosion of] freedom, including freedom of speech.
Vienna today is not a city of jackboots and swastikas. It is prosperous, peaceful and civilized. But there is another Vienna, which includes areas populated by a Muslim majority, where resentment breeds high crime rates, with high unemployment resulting from Muslim youth unwilling or unable to finish compulsory schooling. Ignoring these problems will not solve them, nor will silencing the voices of those — such as me — who criticize government inaction.
Reclaiming our nations will not be an easy task, but if we do not make the attempt, European civilization — the heart of Western civilization — will be destroyed. What were formerly our nations will become regions with indistinct boundaries, populated mainly by people of foreign cultures and administered by totalitarian bureaucrats. The natives will be reduced to curators and costumed actors in a quaint theme park.
Call it “Euro World”: Authentic cuisine, ethnic dancers and fireworks at 10 o’clock. Basic freedoms, a relic of the past.
For previous posts on the “hate speech” prosecution of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, see Elisabeth’s Voice: The Archives.