Protected Class Confirmed

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.


13 thoughts on “Protected Class Confirmed

  1. The courts are, to be fair, and quite rightly, not under political control. The problem is that these rights to not have your feelings hurt have been created in the first place (by the political class), such that courts now have to work out how to balance the right not to have hurt feelings with free speech.

  2. The courts are, to be fair, and quite rightly, not under political control.

    Oh please. Every statement they make sounds like they’re justifying policy rather than upholding laws. They might not be under direct political control, but they are made up of the exact same elites who represent the political class. As such, their opinions and actions are near-identical, the law be damned.

    There’s also the issue that the laws are badly written allowing for wide interpretation by a judge, which doesn’t matter when the legislators know how the judges will rule on any given case.

  3. “Dangerous development”, of course, means: dangerous for our being in control. It’s a crazy thing to behold: everybody (and I mean: everybody) understands that this is all about protecting the ruling class status.
    Only, this class is trained to consider themselves some superior beings whose “good ans educated values” trump every possible opposition; they are progressive and, by definition, whoever opposes them is a Fascist. This is the core of elite liberal education in so much of the West, and this is the daily rationalization effort put in place by the academy and prominent papers like the Guardian or the NYT: they have to convince themselves that their fear to be proven wrong, and consequently to lose the moral status validating their status, is a noble struggle against the dark forces of history. This is how absurd sentences are born, like Macron’s “Democracy is in peril” when an enormous majority wins elections in Hungary.
    Unfortunately for them, such attitude is losing in the long run: reality can’t be compressed and suppressed indefinitely. Let’s hope the result is not a bloody civil war.

  4. @BiG in Japan
    The problem, as you certainly see, is not only with “protecting feelings”, but “protecting feelings of certain groups only”. Do you know any Human Right Court’s ruling about the offended feelings of Catholics? Or the feelings of British people called “dirty white man” or “infidel”?
    We all know the main reason: these politicians are defending themselves; their policies might suffer, in their eyes, some minor drawback (like the rape of some thousands girls or a little mass shooting here and there) but, come on, these are always isolated incidents, aren’t they? And what is NOT an isolated incident?
    A second reason is that it’s well known what a Muslim’s offended feeling might imply – but it is forbidden to say so, otherwise… they could be offended. And so on and on.

  5. …you can be sure criticism and abuse of Christians and Jews will still be acceptable…

    …from Muslims, yes. I don’t know that the rest of us have both those options. Maybe if your frame your criticism/abuse of Jews as criticism of Israel.

    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.

    Oh, I don’t know, didn’t they have some trouble with Eastern Orthodox types a while back?

    I can understand why Austria might have a tradition of preferring to respect people’s feelings than their right to free speech, even if I don’t agree with it. They spent a long time as a multi-ethnic, multi-faith empire, and as we’re all currently finding out, free speech is hard to maintain in such circumstances.

  6. How can you be charged with blasphemy if you aren’t a believer/adherent of the deity that is being blasphemed?

  7. Paolo,

    I’d be much happier if Islam were a minor footnote in Europe’s future rather than the 680 pound gorilla it is becoming.

    That said, what sets us apart from the barbarians is in part, the rule of law. So let’s stop electing politicians that write bad laws and stop castigating courts for interpreting those laws as intended by said corrupt and self serving political class. Austria has made a start there.

  8. What kind of religion needs protecting from cartoons and joking banter etc? As a not very good Catholic but a Catholic none the less I couldn’t give two fucks what anybody says or does and if God is truly watching and listening I’m sure he can cope too.

  9. I love this bit from the ruling:

    national courts found that Mrs S. had subjectively labelled Muhammad with paedophilia as his
    general sexual preference, and that she failed to neutrally inform her audience of the historical
    background, which consequently did not allow for a serious debate on that issue.”

    The next time you are caught sexually touching a six year old, just point out that it’s not your “general sexual preference”, and that the arresting officers failed to notice your stash of adult porn. After all, we want a “serious debate” on whether you are a paedo, don’t we?

  10. I’m not a huge fan of the judgment from the ECHR. But it doesn’t require you to have such a law as exists in Austria – it merely holds that the existence of such a law does not breach Article 10.

    Indeed, the ECHR fell back on the old “wide margin of appreciation” for individual states to decide on the appropriate balance between Articles 9 and 10 – this being the reasoning the Court uses when it doesn’t want to get involved on a controversial matter (abortion is another one where member states have a wide margin of appreciation).

  11. @BiG in Japan on October 26, 2018 at 10:25 am (or NiV?)

    To be polite: bollocks

    Last time I looked most ECJ & EHCR “judges” were not Judges as accepted by UK, USA etc. They are placemen appointees.

  12. Should it be illegal to insult Mohammed?

    Should you be allowed to say that the founder of one of the world’s largest religions was a paedophile? According to the European Court of Human Rights the answer is ‘no’.

    ‘Urwa narrated: The Messenger of Allah “Allah’s blessing and peace be upon him” married A’isha when she was six years old, and consummated his marriage with her when she was nine. She remained with him nine years (till he died).’ [5158]

    How odd it would be if the ECHR now decided that defaming the late Jimmy Savile should be punishable by law, and that neither truth nor evidence were any defence. That is what they have decided in the Mohammed case: that truth is not a justification and so something else comes into play.

    Of course this is strange. If we are allowed to say that the recently-deceased Jimmy Savile had inappropriate relations with underage girls, then why is it illegal to say the same thing about the far longer-dead Mohammed?

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