The verdict is delivered.
Editor’s note: The following is the third installment of a series of articles following activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff’s battle against her own government, as they proceed to prosecute her for disseminating the truth about Islam. Click the following to read Part I and Part II.
When court reconvened in February, events moved swiftly to a close.
Judge: The integration of Muslims is surely a question of particular public interest — you are allowed to be critical — but not incitement of hatred
[judge states the permitted utterances]
The language used in the seminars were not inciting hatred, but the utterances regarding Muhammad and pedophilia were punishable.
“Pedophilia” is factually incorrect, since pedophilia is a sexual preference which solely or mainly is directed towards children. This does not apply to Mohammad. He was still married to Aisha when she was 18.
On the count of “incitement to hatred”: Not guilty.
On the count of “denigration of religious beliefs of a legally recognized religion”: Guilty.
The defendant was sentenced to pay a €480 fine.
Judge: Did you understand the sentence?
[discontent in court]
The judge second-guessed the Qur’an, noting that Aisha was 18 years old when Muhammad died, which is factual, based on the hadith. The fact that he did not divorce her after she reached her majority proved that Muhammad had no exclusive desire for underage girls; he was also attracted to somewhat older females. Therefore he was not a pedophile.
By implication, of course, the child marriages that are so prevalent in fundamentalist Islamic countries cannot be legally categorized as “pedophilia” either.
Elisabeth said: “This is a sad day for my daughter and all girls.”
By the time the verdict was handed down, it had become obvious that the court was absolutely determined that Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff must be found guilty of something. The playing of the tapes — which showed that many of the recorded statements that had been used against Elisabeth had in fact been uttered privately — made the prosecution realize that the original charge would never hold up. To attain the desired outcome, the judge added a second charge of her own devising. A juridical move of this sort would have been unimaginable (and illegal) in the United States and many other countries, but it is quite legal in Austria.
The charge on which Elisabeth was eventually convicted was ludicrous on the face of it. Not only did she never say that Muhammad’s actions constituted “pedophilia”, but Muhammad’s actions — which were undisputed by the court — included having sex with a nine-year-old girl. If she had said what she was accused of, it would have been nothing more than the simple truth, and unexceptional from the standpoint of any normal person.
But the folks who run the Austrian system of “justice” are not normal people. They concocted the absurd rationalization that remaining married to the little girl past the age of 18 meant that Muhammad did not exclusively target children with his sexual attentions; hence he was not a “pedophile” by the strict psychiatric definition. Thus Elisabeth was wrong, even though she did not say it, and even though no ordinary citizen would disagree with her if she had said it.
Interestingly enough, this farrago of justice was made possible by the recognition of Islam as a state religion in 1912 through the law Islamgesetz, which had as itsprimary purpose the full integration of Bosnia-Herzegovina into the Austrian Empire. When Austria lost Bosnia in 1918, the law became irrelevant, but it has remained on the books until this day.
Fortunately law is logical, and thus one can rightfully deduce some consequences from the verdict:
1. It can constitute a criminal offence to use a label wrongly, even if that usage is in line with how it is applied by the general public.
2. The judge takes it as proven that Muhammad had a lasting sexual relationship with a minor. Strangely, she considers it an illegal denigration to apply the label ‘paedophilia’ to this behaviour.
3. As the law is only concerned with “Religious teachings”, rather than “Founders of religion”, “Behaviour of religious persons” or similar things, this verdict must imply that the life and conduct of Muhammad — including his sexual conduct — constitute an integral part of the “Religious teachings” in Islam. This interpretation is in line with Qur’an 33:21 and fundamentalist readings of Islam.
4. Under Austrian law, Islam has a remarkable degree of protection from criticism, and this verdict extents this protection to Muhammad, who is now protected from criticism. Other religions, say Buddhism, do not enjoy a similar protection of their teachings or founders.
That the example of Muhammad is used to justify child marriages even today is a fact that seems to have escaped the attention of the judge. Reports about child brides and their aged husbands now routinely appear in the Western press, but even though we hear these stories over and over, few seem willing to stand up for the rights of these minor girls. Even the sheikhs, the persons learned in Islamic law, do not take action or in any way use their authority to stop child marriages.
That the life and example of Muhammad in its entirety should constitute “Religious teachings”, protected from criticism under Austrian law, is a notion so absurd that it cannot be permitted to stand.
The precedent established by Elisabeth’s case would imply that Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who began sexually abusing his daughter when she was 11, fathered her children, and kept her a prisoner for 24 years, was not a pedophile, because their incestuous relationship continued after the victim was 18.
Was this what the judge intended when she handed down the verdict in Elisabeth’s case?
As soon as Elisabeth was reported to the authorities by NEWS magazine in the fall of 2009 she began speaking out in public about her case. In the two years since then she has spoken at public events in Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Gothenburg, and Luton, England. She began a series of appearance in North America with a speech at the Freedom Defense Initiative in Washington D.C. in February 2010. During that same visit she appeared on Capitol Hill to brief a group of interested people on the suppression of free speech in Austria.
Elisabeth followed up over the next year and a half with several appearances in the USA and Canada as a speaker at events for ACT! for America, for which she is Austrian chapter head. She also spoke about freedom of speech in Florida and Montréal, and appeared on Ezra Levant’s television program in Canada.
Well-known public figures who have publicly supported Elisabeth include Congressman Allen West, writer Mark Steyn, European politicians Geert Wilders, Kent Ekeroth, Heinz-Christian Strache, René Stadtkewitz, and Oskar Freysinger. She has found additional support from Pat Condell in his widely-viewed videos, and from Danish historian Lars Hedegaard of the International Free Press Society.
In the next few weeks Elisabeth will face a crucial decision: Should she pay the €480 fine? Or should she spend two months in jail?
Paying the fine would be an implicit acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the verdict against her, and an admission that Austria has the right to charge and convict her for exercising her right to free speech as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This is a dilemma that no one should ever be forced to confront. But such is the current parlous state of free speech in Europe.
◦ January 2008 ESW began series of three-part seminars on ideology and effect of Islam, particularly in Europe. At first, attendance was about 10 people per session. Later it increased to 35.
◦ October 2009 Infiltration of leftist magazine journalist in 2 seminars.
◦ November 2009 The story broke in NEWS magazine. ESW was reported to the authorities.
◦ February 2010 Interview with Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Terrorism Prevention.
◦ April 2010 ESW submitted extensive written answers to questions from Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Terrorism Prevention.
◦ October 2010 ESW was informed via NEWS magazine of indictment and impending trial.
◦ Nov. 23, 2010 First day of the trial. 2.5 hrs of intensive questioning by the judge
◦ Jan. 18, 2011 Court reconvened. No verdict; the trial was adjourned until February 15th.
◦ Feb. 15, 2011 Verdict:
◦ On the original charge of “incitement to hatred”: Not guilty
◦ On the second the new charge of “denigration of religious beliefs of a legally recognized religion”: Guilty
◦ Current status The case is on appeal. The next court date is Dec. 20, 2011, when the verdict on the appeal will be handed down.
Below are some of the articles containing more detailed information about the events described in this series:
For more information on Elisabeth’s work at the OSCE, see this report from November 2011.
Many thanks to Aeneas of the International Civil Liberties Alliance for the photos used in this series.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.