Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Hugh Fitzgerald, Jihad Watch: Does Europe Still Have Free Speech?

Hugh Fitzgerald: Does Europe Still Have Free Speech? (Part One)

“Insulting Prophet Muhammad not ‘free speech,’ ECtHR rules,” Daily Sabah, October 25, 2018:
The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday [October 22] that an Austrian woman’s criminal conviction and fine for her statements accusing the Prophet Muhammad of pedophilia did not breach her right to free speech.
The woman, named only as ES by the court, had held seminars on Islam in 2008 and 2009 for the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) where she discussed the prophet’s marriage to his wife Aisha, a child at the time, and implied that he was a pedophile.
An Austrian court convicted her of disparaging religious doctrines in 2011 and fined her 480 euros (548 dollars), a judgment that was upheld on two appeals.
Stating that the court had found that “the applicant’s statements had been likely to arouse justified indignation in Muslims” and “amounted to a generalization without factual basis”, the ECtHR said that the woman’s comments could not be covered by the freedom of expression.
ES’ statements “were not phrased in a neutral manner aimed at being an objective contribution to a public debate concerning child marriages,” the ECHR held, adding that the moderate fine imposed on her could not be considered disproportionate.
The Austrian courts had drawn a distinction between pedophilia and child marriage, which was also a common practice historically in European ruling families….
Did ES (Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff) “disparage religious doctrines”? No, though she had a perfect right to do so. In this episode she did not discuss Islamic doctrine, but only Muhammad’s life, and only one aspect of that life. To wit, she noted that in the most respected hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Muhammad is reported as having consummated his marriage to Aisha — that is, had sexual intercourse with her — when he was 54 years old and she was nine years old. The Austrian courts that heard her case before it reached the European Court of Human Rights attempted to suggest that Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha was no different from that of the child marriages that centuries ago were made between  members of European dynasties, with boys and girls of more or less equal age, between 10 and 13 years old. But those were “marriages” between two children; sexual relations were not contemplated for many years. Muhammad, on the other hand, was 54 when he consummated his marriage to nine-year-old Aisha. That was not a marriage “between children,” but what any reasonable person today would call an example of pedophilia. And that is exactly what Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff called Muhammad’s behavior. She also said that because Muhammad was for Muslims the Perfect Man and Model of Conduct, his behavior was not rejected, but emulated by Muslims. Child brides are thus not uncommon in the Muslim world; some Muslim countries set no lower age limit on brides. Ayatollah Khomeini himself married his wife when she was ten years old, and when he came to power, one of his earliest acts was to reduce the marriageable age of girls to nine years.
The European Court said the applicant’s statements had been “likely to arouse justified indignation in Muslims” and “amounted to a generalization without factual basis.” Sabaditsch-Wolff’s characterization of Muhammad’s behavior may have aroused Muslim “indignation,” but was that indignation necessarily “justified”? When did the European Court become the mouthpiece of Muslims, in deciding that ES’s remark was indeed “likely to arouse justified indignation”? Did she say anything that was untrue in describing Muhammad as a “pedophile”? In the Western world, we should have no trouble characterizing Muhammad’s behavior with Aisha as “pedophilia.” The European Court does not exist to placate Muslims, but to uphold freedom of speech. Or rather, it used to exist for that purpose.
Freedom of speech is never absolute. If it includes “hate speech” directed at members of a race or religion, it can be banned. In American constitutional law, speech that calls for imminent lawless violence (the  Supreme Court’s Brandenburg Test), can be banned. ES’s speech was not “hate speech” directed at all Muslims. She did not call for any kind of violence. It was factually correct. But the European Court showed that fear is what guided its decision — the fear that outraged Muslims might become violent when Muhammad is criticized.
The Court said — and this is quoted from the original decision — that it has “ l’obligation d’assurer la coexistence pacifique de toutes les religions et de ceux n’appurtenant à aucune religion, en garantissant la tolérance mutuelle.” The Court has “the obligation to ensure the peaceful coexistence of all religions, and of those who have no religion.” That was never before the Court’s duty. It was always supposed to uphold freedom of speech, not to keep the peace by making sure nothing was said that could offend a particular religion. But that is what the Court has decided is more important: avoiding anything the might upset Muslims and cause them to become violent. By the same reasoning, the European Court would have upheld the banning of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, and the cartoons published by Jylllands-Posten.
The European Court of Human Rights claims that ES’s remarks about Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha “amounted to a generalization without factual basis.” Without a factual basis? The generalization had to do with ES’s claim that Muhammad was a pedophile, and that other Muslims have followed his example. But after all, one might argue, he had other wives, none of them were children, and Khadija was even older than Muhammad. Can we really call someone a “pedophile” just because he has one wife who is nine years old?
Nor should we generalize about other Muslims. But is it wrong of ES to have noted the some Muslims may have felt they were justified in emulating the example of Muhammad? Haven’t they? Haven’t child marriages — meaning that the girls are younger than 18 — been permitted in many Muslim states? In Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia? How many would constitute a “factual basis” for the statement that some Muslims justify their own marriages to very young girls by referring to the example of Muhammad?

Hugh Fitzgerald: Does Europe Still Have Free Speech? (Part Two)

The ECtHR also underlined that it classified the ‘impugned’ statements as “an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which was capable of stirring up prejudice and putting at risk religious peace.”
Apparently the factual statement by ES, that 54-year-old Muhammad had sexual intercourse with Aisha when she was nine years old, which can be found in the most authoritative collection of hadith, Sahih Bukhari, is considered by the court to be “an abusive attack.” The truth of the statement does not matter to the ECtHR. They are alarmed only by the reaction of Muslims. If Muslims in Austria feel that ES, merely by repeating the hadith report of Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha, has been guilty of “an abusive attack,” the ECtHR is not about to take issue.
Is the ECtHR correct to punish ES for making a true statement about Muhammad’s behavior that was “capable of stirring up [anti-Muslim] prejudices”? It would be more accurate to state that bringing Muhammad’s marriage to the attention of Infidels would not “stir up prejudices,” but would make them more justifiably anxious about Islam, and distressed about its central figure, Muhammad. “Prejudice” has nothing to do with it. Or is all criticism of Islam to be suppressed because it is “capable of stirring up prejudices”? If Europeans are told this indelicate truth about Muhammad’s behavior, if they are further told that, as the Perfect Man and Model of Conduct, Muhammad’s own behavior justifies, and indeed promotes, similar behavior by Believers today, as it has for the past 1,400 years, the only question should be: is this story of his behavior false or is it true? And do Muslims regard Muhammad as the Model of Conduct? The European Court’s function is not to protect Islam, but to allow people to freely give their opinion about Islam, even if Muslims are angered, just as they would about any other religion.
Muhammad is reported as saying, again in a hadith in Sahih Bukhari, that “I have been made victorious through terror.” Does reporting that hadith “stir up prejudices” against Islam? Or does such reporting properly alert non-Muslims to the fact that terrorism by Muslims has received the sanction of Muhammad himself? Should we punish anyone who informs non-Muslims about this statement because it is “capable of stirring prejudices,” or should we instead be grateful for such truth-telling? What about the Qur’anic verses that command Believers to take part in violent Jihad, to “strike terror” in the hearts of Infidels, to kill them? Should we punish those Infidels who dare to quote such verses from the Qur’an as 2:191-193, 4:89, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4? Should the European Court of Human Rights keep those verses from being discussed? Are they informing us, or are they only “stirring up prejudices” and engaging in an “abusive attack” on Muslims? On what theory should people who raise such matters be silenced? Should all speech that includes any discussion of Muhammad or the Qur’an that is at all critical, that might offend Muslims, be silenced? Isn’t the Court going down that road?
The European Court of Human Rights is supposed to enforce European standards for regulating freedom of speech. Europe is not yet part of Dar al-Islam. ES truthfully described Muhammad’s behavior with little Aisha, by quoting from an “authentic” hadith. Her speech was neither “abusive” nor “hate speech.” It was meant to inform.
It [the ECtHR] noted that the Austrian courts had held that ES was making value judgments partly based on untrue facts and without regard to the historical context.
Religious beliefs must be subject to criticism and denial, the ECtHR observed, but when statements about religions went beyond critical denial and were likely to incite religious intolerance, states could take proportionate restrictive measures, the court said.
ES did indeed make a “value judgement” when she described as “pedophilia” the act of sexual intercourse forced on a nine-year-old girl by a 54-year-old man. And Muslims outraged about ES are making other, quite different “value judgements,” when they defend whatever Muhammad did only because it was Muhammad who did it. The ECtHR does not tell us the “untrue facts” — that is, falsehoods — in anything ES said. As for ES not having sufficient regard for the historical context, this is an attempt, as already noted above, to liken Muhammad’s behavior to the European child marriages entered into for dynastic purposes, where both parties were roughly of the same young age and “consummation” of the marriage was far in the future. Such marriages  have nothing in common with what Muhammad did with little Aisha.
The ECtHR then declared that criticism of religion was permissible, except when it was “likely to incite religious intolerance.” So no one should be permitted to say things likely to make others  “intolerant” of a faith that is misogynistic, homophobic, antisemitic, that executes apostates, stones adulterers to death, and commands Believers to “strike terror” in the hearts of the enemy, and to kill Unbelievers, until the whole world belongs to Islam, and non-Muslims are either put to death, or convert to Islam, or resign themselves to the wretched condition of dhimmis.
The European Court of Human Rights has performed a grave disservice in allowing the “indignation” of Muslims to limit the freedom of speech of islamocritics in the advanced West. We have a perfect right to know the contents of the Qur’an, and about Muhammad’s life as recorded in the hadith, and to make our own judgements, and freely speak our own minds about the texts and teachings of Islam and the morality of Muhammad’s acts. In Europe, he is not yet the Perfect Man and Model of Conduct. The sanitized version of Islam that the European Court of Human Rights now seems determined to promote, lest something be said that causes Muslims to become violent, will only contribute to the outrage, and sense of despair, among Europeans, as a devastating article in Le Figaro on the Court’s decision made clear. For many now see that the European Court of Human Rights, whose duty it is to protect their rights, is instead determined to keep the peace by surrendering their freedom of speech, to meet the demands of an implacable and relentless enemy.
Hugh Fitzgerald
Hugh Fitzgerald is a student of history and literature, primarily of America and Europe. He admires Jacques Barzun, J. D. Salinger, and Alan Bennett, reads dictionaries for profit and pleasure, and finds particularly appealing the words “recompense,” “quondam,” “magari,” and “degringolade.”
By far the best way to reach him is through the good offices, in every sense, of Robert Spencer; Fitzgerald has an email account, the address of which is, but almost never looks at it.
Before it’s too late for Western Europe and the United States, which gave birth to the traditions of freedom and equality of rights for all that shine today as lights in the entire world, this must be stopped. Therefore Jihad Watch seeks to bring public attention to:
  • The plight of the dhimmis, an immense but almost completely ignored ongoing scandal that continues in Muslim countries today;
  • The plight of women under Sharia provisions, similar to conditions imposed on dhimmis, in the denial of equal rights and dignity;
  • Slavery in Islamic lands, which continues today, justified by Sharia-‘s dhimmi codes;
  • The integral role of jihad and dhimmitude ideology in global terrorism today;
  • The license that academic and journalistic whitewashes of dhimmitude gives to radical jihadist enemies of human rights for all.
Jihad Watch fights to ensure that deeds done in the darkness for so long will not continue to be done. The light of world attention is anathema to the proponents of jihad and dhimmitude: we have seen in recent years that women sentenced to stoning for adultery, often victims of rape unjustly accused thanks to Sharia laws disallowing rape victims’ testimony, were freed following international outcry. Jihad Watch seeks to provoke similar, continuous and increasing outcry wherever and whenever the Sharia’s institutionalized injustices threaten dhimmis and women.
May the truth prevail.