Beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate

The Daily Mail (yes; sorry):

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.

According to scripture the marriage was consummated when Aisha was just nine years old, leading Mrs S. to say to her class Mohammad ‘liked to do it with children’.

She also reportedly said ‘… A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? … What do we call it, if it is not paedophilia?’

It would be nice to know what kind of seminars, where, for what purpose, with what credentials…but even so, it’s not obvious what it means to “convict” someone of calling the Prophet Mohammed a paedophile, since it’s not obvious that doing so is a crime. Yes, fucking a girl of nine is in fact paedophilia, and it’s against the law in places with humane laws. I guess I’m now a criminal under Austrian and European law.

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.

So Austria has a law against disparaging religious doctrines? That’s insane. This isn’t the 12th century; if we can’t disparage religious doctrines what can we disparage? We need to be free to disparage all forms of illegitimate power, and religion is high on that list.

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.

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.’

That’s not peace; it’s forced silence.

‘It held that by considering the impugned statements as going beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate, and by classifying them as an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam which could stir up prejudice and threaten religious peace, the domestic courts put forward relevant and sufficient reasons.’

I get that they don’t want people stirring up hatred against Muslims. On the other hand have they given enough thought to the way this tactful refusal to call fucking a nine year old girl what it is can teach believers that it’s ok for men to fuck nine year old girls right now? Are “religious feelings” more important than that?

H/t Author

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