A New Form of Censorship is Spooking Through Europe

Many thanks to JLH for translating this op-ed from Die Presse about the ECHR’s decision on the “hate speech” case against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff:

A New Form of Censorship is Spooking Through Europe

Guest Commentary: Critique of a problematic decision by the European Court of Human Rights

By Ralph Schöllhammer
November 19,2018

Much has been reported in the past few days on the decision by the European Court of Human Rights that the designation of the Prophet Mohammed as “pedophilic” in the context of a 2009 seminar led by the Austrian Islam-critic Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff is not legally covered by the right of free expression of opinion. The waves caused by this decision were detectable even in the USA, where the popular Fox show, “Tucker Carlson” dedicated a full segment to the case.

Independent of whether this was a “scandalous decision,” it indicates a disturbing trend: a re-clericalization of public space in which — under cover of religion — discussions of broad interest are strangled in the cradle. The decision weighs the right to freedom of expression against the right to protection of religious feelings, to decide whether the latter must prevail in order to preserve religious peace in Austria.

Intention is Problematic

The statement designating Mohammed’s behavior as pedophilic is thus moved to the neighborhood of biased persecution, and a new legal situation is created. According to the European Court, it is not the statement as such that is the problem, but the intent with which it was made. That is, not to state an objective, debatable point, but to be contemptuous of Mohammed as an object of religious veneration.

Strictly speaking, “pedophilia” is not an expletive, but the description of a sexual interest in pre-pubescent children. That this practice is so widely condemned bespeaks progress. But this situation is not so long-standing as one might think. In the first half of the 19th century, the average age of European prostitutes was 16, and it was not unusual to encounter 14-year-olds in bordellos. On the streets of 1790 London, it was possible to walk by an eleven-year-old prostitute without experiencing a moral qualm.

The situation has improved since then, because segments of the (often religiously inspired) civilian society found these conditions intolerable and were able to bring the majority of society to their point of view. The same thing was true of the abolition of slavery — an institution whose existence had been viewed as more or less God-given until the beginning of the Enlightenment.

Anyone who reads the works of 19th century social reformers, from William Wilberforce to Harriet Beecher Stowe, will conclude that their intent, too, was to be contemptuous of contemptible situations — and fortunately this was already covered by the right of freedom expression.

Social change begins with criticism of existing conditions, and this criticism must command the entire arsenal of language: academic, humorous, satirical and, yes, even insulting. Anything that does not approach conscious slander or a call to violence should, in case of doubt, be allowed.

The European Court may honestly be convinced that it has decided in the interests of coexistence and of Muslims in Europe. In reality, however, an actual problem that exists for women all over the world is now more difficult to discuss.

Not just a problem of Islam

The accusation of pedophilia may be an insult in the West, but in many countries that use the Koran as a legal reference point, it is nonetheless (at least partially legally) a reality. The organization “Too-young-to-wed’ documents yearly thousands of instances of girls married before reaching the age of 15.

To anticipate a theological debate: Naturally child marriages and de facto state-legitimized pedophilia are not an exclusively Islamic problem. But the religious dimension exists, and discussing that should not be forbidden by the courts.

Even if Sabaditsch-Wolff’s choice of words is rejected, the content of her statement is definitely worthy of discussion. Her statements should be dealt with intellectually and not legally. Nothing would be better than if it transpired that Mohammed were not guilty of pedophilia, even by today’s standards. Such knowledge could be the first step to a more humane life for millions of women forcibly married. It would mean that the practice of child marriage could be questioned theologically. The decision of the European Court of Human Rights has made this discussion more difficult, if not impossible.

Truth has little chance

The idea that courts should decide which commentaries are “constructive” and therefore allowable, and which are not, is untenable. It is a de facto abolition of the basic principle of freedom of expression. The present case should alert us to how far advanced this new form of censorship is.

The enfant terrible of French literature, Michel Houellebecq, was forced to defend himself in court because of the anti-Islamic views of a fictional character in his books. The leader of the Front National, Marine LePen, was ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination because she had propagated videos showing crimes of the Islamic State.

In the legal proceeding against Dutch politician Geert Wilders concerning his Islam-hostile statements, the prosecution declared that “it is irrelevant whether Wilders’ statements are factually correct. What is relevant is that they are illegal.”

Truth has little chance when preservation of religious peace is at stake. The actions of the European justice system have encouraged precisely those circles which pose the greatest danger for internal security. Anyone who uses terror as a justification for inhibiting public discussion is encouraging those who have already tried in the past to inhibit it through violence — for instance, the people behind the Charlie Hebdo attack of 2015.

Danger for democracy

The Canadian columnist George Jonas said in 2013 that the greatest accomplishment of terrorism was not hijacking airplanes, but inhibiting public discussion, and thereby being a danger to the foundations of democracy. Sadly, the decision of the European Court has contributed to bringing this about and further reduced the possibility of pubic discourse.

For previous posts on the “hate speech” prosecution of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, see Elisabeth’s Voice: The Archives.

10 thoughts on “A New Form of Censorship is Spooking Through Europe

  1. re: Geert Wilder’s statements on Islam; Since when is the statement of fact illegal? If those facts are deemed as being admissible by the Court, by what right does the Court deem the statements of those facts to be against the law? For that matter, what law does the statement of those facts contravene?

    Maybe we had better get on our knees and give thanks this week here in America where the law still speaks (somewhat) louder than the judges who would do away with it.

    • Muslim offence is like slander or calumny even of the facts are historically true. This is the sort of thing a theocracy (like that of the humanitarian ideology) need to put in place in order to establish the right of law. The ECHR is the new Inquisition of the new “higher” moral standard of this humanitarian religion. The priciple is not to offend any religion, you could say that Christ is pedophile too with no infringement of the law even if is that is falsehood.

      The principle is not to say the Truth (which is the Logos), on the “minority” pagans and idol worshippers, however offended they may become. That is also because the humanitarian ideology is all Antichristian. No salvation, only this life that matters, any human beings bad or good equally deserving life, and so on and on.

    • “incitement” to violence is being used as the meter for all of these actions, the state is therefore seen as protecting the collective. Don’t kid yourself, the Patriot Act behaved in similar ways, dwindling individual rights for greater protections and the “common” good.

      • The Patriot Act is not as not as dangerous as Islam. If something is needed to combat the follower of Islam, and it is Patriot Act; so be it. Patriot Act is not a religion.

  2. From what I have been told by people in a position to know, “Paedophilia” is rampant among the elite. This is one reason they like and encourage Islam where such activity is permitted in the Koran and under the Sharia. Since the kiddy fiddlers are now in power, why do you think they don’t want criticism? Recall the huge scandal in Belgium 20 years ago?

    The Left across the West are trying to push kiddy-fiddling as “normal”.

    We are of course horrified by such ideas and the creatures that push this agenda. I was actually called a”paedophobe” because I spoke against such filth. This is now the state of the West-anything goes. If I caught one of these perverts touching any child in my family, I would in all honesty kill them and damned to the consequences, even the risk of excommunication.

    Matthew 18.6 “Who harms a child, it is better they tie a millstone around their neck and drown themselves!”

    • So Islam gives them everything they want and the religious excuse for having it. How dare we question their prerogative!

  3. This is one of those boiling the frog in a pot situations.
    This completely supports moving to an Orwellian society. At first I thought it was worse in some regard because the state could keep reeducating you by saying when you say 2+2 is 5 that you mean Mohanmed is a pedophile. So I think it does not go too far and just fits right in.

  4. Apart from its degeneracy, the problem with pedophilia is the issue of consent. Below the age of consent a chld is considered (and rightfully so) incapable of giving consent so all sexual acts are considered non-consensual.

    In Islam female children are ‘property’ and unguarded females are property of the right hand and thus ‘expoitable’. This is contrary to Judeo-Christian culture.

    If the ‘owner’ of child agrees (Ali Bakr in the case of Ayesha) and ‘gives’ the child (to Mo) then implicit in this is that the child becomes the property of the new owner and subject to his lusts and desires. The child has no rights in this, in fact, females of any age have no sexual rights under Islam.

    Using this the left can undo ‘progress. and take us back 400 years to a time when few but the wealthy and well placed had any rights at all.

    Those who vote left do not understand where this is all going, revolutions which destroy culture end up with a barbaric tyranny. Lenin and Trotsky truely thought that they were ‘progressive’ but when the dust settled, it was Stalin. the thug. that actually ruled.

  5. Culture trumps politics any day of the week. We are now in a moral cesspool where the most vile predilections such as pedophilia, bestiality, transgenderism, pornography and in general, behaviors which would have been beyond the pale several years ago, are considered to be “normal” or main stream.

    Whoever decides what we are allowed to discuss or not discuss are really our rulers. Everything else is an illusion.

  6. There are actually two, separate issues.

    One is the general issue of freedom of expression and the creation out of thin air of any right to not have your beliefs, ideas, or religion insulted or criticized.

    The second issue is to what extent national sovereignty is co-opted by an international or regional authority. In this case, an Austrian court made the decision, however flawed it is. Do we want to have an international authority with the power to overrule a national court? It’s just as easy, or easier actually, to have an international court ruling making criticism of Islam criminal and actionable, as to have a court ruling protecting the freedom of expression.

    My opinion is, it’s better to localize authority and fix responsibility. If Austrian courts wish to persecute Sabaditsch-Wolff, a truly remarkable and courageous person, we should leave the onus on Austria, rather than shuffling it up to an international, unaccountable tribunal. Let’s let Austria take the heat. I do not want to have a stew of laws mixed together, where the Hungarian approach to law and rights is stirred in and homogenized with Austria, Sweden and Germany.

    Put another way, the more global the domain, the less accountable and the more susceptible to money and influence. What can you do to affect the decision of something as grand as the European Court of Human Rights? Whereas, if you’re an Austrian whose country has just criminalized a factual observation, you might want to put pressure on your representatives. Or, if you think it’s a trend that can’t be reversed, you might want to get out while the getting is good. Wealthy, religiously-driven, dedicated organizations like the Organization for Islamic Cooperation have much more staying power when influencing and guiding remote, unaccountable bureaucracies or courts than any grass-roots movement.

    So, I don’t think you can have your cake and eat it too. If you support nationalism and the right of a nation to determine its own destiny for its own people, you can’t simultaneously depend on the international jurisdiction of an unaccountable court to set your country straight when it strays human rights, or at least your concept of it.

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