(/sites/default/files/uploads/2011/11/ESW4-500.gif)Photo credit: Aeneas
Editor’s note: The following is the first 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.
On February 15, 2011, the Austrian Counterjihad activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was convicted of “hate speech” in a Vienna courtroom for what she said in a private seminar about Muhammad and Islam.
The original charge was “incitement to hatred”. On the second day of her trial, the judge at her own discretion added a second charge, “denigration of religious beliefs of a legally recognized religion.” Elisabeth was acquitted of the first charge, but convicted of the second. She was sentenced to pay a fine of €480. Her case is currently being appealed to Austria’s highest court. If the verdict is upheld, and she refuses to pay the fine, she will spend two months in jail.
How could this happen in a modern European democratic state which recognizes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enshrines the right to free speech in its Constitution?
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff is the daughter of a retired diplomat in the Austrian foreign service. During her childhood and young adulthood she experienced Islam up close and personal, in places such as Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran. She was in Tehran with her parents during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. As a student, she was working during her summer break in Kuwait when Saddam Hussein invaded the country. On September 11, 2001, Elisabeth was working in the Austrian embassy in Tripoli. She saw the Libyan people celebrate the destruction of the World Trade Center and the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans. All of these experiences were lessons she took to heart, but 9-11 motivated her to examine Islam more closely over the next few years.
In October 2007 Elisabeth attended the Counterjihad Brussels conference and delivered the country report on the state of Islamization in Austria. In early 2008 she began a series of seminars on Islam in Vienna, explaining to interested parties what the Qur’an and the hadith actually teach, along with the basic tenets of Islamic law.
For the next year and a half the interest in her seminars grew, and attendance increased. The success of her lectures drew the interest of Austrian leftists, who are as determined as leftists in other Western countries to discredit and destroy the work of those they view as “racists”, “fascists”, and “Islamophobes”. Unbeknownst to Elisabeth, the left-wing magazine NEWS sent a reporter to one of her seminars to make a surreptitious recording of it.
As a result, in late November, 2009, a criminal complaint was filed against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff for “hate speech” under Austrian law. From an Austrian progressive’s point of view, her offense was compounded by the fact that it was held under the auspices of the FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, or the Austrian Freedom Party). Despite its popularity with Austrian voters, the FPÖ is reviled as a “xenophobic” party by the media and political class.
A few days after the complaint was filed, Elisabeth was interviewed by the prominent Austrian magazine profil (the Austrian equivalent of Time or Der Spiegel). Some quotes from the interview:
• “We are people defending the principles of freedom and equality in a secular society. I criticize political Islam and its political manifestations. No democratic country can take this right away from anyone.”
• “I want to preserve Europe and its democratic and secular values.”
• “Islamic doctrine discriminates against women and non-Muslims. Islamic law, or shariah, cannot be reconciled with democratic principles and universal human rights.”
• “There are powerful groups who are working towards the Islamization of Europe. That is a fact. What can we gain from closing our eyes and ignoring this? Even Libyan leader Muammar Ghadafi says: ‘There are signs that Allah will grant victory to Islam in Europe without swords, without guns, without conquest.’”
• “Muslims have to liberate themselves; from this static and tenacious Islam that is hell-bent on following norms from the seventh century. The result is that wherever there are Islamic societies there is no progress, but steps backwards, especially in the realm of human rights and democracy.”
• Concerning “Islamophobia”: “A phobia is an irrational fear. My worries are not irrational, but justified. One of these days our politicians will have to recognize this fact. People like me are not right-wing xenophobes.”
The issue that caused the most uproar in the Austrian press — and which figured prominently in the charge on which Elisabeth was eventually convicted — concerned the prophet Muhammad’s “thing for little girls:
• Q: You are accused of making the following statements, among others: “Muslims rape children because of their religion”, or “Muhammad enjoyed contact with children.” Why the polemics?
• A: This is a clever strategy. You and all the others who are now crying wolf are locked in a choice of words. As a result you are able to maneuver yourselves away from the main point. It is a fact that Muhammad married a six-year-old at the age of 56. To this day men in Islamic countries view this as legitimizing marriage to a minor, thereby causing rape and life-long trauma. This is the problem we need to address, and not how circumscribe this bitter reality.
The complainant in the case against Elisabeth was not the state, but NEWS magazine itself, the publication whose reporter had infiltrated the seminar. For the next ten months the possibility of a formal charge was left hanging over Elisabeth’s head, but she received no official word about what might happen to her. All she could do was retain legal counsel and wait.
In February 2010 she gave a deposition to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Prevention of Terrorism. After that there was nothing from the prosecutor’s office. Finally, on September 15, Elisabeth learned that a formal charge would be filed against her. Ironically enough, she didn’t find out through a court document, an official summons, or her lawyer. Instead she learned of the charge by reading about it in the press — in NEWS, the very same magazine that had published the undercover report and filed the complaint against her.
I just had a long talk with my legal representation. This is a huge judicial scandal. My lawyer has tried to get the documents detailing my case and the charges. In vain. The public prosecutor cited “computer problems”, the clerks said there is a note in my case that nothing is to be made public (wonder why the media knew about it then), and he was shoved from clerk to clerk, getting nothing. So far we know that I will be tried, but nothing else.
I have nothing whatsoever in my hands. I cannot defend myself at the moment because neither my lawyer nor I know the precise charges.
It makes me wonder about our judicial system. It is outrageous that the media in both Germany and Austria knew about this before the accused.
A few days later she received official notice from the court: her trial date would be November 23, 2010.
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