This story is generating plenty of comment on social media:
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled a woman convicted by an Austrian court of calling the Prophet Mohammed a paedophile did not have her freedom of speech rights infringed.
The woman, named only as Mrs. S, 47, from Vienna, was said to have held two seminars in which she discussed the marriage between the Prophet Mohammad and a six-year old girl, Aisha.
Mrs S. was later convicted in February 2011 by the Vienna Regional Criminal Court for disparaging religious doctrines and ordered her to pay a fine of 480 euros plus legal fees.
After having her case thrown out by both the Vienna Court of Appeal and Austria’s Supreme Court, the European Court of Human rights backed the courts’ decision to convict Mrs S. on Thursday.
The ECHR found there had been no violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
For those who doubt the Daily Mail story, the original ruling is here (pdf). A lot of people are saying this effectively outlaws blasphemy, but I’m not so sure. For my part, I think it merely re-affirms that Muslims are a protected class in Europe and the ruling classes will tolerate no criticism of them or their beliefs. Despite this decision you can be sure criticism and abuse of Christians and Jews will still be acceptable, and even encouraged in some instances. This is hardly a new development.
In a statement on Thursday the ECHR said: ‘The Court found in particular that the domestic courts comprehensively assessed the wider context of the applicant’s statements and carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.’
You could write a whole dissertation on what’s wrong with the above statement, but what strikes me most is that there is even a danger of the “religious peace” in Austria being broken. The last time there was religious strife in Austria was when the Protestant Reformation swept the country in the mid 1500s, followed by the 30 Years War a century later. If there are now extremist religious elements in Austria threatening the peace, it is because the ruling classes, egged on by their counterparts in Germany and the EU, have invited them in from outside.
Now note the original conviction occurred in 2011. In 2017 Austria elected a new chancellor. Here’s how The Guardian reported his forming of a government:
At the weekend the new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, of the Austrian People’s party, struck a deal with the Freedom party, a nationalist group founded after the second world war by former members of the Nazi party and now headed by Heinz-Christian Strache.
The coalition deal makes Austria the only western European country with a far-right presence in government. At 31, Kurz is the youngest head of government in the world.
Kurz’s People’s party won 32% of the vote in October’s elections, securing 62 seats in the 183-seat national council. The Freedom party came third with 26% of the vote and 51 seats.
Which suggests the Austrian people had become fed up to the back teeth of the sort of ruling elites who prosecuted a woman for saying mean things about Mohammed, and were happy to elect anyone who pushed back.
The new interior minister, Herbert Kickl, a former speechwriter to the Freedom party’s ex-leader Jörg Haider, is the author of widely criticised campaign slogans such as “More courage for Viennese blood” and “Daham statt Islam” (“Home instead of Islam”).
Well, if you go around prosecuting ordinary people for blasphemy against Islam, you stand a strong chance they will elect a staunchly anti-Islamic government in future elections. Similarly, as we saw in the US, if the political classes suppress all discussion of immigration people will vote for the guy who talks about immigration, regardless of who he is. And how’s this for a tin-ear:
Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the European council, said he looked forward to welcoming Kurz in Brussels. “I trust that the Austrian government will continue to play a constructive and pro-European role in the European Union,” he said.
One of the few critical reactions came from the United Nations, whose rights chief said that Austria’s rightward lurch marked a “dangerous development … in the political life of Europe”
That this “dangerous development” is a direct consequence of their own contempt for ordinary people didn’t seem to occur to Mr Tusk, and now another supranational European body has doubled-down on the mindset which brought it about. As I said yesterday, Brexit really is a sideshow.