Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a free speech activist who was charged last year in Austria with “denigration of religious beliefs of a legally recognized religion” for asserting that “Mohammed had a thing for little girls.” In February of this year she was convicted, and will have to pay a fine of up to €480. Just recently, on December 20, 2011, her conviction was upheld by the higher court. If she refuses to pay the fine, she may spend a maximum of two months in jail. She grew up and lived in Muslim countries and experienced Islam first-hand.
FP: Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to talk to you today about your trial and where it stands now. But let us begin with a bit of background about yourself.
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Thank you Jamie.
My father was posted at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran before the Iranian Revolution. I was also there, a child of seven, and I experienced the pre-revolutionary Iran, a beautiful country with friendly people, great food and even greater skiing. I attended the German school and generally enjoyed myself.
Then came the revolution and everything changed. There was religious fervor in the air, chanting, demonstrations featuring black-clad women. And one day in late 1978 my mother, my sister and I were forced to leave Tehran, and we joined the thousands of desperate men and women scrambling to get out of the country, the only difference being that we had a country to return to. I still remember all this as if it were yesterday.
I knew that this had to do with religion, with Islam. I knew what “Allahu akhbar” meant, just as I knew that our Iranian housemaid set fire to our house because she no longer seemed to like our Western ways much. (Although I was in the house at the time with my mother and sister, we survived the fire.)
My father returned to Austria just shortly before the war between Iran and Iraq broke out.
In the coming years my life would touch the Islamic world, sometimes more, sometimes less. My father was posted to Baghdad in late 1982, so we joined him for Christmas and New Year. I experienced life on the other side of the war, Saddam’s side. What I don’t remember is Islam, strange as it sounds. The Iraq of the early 1980s was a secular country, albeit a war-torn one. My mother had to “pack” food and other staples in her luggage so we could celebrate Christmas properly. I also remember attending Christmas mass in Baghdad.
After a few years of high school in Chicago, we returned to Vienna, where I graduated and became a ski instructor. In the summer of 1990 I spent three months at the Austrian Embassy in Kuwait, thereby returning to the Middle East for the first time since 1982⁄3. Memories flooded my brain, everything seemed so familiar. But then Saddam returned to my life: I was in Kuwait on August 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. I was unable to return to Austria until August 26, 1990, but that is another story.
In February 1997, I once again traveled to Kuwait, this time as a visa officer at the Austrian Embassy. During my nearly four years in Kuwait, I was able to experience the true Islam for the first time. Because I was older — in my mid-twenties — I reflected more strongly on what I saw and heard. I saw and heard a lot, and I also experienced a lot first-hand.
Two examples: First, Ramadan. The first one was sort of fun, a different experience, something new. The second one was a nuisance, especially after I heard reports of harassment, especially of the one against the Coptic husband of my colleague, who was chided for licking the stamps for the Christmas cards. Ramadan coincided with Christmas back in the late 1990s. And the third Ramadan forced me to rebel: I started eating salami sandwiches in the visa section, in plain sight of the fasting applicants. I got away with it because the Austrian Embassy is legally Austrian soil.
I started asking myself: what was the point of Ramadan? Our Jordanian translator, a devout Muslim and heavy smoker, suffered greatly during Ramadan, but he was unable, maybe even unwilling to quit during that month of abstention. I did not understand the purpose of his fasting and abstaining if nothing good came of it. This sentiment was furthered by newspaper articles about Ramadan and a Q&A. One question remains with me forever: “I accidentally swallowed a fly while riding my bicycle. Is my fast still acceptable or do I have make it up?” Unbelievable.
The second example concerns the relationship between Mohammed and Aisha, a relationship that earned me the conviction in court. Part of my job was to read the two English-language newspapers. I don’t remember what the article was about, but it must have been something about Mohammed’s marriage to Aisha and the subsequent consummation of the marriage. I clearly remember my shock. I got up from my desk and went to our translator, who was also my friend and confidant. “Hussein,” I said, “Is it true what I just read about Mohammed and Aisha? Did he really have sex with her when she was nine? But that, that, that’s…” Hussein looked at me sternly, “Do not ever talk about this again. Do not mention this again.” Now, he did not deny it. He just ordered me never to speak about this. Though I did not know about it at the time, he was actually enforcing Sharia law.
Slowly, but surely I started to educate myself. I opened my eyes. I saw the suffering of homosexual men in Kuwait, not just the expats, but also the Kuwaitis. I experienced the indifference of Kuwaiti women towards women’s rights.
But the time had not yet come.
I got married and moved to Tripoli, Libya, where I spent a long and hard year. A year of Sharia law in action, from the embassy driver’s fondling of my breast to my landlord’s blaming the Jews for the September 11 attacks. And then I had enough and moved back to Vienna.
After I became a mother, I had more time at my hands. A book entered my life, a book in German, but one that has since been translated into English. It is called “Gabriel’s Whisperings” (in German) and recounts the history of Islam and Mohammed as told by Islamic sources, nothing else. The content of this book is devastating. I was shocked, dismayed and very scared.
By chance I was invited to a small district gathering here in Vienna, a podium discussion about Islam. I felt very alone going in, but I was no longer alone when I left. My knowledge about Islam — very limited in comparison to what I have today — had earned me the respect of the already organized but tiny group of Austrian critics of Islam. From that day on I was no longer on my own, but embedded in a group of staunch supporters and defenders of democracy, universal human rights and freedom, all of which, as you know, are completely contradicted by the teachings of Islam.
In May 2007, I was a guest on the Gathering Storm blog radio show. What I said must have resonated in the United States because in late September I was invited to represent Austria at the Counterjihad conference in Brussels, the one that took place in the belly of the beast. My speech shocked the delegates and other speakers. And thus my work was cut out for me. Of course, my English skills are helpful in this context.
At home, the Austrian Freedom Party approached me regarding seminars about Islam to be held at the party’s educational institute. [Note: every political party has one of these institutions, funded by taxpayers’ money, which is the main reason for the government’s rage about my seminars.]
My seminars began in early 2008, before a group of no more than six or seven people, most of them party members and sympathizers. The seminars were set up to consist of three parts: “Introduction to the basics of Islam”, “The Islamization of Europe”, and finally “The impact of Islam” (Sharia Law, Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, OIC, Eurabia).
Over time these seminars drew the interest of even more people, and in October 2009 there were more than 30 men and women from all walks of life who listened to what I had to say. The reactions of these people were nearly always shock and dismay: for the first time they had answers to their questions; they finally understood what was and is happening around them; but they were also distressed because they saw just how the doctrine of multiculturalism and Eurabia were so firmly entrenched in Austrian society. I was not of much help. I am not a politician and thus unable to provide any solutions. It is my job and duty to inform citizens about the doctrine of Islamic supremacism and its disastrous effects on our free societies.
In late November 2009, I was informed about a story that was about to break:
“Hate school in Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ)! Read more about how your tax money is used to sow hatred against Muslims! Speaker says: Muslims hate us, the Koran is an evil book!”
What happened? A young woman, a journalist, had infiltrated two of my seminars in October and November, illegally recording my presentation, and then reported me to the Austrian authorities, who in turn began an official investigation. The charge: Hate speech.
The outpouring of criticism from official Austria was astounding. From the vice chancellor to the chief rabbi, from a high-ranking bishop to party leaders: My statements – all taken out of context – were condemned through and through. I was even compared to Bin Laden by one Muslim official. Not one of these so-called leaders bothered to ask for clarification from my side. I was to be vilified, my statements were to be condemned, for two reasons. First, I gave these seminars for the “right-wing, xenophobic” Freedom Party and second, the content of the seminars described Islam.
FP: So tell us about your trial and where it stands now.
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Simply put, I have now been made a victimless convict. On December 20, 2011, my conviction for denigration of a legally recognized religion was upheld by the higher court.
What was the reason for this conviction, you may ask. Well, during the course of my seminars, I mentioned the choking EU directive “Framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia,” and in order to illustrate my point I told the audience about a conversation I had with my sister and how she believed that one should find a different word for Mohammed’s actions with Aisha. I said, “How does one name what he did if not call it pedophilia?” And this sentence got me convicted, for I am allowed by law to say that Mohammed had sex with a young girl, but I may not qualify this behavior as this is deemed “excessive” and thus denigrating. The Austrian state has created a victimless crime, and a criminal without a single victim.
The trial is now officially over. There is only one way to appeal, and that is taking the matter to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. But– this will cost a lot of money and will take a lot time (6-8 years minimum).
FP: Ok so what is going to happen? Are you going to appeal, go to jail? Tell us what options you face and what you are going to do.
Sabaditsch-Wolff: It would be dubious to speculate about any options right now as I have to wait for the written verdict and my lawyer’s analysis and suggestions. So I cannot do anything right now but wait and see. It is a fact, however, that I may have to pay the € 480 fine.
FP: Oh I see, ok, I will save questions about this for our next interview and as developments ensue.
So in the context of all that you have shared with us, what do you think of the prospects for free speech in Austria? For the rest of the EU?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: There is no free speech in Austria or the EU. I am not sure how many of your readers are aware of an EU directive that firmly limits freedom of speech.
A milestone in this ominous totalitarian trend was reached on 28 November 2010, when the member states of the European Union were required to implement an innocuous-sounding legal provision known as the “Framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia”, or, more fully, the “Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.” According to the final article of the Framework Decision, “Member States shall take the necessary measures to comply with the provisions of this Framework Decision by 28 November 2010.”
Why does this matter to the cause of free speech in Europe?
If you read the full text of the Framework Decision (which may be found in the legislative section of the EU’s website), you will learn that “Each Member State shall take the measures necessary… to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable.” Such “intentional conduct” includes “conduct which is a pretext for directing acts against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin.”
Based on what has recently happened to Geert Wilders and me — and earlier to Gregorius Nekschot, Jussi Halla-aho, and numerous others — we can all guess who will be punished under this provision of the Framework Decision: those who criticize Islam.
Jamie, these are the methods of a totalitarian state. They are more successful than those of the Nazis and the Fascists and the Communists because they are accomplished quietly and peacefully, with no need for concentration camps or gulags or mass graves or the shot in the back of the neck in the middle of the night. They are surgical strikes executed via our legal systems, and they are quite effective. Between the summary punishment carried out against Theo Van Gogh and the Framework Decision applied though our courts, there is no room left for us to maneuver.
We are systematically being silenced.
FP: How do ordinary Austrians respond to the kind of things you say in your seminars?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: They are shocked and dismayed. They feel helpless and often hopeless.
FP: What do you think Vienna will be like in 20 years?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Even today, the city of Vienna is completely different from the city I left in 1997, when I moved to Kuwait. Back then, there were hardly any women in hijabs whereas today they can be seen everywhere and in large numbers. I have seen too many young girls in hijabs, sometimes younger than my daughter.
There are areas in Vienna where a non-Muslim Austrian would feel very unwelcome. The crime rate has soared, most often the perpetrators are of “Turkish” or “Tunisian” or “Bosnian” background. Whereas at first the media would not report the background, nowadays nearly all of them do so. And still, politicians still choose to ignore this situation, calling for even more integration (i.e. more tax money to be spent). The mantra is as follows: Integration can and must take place and the key to this is education. Only education will help these poor migrants. Only more understanding will help them. Only more Turkish language classes will help them.
I envision a city that is governed by a Turkish mayor, where Austrians are a minority, and sharia law is strictly enforced. Current trends point in this direction, and the indifference of the indigenous population to the situation makes this scenario possible.
FP: Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
We are all behind you my friend. Thank you for being such a courageous and noble hero and freedom fighter in our modern world. We wish you strength, perseverance and good fortune in the struggle ahead.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.