Defend the Right to Criticise Islam in Europe!
In Austria, a speaker has been sentenced by a court for publicly questioning Muhammad’s morals. The Austrian judges sacrificed her freedom of speech in accordance with “blasphemy law” on the altar of the “religious feelings” of Muslims and to preserve “religious peace”. Their judgement against this critic of Muhammad amounts to implementing Sharia law! On October 25, 2018, the 5th Section of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) confirmed this condemnation (case n° 38450/12). This judgment is extremely serious because the ECHR resigns itself to the intolerance and even the violence of some Muslims in the face of criticism.
The speaker was giving a seminar with about thirty other participants, entitled “Basic Information on Islam”. She was condemned for publicly “disparaging a person who is an object of veneration”, namely Muhammad, in a manner, “capable of arousing justified indignation”. The speaker was condemned in substance for saying that Muhammad “liked to do it with children” because he married a girl of six (Aisha) and consummated that marriage when she was only nine. The speaker noted that this was problematic since “the highest commandment for a male Muslim is to imitate Muhammad”, adding more generally that “Muslims get into conflict with democracy and our value system.”
She was sentenced even though her speech was based on facts that the Muslim tradition considers true and whose diffusion, in a political context, takes part in the public debate.
On October 25, 2018 a Chamber of the ECHR confirmed this condemnation in a shocking judgment in which the ECHR sacrifices the speaker’s freedom of speech in the name of “religious peace” and “mutual tolerance” in Austrian society. The Chamber judged the speaker’s very intention and condemned her by considering that she did not seek so much to inform the public as to “disparage” Muhammad and to demonstrate “he was not a worthy subject of worship” and consequently to incite violence. Thus, to denigrate Muhammad is not protected by freedom of expression: it would be necessary to speak about him with respect and good intentions! The Court renounced to firmly defend freedom of expression over Islam. In fact, it is the very violence of Muslims that would justify and demand that their beliefs be more protected against criticism.
A referral to the Grand Chamber is possible to revoke this decision. It must be done within the three months following the judgments (art. 43, Para. 1), i.e. before January 25, 2019. Sign this petition to request a referral to the Grand Chamber, so that the ECHR may reverse this judgment and protect freedom of expression over Islam.
In 2016, the ECLJ intervened on this case to defend freedom of expression in religious field and it continues its action. The ECLJ has been working on this for more than ten years with the UN and the Council of Europe against the attempt of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to impose, in international law, a crime of blasphemy, also called crime of “defamation against Islam”.
For the ECLJ, freedom of religion and freedom of speech are complementary, and there is no right, for believers and non-believers, not to be subject to criticism. Only insults, slander and obscenity which are gratuitously offensive to others, as well as speech inciting immediate violence, can be limited.
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Petition to: European Court of Human Rights