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“It cannot be the task of the states to regulate opinions”
by Felix Strüning
In Conversation With Human Rights Activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff About Islamophobia and the OSCE
Because she called the Prophet Mohammed a pedophile, she was brought to court in Austria. Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff (born 1971) lived, inter alia, in Teheran, Kuwait and Libya and has made a thorough study of Islam. She is a delegate of Bürgerbewegung [Citizens’ Movement] Pax Europa (BPE) to the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE). Citizen Times editor-in-chief, Felix Strüning, spoke with her about Islamophobia, the OSCE. and Islam criticism in light of the attacks of Oslo and of her trial.
CT: Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff, on Friday you were invited to a meeting of the OSCE in Vienna, as the representative of the BPE. What was that about?
ESW: Yesterday in the Hofburg in Vienna, the so-called OSCE/ODIHR High Level Meeting took place — a high-level meeting on the subject of “Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in Public Discourse.” Although I had expected the worst, the actual content far surpassed my fears. Normally, the representatives of the so-called OSCE participating states are present. This time, the ambassadors were only at the opening. For the discussion, there remained only the representatives of the Islamic states, the various NGOs and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
CT: So it was apparently about the press depiction of Muslims?
ESW: The meeting was divided in three parts. There was a so-called panel with various speakers, then the discussion was opened up and civil society, including the BPE, could speak on a level with the diplomats. In the first panel, there was discussion of the role of the media, which have a “special responsibility” in relation to Islamophobia. According to the speakers and the interpretation of the OIC, the problem is that journalists know too little about Islam and must be specially instructed; alternatively, a mechanism for self-censorship must be found, without restricting freedom of expression. It was not a surprise that the result of this debate was yet more censorship and instruction on the manifestations of Islamophobia — a sickness to be taken seriously, according to the OIC.
CT: Is there actually such a thing as Islamophobia?
ESW: Discussion of the concept of Islamophobia would be too long for this interview. The fact is. however, that for years the OIC conception of Islamophobia as neo-racism has been on a very successful march through the institutions (UNO, EU, European Council, OSCE) to be made legally punishable. Their success is visible in the criminal actions against Geert Wilders, me and many others. Nations have been made stooges of the OIC by the supranational institutions.
CT: Surely concrete complaints were mentioned alongside these generalities?
ESW: One of the people on the podium was Mrs. Liz Fekete, head of an anti-racism agency in Great Britain, who loudly lamented the horrible Breivik massacre, which allegedly is based on Islamophobia and stigmatizes Muslims even more than before. According to her, strengthening of laws is urgently needed to prevent further massacres. In her rage, she did not mention that Breivik did not invoke the Bible, but some 18,000 Islamic assassins since 2001 have invoked Koranic commandments to kill infidels. No, Islamophobia is the root of all evil.
Another speaker, Doctor Gudrun Harrer, a journalist with the Austrian STANDARD referred to what she thought of as the ignorance of people about Islam. She knew what was what, since she had on her own time learned Arabic so that she could conclude a program of Islamic studies — a program that qualified her to promulgate the exclusive truth. She explicitly mentioned the idea of taqiyya — deceit or lying to protect the faith. Muslims are repeatedly reproached for it, although it is really only a Shi’ite practice. She did not mention that this conscious duplicity is in the Koran, which applies worldwide to all Muslims in all ages. She did however, note that, because of the “taqiyya complaint” against Iran, Western politicians no longer believe what the Iranians say about their atomic program. We in the West are responsible for seeing that the Iranians do not get on with their plans. I had to laugh, but not for the reasons Harrer gave.
Interesting too, was the repeated mention of many “Islams.” According to this, there is an Albanian Islam, an Arabic Islam, a Somali Islam, even Euro-Islam was mentioned again. In this connection, the new president of the Islamic Religious community in Austria made it clear on assuming office that not one word of the Koran is ever changed. So the question is, how do the many kinds of Islam manifest, since the Koran is unalterable. Do Albanians read a different Koran than Somalis?
CT: What were the reactions of the OSCE delegates, at least while they were still there?
ESW: That was a further example of disinformation. The Lithuanian vice minister — Lithuania at that time had the chair of the OSCE — said in his speech that prejudice against Muslims is incompatible with human rights. But he forgot to go into which human rights he meant — universal or Islamic. Since only two of us were there as representatives of the human rights organization, we could not use our very limited speaking time for a counter question to the minister. We were all alone in the lion’s cage. I appeal here and now to all NGOs who identify with the goals of the BPE, to attend this kind of conference in the future.
CT: So what did you use your speaking time for?
ESW: I concentrated on repudiating the charge of Islamophobia. I also replied to the Breivik connection, and said above all, that Breivik had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with critics of Islam. I also pointed out that it cannot be the task of states to regulate opinions, especially if you think about the history of East Europe, where the experiment in thought control failed.
CT: Apropos Breivik. How does the OSCE now react to the BPE?
ESW: The BPE is generally met with discomfort.
CT: Finally, something personal. How will your legal situation develop?
ESW: My appeal will take place on December 20, 2011. We will see what the court decides. It is certain that I will not pay the fine from the first verdict.
For previous posts on the “hate speech” prosecution of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, see Elisabeth’s Voice: The Archives.