The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday decided that free speech does not allow for insults against Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam.
Defamation against Muhammad “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate,” wrote the court, “and could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.”
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Radical Muslims are particularly sensitive regarding insults to Muhammad. In 2015, a group of radicals murdered 12 people after the satirical French magazine Charlie Hedbo published an offensive image of the prophet (image above).
Thursday’s ruling, which makes a mockery of the term “free speech,” marks the culmination of a case pertaining to an Austrian woman who claimed that Muhammad’s marriage to a 6-year-old girl was akin to “pedophilia.”
According to Islamic texts, Muhammad consummated the marriage when he was 50 (or older) and his wife was 9. Muhammad “liked to do it with children,” said the woman during two seminars in 2009. “What do we call it, if it is not pedophilia?”
In 2011, she was convicted by a Vienna court and fined $547 for “disparaging religious doctrines.”
The woman, identified as E.S., claimed her comments about Muhammad were part of a public debate and should not be considered defamation. Not to mention her right to freedom of expression.
But the court insisted her comments were presented without historical context and were not phrased in a neutral manner. Her comments were classified as an “abusive attack” on Muhammad that was designed to stir up indignation among Muslims. The ruling was upheld by an Austrian appeals court before traveling to the ECHR.
The takeaway here is that Europe is more concerned with preserving religious peace than it is guaranteeing the right to free speech.