European Court says religious feelings and religious peace overrule free speech

The European Court of Human Rights has made a ruling saying, that the right of people to have their religious feelings protected  and the “legitimate aim of preserving religious peace” in Austria.

That this is in a case in which a women was convicted for calling the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile is likely to inflame a contentious and volatile situation in Europe.

Deutsche Welle – Calling Prophet Muhammad a pedophile does not fall within freedom of speech: European court

The ECHR ruled against an Austrian woman who claimed calling the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile was protected by free speech. The applicant claimed she was contributing to public debate.

An Austrian woman’s conviction for calling the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile did not violate her freedom of speech, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR ruled that Austrian courts carefully balanced the applicant’s “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.”

The woman in 2009 held two seminars entitled “Basic Information on Islam,” during which she likened Muhammad’s marriage to a six-year-old girl, Aisha, to pedophilia.

The court cited the Austrian women stating during the seminar that Muhammad “liked to do it with children” and “… A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? … What do we call it, if it is not pedophilia?”

An Austrian court later convicted the woman of disparaging religion and fined her €480 ($546). Other domestic courts upheld the decision before the case was brought before the ECHR.

So the European Court of Human Rights has not made or imposed this law, they have supported lower courts.

The women had argued that her comments fell within her right of freedom of expression and religious groups must tolerate criticism. She also argued they were intended to contribute to public debate and not designed to defame the Prophet of Islam.

The ECHR recognized that freedom of religion did not exempt people from expecting criticism or denial of their religion.

However, it found that the woman’s comments were not objective, failed to provide historical background and had no intention of promoting public debate.

The applicant’s comments “could only be understood as having been aimed at demonstrating that Muhammad was not worthy of worship,” the court said, adding that the statements were not based on facts and were intended to denigrate Islam.

It also found that even in a debate it was not compatible with freedom of expression “to pack incriminating statements into the wrapping of an otherwise acceptable expression of opinion and claim that this rendered passable those statements exceeding the permissible limits of freedom of expression.”

As well as growing anti-Islam sentiment and speech this gets into wider issues of free speech that have been raised in New Zealand.

There are risks from people who claim the right to free speech to promote extreme views, to deliberately misrepresent, and to try to inflame and divide.

It is difficult to get a fair balance between the right to free speech and deliberate provocation and harm.

 

Lauda Finem versus Rachinger

The Ben Rachinger story just gained a lot more (public) complexity with a detailed post be Lauda Finem:

The Rachinger Identity – Espionage thriller or just another bad outbreak of Streisand effect?

It takes a bit of digesting but it’s worth reading right through.

It would be wise not to jump to conclusions on this story, still.