[Part 2 of a series on the subject of the marriage of Mohammed (the man Muslims regard as their prophet) to his child bride Aisha (who according to the Islamic hadiths was only 9 years old when the marriage was consummated).]
On 22 January Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff submitted an appeal against the previous ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on her conviction by an Austrian court.
Just a quick recap for those not familiar with this case: she was convicted of “denigrating religious beliefs” by an Austrian court for remarks she made concerning the marriage of Mohammed (the man Muslims regard as their prophet) to Aisha (who according to the Islamic hadiths was only 9 years old when the marriage was consummated).
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff subsequently took her case to the European Court of Human Rights but they upheld the ruling of the Austrian court.
To support her appeal I add some more arguments here.
In the Western world people usually decide that a behaviour is immoral in principle and then decide that a particular individual’s behaviour is immoral because it is an example of that immoral behaviour.
For example the ten commandments says thou shalt not kill, and so if an individual commits a murder then it follows that they have committed a crime.
I believe that one of the reasons many people in the West have such a hard time understanding the Islamic viewpoint is that Islamic logic works backwards in the sense that if Mohammed (the man they regard as their prophet) behaved in a certain way then it follows that the behaviour must be moral.
Everything in Islam revolves around Mohammed; his life was a most beautiful example to follow, and he had sex with a 9 year old girl, therefore it must be OK to have sex with 9 year old girls (at most perhaps with certain conditions such as within marriage if the girl is Muslim).
To put it another way, the example of Mohammed’s life is the very definition of morality from an Islamic viewpoint.
Incidentally of course this same logic applies to other activities that Mohammed engaged in (infidels beware), such as waging war to force the infidels to submit to his rule, striking terror into the hearts of the disbelievers, beheading those who got in his way, murdering his critics (using deception to catch them off guard), taking sex slaves, and so forth. These other aspects are not the main point I wanted to focus on here however.
It would be quite extraordinary if the Pope were to openly campaign for the lowering of the age of consent, let alone its abolition, yet this is precisely what Islamic councils in both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have campaigned for, as I mentioned in the previous post in this series. Clearly the Islamic scholars involved felt no shame in campaigning for such a change to the law.
Of course not everyone who identifies as a Muslim thinks in this way, some Muslims are appalled (and indeed embarrassed) by the suggestion that Mohammed had sex with his child bride Aisha when she was only 9, but such Muslims tend to react in the same way that non-Muslim apologists react to the suggestion.
For example, many apologists argue that Mohammed was moral and so therefore the Islamic texts must be wrong on this point, it is impossible in their minds that he could have done an immoral thing and so they claim that in reality Aisha must have been much older than the texts say when the marriage was consummated. Other excuses are also made but I will look more closely at the subject of the apologists and their arguments in subsequent posts.
I do get a strong impression that it is unusual for Muslims in the Islamic world to even spend much time thinking about the question of whether Mohammed was a paedophile or not, on the whole it is mostly only Muslims in the West who struggle with the question under pressure from their non-Muslim peers.
Even then it is unusual for Muslims to be challenged even in the West, as many non-Muslims are simply either unaware or too afraid or too embarrassed to mention this aspect of the Islamic faith.
The European Court of Human Rights, on passing its ruling on Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff ’s case, suggested that the religious have a right to have their religious feelings protected, and asserted that there was a risk her comments could have threatened religious peace:
The case concerned the applicant’s conviction for disparaging religious doctrines; she had made statements suggesting that Muhammad had had paedophilic tendencies. The Court found in particular that the domestic courts comprehensively assessed the wider context of the applicant’s statements and carefully balanced her 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. It held that by considering the impugned statements as going beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate, and by classifying them as an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam which could stir up prejudice and threaten religious peace, the domestic courts put forward relevant and sufficient reasons
The question of whether the followers of religions should have the right “to have their religious feelings protected”, is easily answered by pointing out that this particular religion refers to infidels as “the vilest of animals” (Koran 8:55), so such a right would place Muslims on a different legal footing from the infidels. This would be in contravention of the principle enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights:
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law
My religious feelings are deeply offended by the suggestion that I am the vilest of animals, aren’t yours? If my religious feelings have no right to be protected by the law then neither should Muslims’! Such a right would outlaw the Koran! Where is this right written down anyway, I can’t see it in the European Convention of Human Rights? Surely the purpose of the European Court of Human Rights is to uphold the European Convention of Human Rights, not make up new rules as it sees fit?
Religious peace could either be threatened by hostility TOWARDS a particular religion, or it could be threatened by a violent reaction FROM the followers of that particular religion. The wording of the ECHR ruling above seems to me to suggest that the court was concerned about hostility TOWARDS the Islamic religion (or at least that is the impression they wanted to convey).
However there have been very few violent attacks on the followers of the Islamic religion by non-Muslims in the West, even since the wave of terrorist attacks that began with the 9th September 2001 attacks in the US.
A lot of criticisms have been made of the religion, and yet still really there have been only just a handful of such attacks reported across Europe. What’s more, it is far more likely that violent jihad attacks would provoke violent retaliatory attacks (than a question about Mohammed’s sexual preferences), but even violent attacks by jihadists have triggered very few violent reactions from non-Muslims.
I think therefore that it is probably safe to assume that the real concern of the judges was actually that a violent reaction FROM the followers of that religion might result if non-Muslims publicly voice such criticisms of the religion.
Therefore the European Court of Human Rights, on passing its judgement on the comments that Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff (ESW) made about the marriage between Mohammed and Aisha, seem to have ASSUMED that her remarks would be offensive to Muslims and therefore that her remarks could trigger Muslims to react violently, because they were thinking from a Western viewpoint.
However in reality Muslims in general are not particularly even embarrassed by the fact that this is what the Islamic texts say.
Evidence of this indifference can be seen in the fact that no Islamic organizations have complained about ESW’s remarks, at least certainly this is a point that has been remarked on regarding the ECHR appeal hearing, that no such complaints were cited as evidence. The only complainant in fact was a journalist who attended ESW’s lectures “under cover”.
You might have also thought that the publicity that this trial should have generated would lead to riots, but in reality there was barely even a reaction, for this very reason, that most Muslims simply do not find the statements offensive. How could they be embarrassed or outraged by the mention of something the man they regard as their prophet and role model did when his example is the very basis of morality for them?
Nearly ten years ago Asia Bibi merely asked (or supposedly asked) “what did your prophet ever do for mankind?” and there have been violent incidents including assassinations of two prominent politicians and riots ever since.
When the Charlie Hebdo magazine published some cartoons of Mohammed two jihadis showed up at the office armed to the teeth and slaughtered the magazine staff. Muslims also turned out to protest in numbers after the magazine resumed publication, large crowds were seen in Whitehall, some held placards saying “Be careful with Muhammad”.
However, if you do an internet search for “Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff riots” or even “Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff protests” you get no results, nothing.
All the more unreasonable then to sentence her for “denigrating religious belief” when Muslims generally simply do not appear to find her question offensive:
“How does one name what he did if not call it pedophilia?”
Of course I am not suggesting that there was no danger involved in what Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff said (the danger would have been to her more than anyone), but so far at least as far as I can determine there has been no reported reaction from Muslims.
Also, a lot depends on the delivery – if you were to shout “Mohammed is a Paedophile” in a loud and aggressive manner in a busy public street, this might well trigger a serious reaction from Muslims, but then it would be the way the point was being made, rather than the accusation itself, which would be considered an affront to the man the Muslims regard as their prophet.
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff however gave her seminars to a small audience of only 30 people within a building. All the more reason then why she should never have been convicted in the first place. What use is this so-called European Convention on Human Rights exactly, and why does the UK remain signed up to it?
Details of the appeal can be found here:
More information and opinion on the case can be found here at Gates of Vienna:
From the ECHR:
From Faith Freedom:
The first post in this series: