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Blasphemy laws return to Europe

Guido Fawkes reports:

ECHR: Defaming Muhammad beyond “Permissible limits” of “objective debate”

and comments,

The Austrian court found that “by making the statements the applicant had suggested that Muhammad was not a worthy subject of worship”. The ECHR has now agreed that this is a crime which trumps a person’s right to free speech. On the same day that Ireland is finally voting to take blasphemy laws out of its constitution, the ECHR seems determined to put them back in…

Calling all Samizdata-reading lawyers! Is this as bad for free speech as it sounds, or are there complicating factors? How specific to Austria is it?

Note that the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) is not the “supreme court of the EU”, that would be the European Court of Justice (ECJ). We will probably stay in the ECHR when we leave the EU.

Finally, what’s with “… he was not a worthy subject of worship”? Muslims strenuously deny that they worship Muhammad; worship is for God alone. At first I thought this might be a sloppy paraphrase by Guido, but those very words do appear several times in the original judgement.

54 comments to Blasphemy laws return to Europe

  • Paul Marks

    The left establishment, such as this court in Austria, are both ignorant and evil.

    Firstly the court is itself guilty of blasphemy from an Islamic point of view – as Muslims do NOT “worship” Muhammed. To worship anyone but Allah is the worst sin in Islam (something to bare in mind where Muslims pretend to respect Christians – remember Christians worship JESUS, to Muslims this is a terrible sin).

    Evil? Yes the left is evil – for they have made an alliance with Islam to destroy freedom, whilst intending to betray Islam (and destroy belief) when the time is right. Of course Islam intends to do exactly the same thing to the left. I am reminded of the Nazi-Soviet pact against the West – both sides intended to betray the other when the time was right.

    Natalie – the European Court of Human Rights is indeed older than the European Union, but it was “incorporated” into European Union law and institutions long ago, one can not really divide it from the European Union and its establishment supporters – such as Mrs May.

    The European Union itself is only a branch of the “international community” – that alliance of various international organisations and establishment people (including much of “Big Business” – who just do not seem to care that they have allied with socialists), what holds the “international community” together it a fanatical desire to destroy BOTH democracy (the rule of the ordinary people they despise) and freedom (such as Freedom of Speech).

    Voting is fine according to the “liberal” “international community” – as long as one votes the way they want (if one does not, they will ignore the vote or demand you vote again) and Freedom of Speech is fine according to the “liberals” – as long as you do not say something they disagree with (if you do they will destroy you).

    Americans are gloating at this point, but they should not gloat – the “liberals” are powerful in your own country (controlling most of “Big Business” as well as the media, the education system and the government bureaucracy), and may be even more powerful after the elections of November 6th.

  • Paul Marks

    As for telling the truth about Muhammed (the many wicked things this wicked man did) being illegal under the regime the European Union (and the rest of the “liberal” “international community”) is pushing – well OF COURSE it is going to be illegal to tell the truth about Muhammed.

    And anyone who thinks that Mrs May is going to make a stand for the right to tell the truth about Muhammed (or tell the truth about anything else)has not been paying attention. Mrs May is very much part of the international “liberal” establishment.

  • Mr Ed

    I had a look at the Judgment, and I stopped at this point in the English translation, having satisfied myself that the translation from the German of the original remarks (which is also in the Judgment) is not an unfair rendition.

    13. The statements which the court found incriminating were the following:
    English translation:

    “I./ 1. One of the biggest problems we are facing today is that Muhammad is seen as the ideal man, the perfect human, the perfect Muslim. That means that the highest commandment for a male Muslim is to imitate Muhammad, to live his life. This does not happen according to our social standards and laws. Because he was a warlord, he had many women, to put it like this, and liked to do it with children. And according to our standards he was not a perfect human. We have huge problems with that today, that Muslims get into conflict with democracy and our value system …

    2. The most important of all Hadith collections recognised by all legal schools: The most important is the Sahih Al-Bukhari. If a Hadith was quoted after Bukhari, one can be sure that all Muslims will recognise it. And, unfortunately, in Al-Bukhari the thing with Aisha and child sex is written…

    II./ I remember my sister, I have said this several times already, when [S.W.] made her famous statement in Graz, my sister called me and asked: “For God’s sake. Did you tell [S.W.] that?” To which I answered: “No, it wasn’t me, but you can look it up, it’s not really a secret.” And her: “You can’t say it like that!” And me: “A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? What do you call that? Give me an example? What do we call it, if it is not paedophilia?” Her: “Well, one has to paraphrase it, say it in a more diplomatic way.” My sister is symptomatic. We have heard that so many times. “Those were different times” – it wasn’t okay back then, and it’s not okay today. Full stop. And it is still happening today. One can never approve something like that. They all create their own reality, because the truth is so cruel …”

    German original:

    “I./1. Eines der großen Probleme, die wir heute haben, ist dass Mohammed als der ideale Mann, der perfekte Mensch, der perfekte Muslim gesehen wird. Das heißt, das oberste Gebot für einen männlichen Moslem ist es, Mohammed nachzumachen, sein Leben zu leben. Das läuft nicht nach unseren sozialen Standards und Gesetzen ab. Weil er war ein Kriegsherr, hatte einen relativ großen Frauenverschleiß, um das jetzt einmal so auszudrücken, hatte nun mal gerne mit Kindern ein bisschen was. Und er war nach unseren Begriffen kein perfekter Mensch. Damit haben wir heute riesige Probleme, weil Muslime mit der Demokratie und unserem Wertesystem in Konflikt geraten…

    2. Die wichtigsten von allen Rechtsschulen anerkannten Hadith-Sammlungen: Die allerwichtigste ist die Sahih Al-Bukhari. Wenn eine Hadith nach Bukhari zitiert wurde, dann können Sie sicher sein, dass es alle Muslime anerkennen. Und in der Al-Bukhari ist auch blöderweise das geschrieben mit der Aisha und dem Kindersex…

    II./ Ich erinnere mich an meine Schwester, das hab ich schon ein paar Mal erzählt, als [S.W.] in Graz ihren berühmten Sager gemacht hat, ruft mich meine Schwester an und sagt: “Um Gottes willen. Hast du ihr das gesagt?” Worauf ich gesagt habe: “Nein, ich war’s nicht, aber es ist nachzulesen, es ist nicht wirklich ein Geheimnis. ” Und sie: “Das kann man doch so nicht sagen.” Und ich : “Ein 56-Jähriger und eine 6-Jährige ? Wie nennst du das? Gib mir ein Beispiel? Wie nennen wir das, wenn’s nicht Pädophilie ist?” Sie: “Na ja, das muss man ein bisschen umschreiben, diplomatischer sagen.” Meine Schwester ist symptomatisch. Das haben wir schon so oft gehört. “Das waren doch andere Zeiten” – das war damals nicht o.k., und es ist heute nicht o.k. Punkt. Und es passiert heute auch noch. So was ist nie gutzuheißen. Sie legen sich alle eine Wirklichkeit zurecht, weil die Wahrheit so grausam ist…“

    14. The Regional Court found that the above statements essentially conveyed the message that Muhammad had had paedophilic tendencies. It stated that the applicant was referring to a marriage which Muhammad had concluded with Aisha, a six-year old, and consummated when she had been nine. The court found that by making the statements the applicant had suggested that Muhammad was not a worthy subject of worship. However, it also found that it could not be established that the applicant had intended to decry all Muslims. She was not suggesting that all Muslims were paedophiles, but was criticising the unreflecting imitation of a role model. According to the court, the common definition of paedophilia was a primary sexual interest in children who had not yet reached puberty. Because paedophilia was behaviour which was ostracised by society and outlawed, it was evident that the applicant’s statements were capable of causing indignation. The court concluded that the applicant had intended to wrongfully accuse Muhammad of having paedophilic tendencies. Even though criticising child marriages was justifiable, she had accused a subject of religious worship of having a primary sexual interest in children’s bodies, which she had deduced from his marriage with a child, disregarding the notion that the marriage had continued until the Prophet’s death, when Aisha had already turned eighteen and had therefore passed the age of puberty. In addition, the court found that because of the public nature of the seminars, which had not been limited to members of the Freedom Party, it was conceivable that at least some of the participants might have been disturbed by the statements.
    15. The Regional Court further stated that anyone who wished to exercise their rights under Article 10 of the Convention was subject to duties and responsibilities, such as refraining from making statements which hurt others without reason and therefore did not contribute to a debate of public interest. A balancing exercise between the rights under Article 9 on the one hand and those under Article 10 on the other needed to be carried out. The court considered that the applicant’s statements were not statements of fact, but derogatory value judgments which exceeded the permissible limits. It held that the applicant had not intended to approach the topic in an objective manner, but had directly aimed to degrade Muhammad. The court stated that child marriages were not the same as paedophilia, and were not only a phenomenon of Islam, but also used to be widespread among the European ruling dynasties. Furthermore, the court argued that freedom of religion as protected by Article 9 of the Convention was one of the foundations of a democratic society. Those who invoked their freedom of religion could not expect to be exempt from criticism, and even had to accept the negation of their beliefs. However, the manner in which religious views were attacked could invoke the State’s responsibility in order to guarantee the peaceful exercise of the rights under Article 9. Presenting objects of religious worship in a provocative way capable of hurting the feelings of the followers of that religion could be conceived as a malicious violation of the spirit of tolerance, which was one of the bases of a democratic society. The court concluded that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of expression in the form of a criminal conviction had been justified as it had been based in law and had been necessary in a democratic society, namely in order to protect religious peace in Austria.

    I have not found it necessary to read the rest of the judgment, I believe that the essence of it is in there. This needs no comment. Her human rights have not been violated, she should rejoice at that news.

    In terms of advice:

    I would advise the Sage, and Dr David Wood, to avoid Austria.

  • NickM

    So when are they releasing Josef Fritzl?

  • JohnK

    As I understand this judgment, it is not paedophilia to have sex with a nine year old, so long as you are married to her, and stay married until she has passed puberty. Good to have that one sorted out.

    It’s good to know that the rapid islamization of the west isn’t changing our lives at all. Not one bit.

  • Ian

    I haven’t read much of the judgement, but the ruling does appear correct according to a plain reading of the European Convention on Human Rights, which allows for the fairly broad abridgment of freedom of expression under Article 10(2). A prosecution could presumably be brought in Austria for a denial of the historicity of Jesus, too. The ECHR seems merely to be saying that such national laws are permissible, so in that sense it’s not a power-grab, it just means the ECHR will not get you out of jail if you fall foul of (e.g.) the Communications Act 2003, which is (I believe) the most restrictive law on the UK’s books in this area.

    To summarize, the ECHR is fine with blasphemy laws, but it is not creating new blasphemy laws.

  • A prosecution could presumably be brought in Austria for a denial of the historicity of Jesus, too. (Ian, October 26, 2018 at 9:52 pm)

    Good luck with that one! In fact, good luck with prosecuting the display in an Austrian art gallery of the piss-Christ ‘artwork’- unless of course a muslim were to object to it (muslims have their own peculiar rewriting of Christ’s history but it would allow them to complain).

    Ian may be theoretically correct if the law were honestly interpreted, but such honesty is thin on the ground – and, I feel sure, even thinner in the courtroom of the european court of human wrongs.

    Once we are out of the EU, it will be legal for parliament to quit the ECHR and the ECJ will not be able to keep us in. May it happen!

  • bobby b

    “Firstly the court is itself guilty of blasphemy from an Islamic point of view – as Muslims do NOT “worship” Muhammed.”

    If anyone needs more reading material, there is a quite good article in the recent Chronicles that takes issue with this statement, in the context of Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s possible role in the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

    A short blurb:

    “It is the duty of every Muslim to emulate the example of his prophet as recorded in the Hadith. By ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has only acted in accordance with that orthodox, 14-century-old principle. It would have been eminently un-Islamic, in fact, for “MbS” to allow an outspoken critic of a divinely ordained polity to go on living.”

    He lays out quite well the concept of “imitatio Muhammadi“, which seems to strongly suggest that Islam does hold out Mohammad for worship.

  • Ian

    @Niall,

    I grant you that Christians are probably de facto not protected in this way. Austrian cops, if they’re anything like some cops here, will see criticism of Islam as being a special kind of crime even when published by a Muslim, whilst the “piss-Christ ‘artwork'” and all the mockery in Father Ted and so on is seen as part of a national and historical intra-Christian dialogue that’s all perfectly fine.

    It’s a legitimate angle of attack against these wrongthink laws that there is selective prosecution going on, though it’s hard to see much pushback coming, since Christians (being Christian) tend not to complain, and it seems most older native (Germanic/Italic) people don’t use this sort of legislation like this because they don’t like it anyway, so it seems to be being used by a fraction of the population, principally as a kind of blasphemy-against-Islam law. I think that’s a genuine gripe which ought to be articulated (in furtherance of the general aim of obtaining freedom of speech), but it bothers me when people on “our side” frame every discussion of this sort with rabid denunciations of Islam, since it basically means those arguments can be dismissed.

  • onkayaks

    I agree with Ian’s comment.

    This judgment from the Fifth Section of the ECHR is not my cup of tea, but it very much follows the case-law of the Court. Following the Court’s reasoning, it is not that speech regarding child marriage, or Aisha’s particular case, can be a criminal offence without breaching the free speech of Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights —it cannot—, but that according to the Regional Court in this Austrian case, the criticism was overly broad:

    Even though criticising child marriages was justifiable, she had accused a subject of religious worship of having a primary sexual interest in children’s bodies, which she had deduced from his marriage with a child, disregarding the notion that the marriage had continued until the Prophet’s death, when Aisha had already turned eighteen and had therefore passed the age of puberty

    Context is everything in any legal matter. Much can be argued regarding children marriage at the time of Mohammed: e.g., the age of consent of marriage in Spain was 14 years until as recently as July 2015. As much as such early marriages were in Spain wholly out of the ordinary, the reason for such a minimum age for marriage consent is the influence of Canon Law of the Catholic Church, which in canon 1083 §1 still asks for a woman to have completed her fourteenth year before entering into a valid marriage. As improper as it now sounds, such low age had little to do with lust for pubescent minors —a big no, no, at least in Catholic dogma—, and all to do with knowledgeable consent, and freedom to choose. For more in the matter, it should be noted that centuries after Mohammed marriage with Aisha, the age of consent in much of Europe during the Middle Ages was 12 for girls and 14 for boys as canon law following Gratian (12th century) set the lower limit on marriage at 12 for girls, 14 for boys. This did not actually mean that minors did not marry at the time under those ages, but that a Court would have solid grounds to annul the marriage. It is interesting to note that the licit betrothal age was 7 years, but when the minor reached the age of consent, he or she could break off the potential marriage if desired.

    Besides the matter of children marriage, and whether Mohammed can be correctly regarded as a paedophile —the Austrian Court noted that the statements of E.V. suggested a primary or exclusive sexual interest for children— or to the pedants, a hebephiliac with an interest in early adolescents, the relevant reasoning of the ECHR judgment is that the statements exceeded the limits of criticism which is protected speech, and were gratuitously offensive and “likely to incite religious intolerance”, with the incitement being the operative word, and a tenuous and very flexible concept in ECHR case law, that varies with the subject whom the statements and opinions address.

    § 43. As paragraph 2 of Article 10 recognises, however, the exercise of the freedom of expression carries with it duties and responsibilities. Amongst them, in the context of religious beliefs, is the general requirement to ensure the peaceful enjoyment of the rights guaranteed under Article 9 to the holders of such beliefs including a duty to avoid as far as possible an expression that is, in regard to objects of veneration, gratuitously offensive to others and profane (see Sekmadienis Ltd. v. Lithuania, no. 69317/14, § 74, 30 January 2018, with further references). Where such expressions go beyond the limits of a critical denial of other people’s religious beliefs and are likely to incite religious intolerance, for example in the event of an improper or even abusive attack on an object of religious veneration, a State may legitimately consider them to be incompatible with respect for the freedom of thought, conscience and religion and take proportionate restrictive measures (see for example, mutatis mutandis, Otto‑Preminger‑Institut, § 47, and İ.A. v. Turkey, § 29, both cited above). In addition, expressions that seek to spread, incite or justify hatred based on intolerance, including religious intolerance, do not enjoy the protection afforded by Article 10 of the Convention (see, mutatis mutandis, Gündüz, cited above, § 51).

    As it is, this is Human Rights Law in Europe: a very long, distant stretch from the US Supreme Court’s precedents on free speech with their clear standards, and unsurpassed protection for the individual.

    Take it or leave it. 😉

  • Julie near Chicago

    Gosh! So Trifkoviç is still among us! (I remember from the old days at FPM.) (Ref. bobby, Chronicles, above.)

    Does anybody remember the name of the video that used to be up on UT that told the story of the murder, ordered by Mohammed, of the blind poet and of the pregnant poetess who denounced him for it? I saw it years ago, and maybe it’s been taken down, but if not I’d like to see it again.

    Of course, should anyone have a link, that would be much appreciated.

  • Snorri Godhi

    At 1st reading, my understanding is that Ian is correct: to put it simply, the ECHR did not decree that blasphemy is illegal, it simply decreed that it is legal to make blasphemy illegal. (Just as repealing Roe vs Wade would not make abortion illegal: it would merely make it legal to make abortion illegal.)

    The link to the original judgment given by Natalie contains the text of paragraph 2 of Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, and it seems to support the above interpretation:

    2. The exercise of these freedoms [of expression], since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

    That is too broad for my taste, but it is important to realize that repealing the Convention would not, by itself, make blasphemy legal. (Again, just as repealing Roe vs Wade would not make abortion illegal.)

    I also note that the appeal to the ECHR was made in 2012. Last December, the Freedom Party has rejoined the Austrian government and can presumably move to change the blasphemy laws.

  • it bothers me when people on “our side” frame every discussion of this sort with rabid denunciations of Islam (Ian, October 26, 2018 at 11:01 pm)

    While I’m sure the web contains rabid denunciations of islam, along with rabid denunciations of every other imaginable subject, I see no special evidence of such in the chief voices of “our side” in general (let alone in this thread – but you never know; perhaps Mr Ecks will oblige 🙂 ). The phrase

    consummated when she had been nine

    seems a perfectly un-rabid, merely-factual statement of what is (I understand) a well-attested and uncontested historical fact. As regards the court’s ruling that it was “overly broad” to suggest Mohammed did this because he desired to, my reaction (in more ways than one) is to quote Gilbert and Sullivan: “That’s a very nice distinction.”

    Moslems have a duty to imitate Mohammed and to treat his words and deeds as precedents. They indeed do not have a duty to worship him; their duty is to worship Allah in the way Mohammed commanded through his words and deeds.

    I agree with the logical point that, formally, the ECHR has upheld the legitimacy of a blasphemy law rather than imposed its own, but that does not in the least contradict the accuracy of the title Natalie chose for her post. It is rather blinding obvious that this is part of the return of muslim-specific blasphemy laws in mundane fact, regardless of arcane legal logic.

    There is however one hopeful sign in all this.

    I also note that the appeal to the ECHR was made in 2012. Last December, the Freedom Party rejoined the Austrian government … (Snorri Godhi, October 27, 2018 at 12:43 pm)

    These two facts may not be unrelated.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Niall Kilmartin,

    It’s not entirely uncontested. I can’t find a link now, but some liberal Muslims hold that the numbers “six” and “nine” should be read as “sixteen” and “nineteen”. That sounds unlikely, but as a matter of fact Italian does the same thing with centuries. Italians say “il quattrocento”, “the four hundred” to refer to the fourteenth century, and so on for the other “teen” centuries.

    There are also those Muslims who simply believe that the relevant hadith by Bukhari is wrong about her age. However note that the writer is an Ahmadi, and the Ahmadiyya are considered heretical by most Musims.

    I’m not taking a position as to whether the minority of Muslims who believe that Aisha was in her teens at the time of her marriage are correct, just that they do exist. They tend to be the sort of Muslims most likeable to me.

  • Natalie Solent, the Ahmadiyya beliefs are indeed (alas) a heresy as far as the umma are concerned – but if they rewrite 6 and 9 to 16 and 19 then I suppose we should hope more muslims turn heretical.

    However I see a logical problem with the claim of these ‘liberal muslims’. At first glance, their claim makes no sense. Why would a much older man married to a sixteen-year old girl refrain from consummating the marriage until she was three years older still? Why would anyone think it worth recording this restraint even if it happened? Sixteen is at or after the legal age for sex in a huge number of countries today, and in those days the marriage of a sixteen-year-old was the most ordinary thing imaginable.

    If these ‘liberal muslims’ suggested answers to these questions, or even asked them, then they may be what they claim to be (though the likelihood that the way something was understood by those most concerned from the day it was written till now is wrong and an at-first-glance counterintuitive way is right has a regrettably strong improbability). But if you do not recall these ‘liberal muslims’ answering, or even asking, these questions then we may in turn ask whether they were practicing that

    presentation of muslim belief adapted for western sympathisers.

    which has been known in other cases. With the Ahmadiyya, it may be wise not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but alas it can be wise to be cautious of some ‘liberal’ (but not heretical) muslims.

  • bobby b

    Julie near Chicago
    October 27, 2018 at 6:06 am

    “Gosh! So Trifkoviç is still among us!”

    Just curious, Julie: I detect (perhaps wrongly) a disparaging tone in this. I remember a time years back when I dismissed him as a knee-jerk Islamophobe. Then, at some point, I became a knee-jerk Islamophobe too, and stopped dismissing him for it. I went to Chronicles for Raimondo’s article, and stayed for the Srdja.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Niall Kilmartin,

    I do take your point about caution. But I gather the usual explanation offered for the question of “Why would a much older man married to a sixteen-year old girl refrain from consummating the marriage until she was three years older still?” is that the Nikah which took place on the first date cited was more a betrothal than a marriage. They say she was initially betrothed to someone else and undoing that arrangement had to be negotiated. Again, I don’t want to get into an elaborate defence of a particular doctrinal dispute regarding a religion I don’t believe in, but I don’t see such protracted negotiations over an arranged marriage as being impossible. As you know, in European history alliances between families were often cemented by strategic betrothals, and dissolved by strategic un-betrothals. Often these took place when the brides, and indeed grooms, were still children.

  • Ian

    @Niall,

    I agree with the logical point that, formally, the ECHR has upheld the legitimacy of a blasphemy law rather than imposed its own, but that does not in the least contradict the accuracy of the title Natalie chose for her post. It is rather blinding obvious that this is part of the return of muslim-specific blasphemy laws in mundane fact, regardless of arcane legal logic.

    Since you raise the topic of the title of Natalie’s post, “Blasphemy laws return to Europe”, I’d be interested to hear more about that golden age (which presumably you believe existed at some point) when Europe had no blasphemy laws. If we could depart from Islam for just a brief moment.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It is rather blinding obvious that this is part of the return of muslim-specific blasphemy laws in mundane fact, regardless of arcane legal logic.”

    The legal logic is probably underspecified. There may be something about it in the rest of the document (I’ve not read it), but in the bit quoted, there’s nothing specific to Islam or religion generally in the reasoning. The bit about speech being “subject to duties and responsibilities, such as refraining from making statements which hurt others without reason and therefore did not contribute to a debate of public interest” would appear to apply to any instance of hurting someone’s feelings. As could “Presenting objects of religious worship in a provocative way capable of hurting the feelings of the followers of that religion could be conceived as a malicious violation of the spirit of tolerance, which was one of the bases of a democratic society.”

    They’re very clearly saying that ‘hurt feelings’ and ‘intentional provocation’ are the basis of the harm done, that justifies an abridgement of rights, and that’s something that could be applied more generally. Any politician, any public figure could claim as much. Once you allow ‘hurt feelings’ to justify abridgement, the “right to free speech” is a dead letter. (As no doubt intended – the authors of the convention includes many nations who don’t believe in it.)

    (All the semantic nit-picking to do with the meaning of ‘paedophile’ is nonsense. As if being married to an adult proved you wasn’t a paedophile – if that was so, girls being abused by their fathers would be automatically excluded from the definition, and I don’t think anyone would interpret the word that way.)

    However, I think that’s all just window-dressing to try to pretend there’s an objective standard for what’s allowed/disallowed based on the words said. I think the real reason was given in the last sentence quoted.

    “The court concluded that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of expression in the form of a criminal conviction had been justified as it had been based in law and had been necessary in a democratic society, namely in order to protect religious peace in Austria.”

    It’s that phrase: “to protect religious peace” that tells you the real reason, and the real standard. The justification is that saying it is liable to cause a riot. That’s why they care. That’s why they passed the law. That’s what distinguished hurt Muslim feelings from the hurt feelings of anyone else.

    “It’s not entirely uncontested. I can’t find a link now, but some liberal Muslims hold that the numbers “six” and “nine” should be read as “sixteen” and “nineteen”.”

    There are a bunch of different versions of the apologetics. But they don’t fit the scriptural evidence – such as it is. It’s widely suspected that even a lot of the supposedly authentic haddith were made up during the subsequent centuries. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the whole picture that tells you what sort of person Mohammed was, not individual details. He took and owned slaves, and raped them, he raided towns, he was a bandit, he besieged cities and he slaughtered entire tribes, he excuted or enslaved the prisoners who surrendered. Yes, he married Aisha young, but it appears from the history to have been a loving relationship, and Aisha was one of his biggest supporters. (Although we do have to remember who wrote and relayed the histories.) Worse, arguably, was his marriage to various wives and daughters of defeated enemies, enslaved in battle and given over to Mohammed as ghanima. Marriage to Mo was probably better than the alternative, but it’s hard to imagine that any of them would be very happy about it. He even insulted the religion of the Arabs, and desecrated temples. There’s an ironic story in al Tabari’s ‘Sirat Rasul Allah’ about the early years in Mecca where the local leaders of the Arab tribes came to complain to his uncle Abu Talib about him insulting their gods, and asked that he be handed over to their justice. But his uncle protected him, despite not being a believer himself. It was when his uncle died that he had to flee to Medina, where the Jews who lived there agreed to take him in and protect him.

    Much of the outrage over his supposed paedophilia is culturally parochial. It would certainly be counted as paedophilia by our modern standards, but over most of history the age of consent has been far lower, and there are far more outrageous examples of the same sort of thing from others. (Like Moses and the daughters of the Midianites: see Numbers 31). Even Juliet’s age in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ surprises many people today. By today’s standards there’s no doubt he was a right bastard, but by the standards of the times he wasn’t really all that unusual. So a lot of that can be put down to historical anachronism, except for the fact that Islam claims that since the death of Mohammed the moral rules don’t change. What was allowed or fobidden then is (according to orthodoxy) allowed or forbidden now. That’s more of a problem.

    “I’m not taking a position as to whether the minority of Muslims who believe that Aisha was in her teens at the time of her marriage are correct, just that they do exist. They tend to be the sort of Muslims most likeable to me.”

    There are at least three groups. There are those Muslims who genuinely believe the apologetics. They’re often fairly ignorant of the details of their religion (like a lot of Christians are), and of simple faith, who tend to reason backward. Since Mohammed was good and doing that would be bad, Mohammed couldn’t possibly have done it. QED. Yes, they’re nice enough people, but they’re in danger of being radicalised if someone comes along with the orthodox scriptural evidence.

    There’s another group that know it’s not orthodox and not true, but are trying to reform Islam, to bring it into the modern world and Westernise it, and they use these stories to argue that the radicals are wrong, and not the true Islam, in order that those of simple faith are not led into conflict. They’re the ones who invented the ‘Religion of Peace’ nonsense. They’re in a tricky position morally, often consciously twisting the truth, but they’re also the ones that have created ‘moderate Islam’, which is probably our best hope of a final resolution to the conflict. (Maybe in another 50-100 years or so; cultural change is slow.)

    And of course there’s the third group who know it’s not orthodox and not true, but are basically lying to Westerners to defend Islam from attack and beat down resistance. They use the reformers’ words when talking to Westerners and the open media, but speak the orthodoxy when talking privately to Muslims. They’re the dangerous ones.

  • Natalie Solent (October 27, 2018 at 6:59 pm), yes indeed, a prior betrothal, negotiation and new betrothal, and even a new (formal) marriage, are equally possible in 7th century Arabia and 12th century Europe for both a six-to-nine year old and a sixteen-to-nineteen year old. The consummation is the only feature that is so trivial as not to merit mention at age 19 but quite otherwise, even in the 7th century, at age 9.

    I strongly suspect no-one in this thread speaks Arabic (I certainly do not 🙂 ). I read an account well before 9/11 (when no-one had an agenda), and another written not long after 9/11, whose authors did speak it and were raised in an islamic tradition, but my claim that it was wholly uncontested is clearly no longer literally true, whatever the case when those accounts gave me the impression it was accepted islamic doctrine. As most in this thread seem to agree the ECHR got ‘worship Mohammed’ wrong for muslims generally, one may speculate that their judgement’s unqualified ‘aged 6’ and ‘aged 9’ is not the view of every muslim.

    Of course, it hardly affects the free speech issue. The judgement makes it blasphemy to criticise those for whom it is ‘aged 6’ and ‘aged 9’. And if that is the view of the majority of muslims, it may also be blasphemous to suggest it was ‘aged sixteen’ and ‘aged nineteen’. Surely, the more vehemently you push the idea that it was ‘aged sixteen’ and ‘aged nineteen’, the more you imply that those muslims who think it was ‘aged 6’ and ‘aged 9’ revere an unworthy prophet.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – many thanks for your knowledge of German.

    You know me (the so called “sage”) well – David Wood was indeed the first person I thought of on this matter, and he has made an YouTube film on this (on Acts 17 Apologetics YouTube Channel).

    I would advice Natalie and all here to watch the film that Dr Wood has made – before it is banned in Europe and the channel is closed down by YouTube – Google (Big Business being in alliance with both the far left and with Islam at the present time).

    “Austria” – a Red Herring Mr Ed (as you well know) as this “law” was imposed at the urging of the European Union some years ago, and Mrs May fully supports the persecution of the truth and the promotion of lies (and not just as regards Islam).

    The grovelling “unreserved apology” from the man who Perry (of this blog) called “one of the good guys” (and he actually IS – compared to the vile Mrs May and co) springs to mind – he did NOT attack Islam (he is a Muslim himself) he simply pointed out that Adolf Hitler the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party was a SOCIALIST and stood for the primacy of the community over individual rights than the Socialist Group in the European Union Parliament stands for – Mr Ed can provide the German.

    For saying that water is wet and one and one is two – S.K. was forced to make a grovelling “unreserved apology”, next time he will be forced to crawl on all fours (like a dog) and kiss the boots of the Socialists. And NOT just him – all of us.

    And will Mrs May stand up for the right to read out the words of Gladstone and Winston Churchill on Muhammed, and of F.A. Hayek and Ludwig Von Mises on Adolf Hitler being a SOCIALIST – like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

    What do you think gentle reader?

  • Paul Marks

    The fact that this Austrian law was made at the request of the European Union – and that the European Union and the “European Court of Human Rights” (once different things) are now joined at the hip – seems to have escaped most readers.

    Essentially the truth is known to all of you – just seek it in the darkest corners of your mind, past the signs that read “but that can not be true – things can not be as bad as that”. Things are as bad as that – EVIL rules. And just with the European Union, but with the international “liberal” elite generally.

    And that is very much true of the United Kingdom – the idea that we have ancient liberties respected by the establishment, is sadly false.

  • I’d be interested to hear more about that golden age (which presumably you believe existed at some point) when Europe had no blasphemy laws. (Ian, October 27, 2018 at 7:41 pm)

    That was why I mentioned the piss-Christ ‘work of art’ in my original post. It went on tour in 1987 and after. An attempt was made to cause it legal trouble in Australia but it failed to get anywhere. In France, someone went to an art gallery and tried to vandalise it, but it is news to me if anyone even tried to go to law there.

    Were there countries in the late 80s / early 90s EU where an art gallery wanted it but did not dare display it through sane fear of legal trouble? I recall none, but it was a long time ago and I was hardly following the occasional puff pieces about its ‘controversial’ appearances in any detail. (Ireland may discard its blasphemy laws today. I do not know whether a prosecution there back in the 80s would have been a rational fear for an Irish gallery. Of course, I could believe that an off-duty IRA man with strong opinions on the subject could have been rationally feared.)

    I feel the ability to display such a thing on your gallery walls, and rationally feel confident you will not have to hire a lawyer or visit a court, is a strong proof that your country has no de facto Christian blasphemy law, whatever may or may not still be mouldering on the books.

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby,

    In this case I’m afraid the “tone of disparagement” is in the mental ear of the beholder [a good mixed metaphor is hard to find?].

    It is true that Trifkoviç has been a somewhat controversial pundit or commentator, but I am only aware of him from the salad days of FrontPageMage; I haven’t seen anything about him or by him in more than a decade, so I was expressing only a bit of surprise. I never had much of a personal opinion of his views, neither pro nor con.

  • NickM

    Hitler on various occasions (including his surprisngly lucid last quotes from the bunker) thought NAZIsm missed a trick by making common cause with Islam. Look it up.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I do have a Muslim friend, a middle-aged woman whose parents came here from Pakistan in, I think, the ’50s. (Her father’s a well-to-do ophthalmologist.) She’s a speech therapist with a Master’s from the U. of Michigan, so it should be unsurprising that she’s a librul. (SNARK.)

    She says that she grew up in a family that certainly celebrated the secular Christmas holiday — stockings on the mantel (or wherever), the Christmas tree, presents, so forth.

    She sent her daughters to Christian grade schools for a couple of years.

    She says that as a Muslim she believes only the Koran, but not the Hadiths or the Sunna. She certainly seems more Librul American than anything else. I will add that her present husband is a Mexican (whether an immigrant or a native-born American I do not know) who converted to Islam. She did a stint in Dearborn, Michigan, with her first husband, didn’t like it much. (Dearborn has a reputation as a hotbed of “radical Islam. But no doubt llamas knows a lot more about that than I do, even she is a little old granny in Queens who only goes to Michigan occasionally in order to shovel 12′ of snow.)

    It certainly seems unlikely to me that she’s going to be carrying out acts of violence anytime soon.

    I mention this just an example of one sort of “moderate Muslim.”

    . . .

    What with one thing and another, I see no reason to downplay whatever threat or evil lurks within Islam as it is proclaimed to be today by the more vocal of its clergy and promoters.

    It seems to me only sensible that one would be wary in fully trusting the appearance of decency when there are such strong influences in the direction of evil. For instance, there are many examples of murder done in the name of “honor” by Muslims whose wives or daughters have somehow transgressed the Islamic Law. For instance, I have an online pal in the sunny climes of California whose circle of friends included some two dozen Muslim chaps. He was astounded when all but two of these fellers cheered and celebrated when the Twin Towers were brought down. My doctor tells the same story about a perfectly respectable Muslim colleague.

    . . .

    Many people have opined that true reform of Islam must come from within, and that seems correct to me. It may be (IMO it almost certainly is) that the Muslims like Zuhdi Jasser who are trying to promote reform, however two-steps-forward-one-step-back their efforts, ought to have our support.

    And after all, Christian doctrine has undergone considerable reform one way or another. And although once in a very great while some unhinged Christian believer might go berserk and start killing people as his idea of “Christianity” prompts him to do, nobody in his right mind is in the slightest afraid of Christians as such, nor that they’re going to turn us into a bleeding theocracy.

    As Richard (E.) once remarked, “It’s not the Congregationalists that I worry about.”

  • Ian

    @Niall,

    You make a fair point about blasphemy acts and precedents falling into desuetude, however now we are not debating the principle but arguing about the price. The point remains that there are no, nor ever have been, strong protections for speech in Europe. We need to look to our colonial cousins for some pointers on this one.

  • bobby b

    “We need to look to our colonial cousins for some pointers on this one.”

    You’d better look quick. We’re trying very hard to join y’all.

    (Speech prohibitions based upon the likelihood of a listener’s negative reaction to speech will always be enforced only upon those speaking about listeners who take umbrage quickly. No one rioted against Piss-Christ, so there’s no need to enforce insult-based prohibitions against it. The heckler’s veto has become the bomber’s veto.)

  • Onkayaks

    Nullius in Verba:

    They’re very clearly saying that ‘hurt feelings’ and ‘intentional provocation’ are the basis of the harm done, that justifies an abridgement of rights, and that’s something that could be applied more generally.

    As a matter of fact, the E.S. v. Austria judgment does not even require intention in the ‘provocation’, which is legally rather striking. It is equally troublesome that the European Court notes that the comments “were able to arouse justified indignation”, not against Muslims, but from Muslims, which is a new point in the ECHR’s hate speech case-law:

    “52. The Court reiterates that a religious group must tolerate the denial by others of their religious beliefs and even the propagation by others of doctrines hostile to their faith, as long as the statements at issue do not incite hatred or religious intolerance. Article 188 of the Criminal Code (see paragraph 24 above) in fact does not incriminate all behaviour that is likely to hurt religious feelings or amounts to blasphemy, but additionally requires that the circumstances of such behaviour were able to arouse justified indignation, therefore aiming at the protection of religious peace and tolerance. The Court notes that the domestic courts extensively explained why they considered that the applicant’s statements had been capable of arousing justified indignation, namely that they had not been made in an objective manner aiming at contributing to a debate of public interest, but could only be understood as having been aimed at demonstrating that Muhammad was not a worthy subject of worship (see paragraph 22 above). The Court endorses this assessment.”

    I ought to correct myself: this is not business as usual in the ECHR. The implications of the judgment on free speech are very broad. I believe that they will only apply to ‘minorities or vulnerable groups’ which enjoy the most stringent protection in the ECHR case law, yet the reasoning will expand the ‘right not to be offended’, threatening to leave as ‘protected speech’ when addressing minorities, only the most civil and circumspect statements, ideas or opinions.

  • Ian

    Slightly off-topic, but in light of recent events and the Communications Act 2003, particularly sections 127 & 128, I wonder whether it wouldn’t be wise for Samizdata to become Samizdata Ltd. Just sayin’.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Regardless of what an Austrian court may have found, it cannot effect a winding-back of history to retrospectively change events.
    Archaeologists/historians have already established that, 1,400 years ago in the Middle east, marrying girls at an early age could apparently have been quite common.
    However, “paedophile” is a relatively modern construct, and in our supposedly enlightened times there are laws against paedophilia, to protect children from abuse

    Definition of paedophile:

    paedophile (US pedophile)
    · n. a person who is sexually attracted to children.
    – DERIVATIVES paedophilia n. paedophiliac adj. & n.
    Concise Oxford Dictionary (10th Ed.)

    _________________________

    According to Amir Taheri in The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution (pp. 90-91), Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini himself married a ten-year-old girl when he was twenty-eight. Khomeini called marriage to a prepubescent girl “a divine blessing,” and advised the faithful to give their own daughters away accordingly:

    “Do your best to ensure that your daughters do not see their first blood in your house.”

    When he took power in Iran, he lowered the legal marriageable age of girls to nine, in accord with Muhammad’s example.

    Islamists would see no reason to favour a prohibitive modern Western legal construct which would deny them the right to follow/practice the precedent of their holy religious customs/laws.

    The word “Islam” is derived from the Arabic ’islQm
    – ‘submission’, from ’aslama ‘submit (to Allah)’.
    Having submitted, an Islamist therefore is not free to pick and choose which of Allah’s commandments must be adhered to, and it would be extremely offensive to try to suggest that they should pick and choose, just because one does not necessarily agree with a given custom/law. This is why, for example, the genital mutilation (circumcision) of children is generally accepted for boys and girls in Western societies and in Judaeo-Christian and Islamic religions. Religious custom is sacrosanct.
    Allah is great and all-knowing.

  • Ian

    Why are free-speech advocates discussing obscure Islamic history? I find this stuff absolutely fucking stupid and tiresome. At what point are we supposed to discover that our rights depend upon Mohammed’s cock?

  • bobby b

    Laird
    October 28, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    “Jesus & Mo covered it.”

    Geez, Laird, do you realize how many hours of my life past and future you have now cost me? It’ll take days to read all of those strips.

    (Never heard of it before. They’re brilliant. Thanks!)

  • Why are free-speech advocates discussing obscure Islamic history? I find this stuff absolutely fucking stupid and tiresome. (Ian, October 28, 2018 at 9:03 pm)

    You may not be interested in Mohammed’s interest in nine-year-old girls, but both Islamic zealots and politically-correct activists are very interested in making you take enough of an interest to attain a ‘right’ understanding of it. I’d rather check my knowledge of this in a blog thread than first encounter points of detail and/or spin and/or taqqiya in court.

  • Ian

    You may not be interested in Mohammed’s interest in nine-year-old girls, but both Islamic zealots and politically-correct activists are very interested in making you take enough of an interest to attain a ‘right’ understanding of it. I’d rather check my knowledge of this in a blog thread than first encounter points of detail and/or spin and/or taqqiya in court.

    No, I disagree and I think this is a strategic error. If we are to argue for free speech then it must be on grounds of principle, not of fact. That is how reason works, and that is how the law works, empiricism be damned! It is of no consequence whomsoever my enemies might be: it is the god of abstract principle and those “close-nearing on the impalpable inane” Platonic solids that protect me.

  • Laird

    bobby b, you’re welcome! They come out weekly (on Wednesdays), and I get them delivered automatically. The barmaid is brilliant (and Moses makes an occasional appearance, too).

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, yes, very good point.

    .

    Ian, I’m not sure whether your remark just above is tongue-in-cheek or not. It seems to me your conclusion is that the argument “should be” on the principle itself, and not on the nature or actions or rhetoric of some particular adversary.

    But given a particular adversary, the principle is useless unless it’s properly applied in that particular case, to that particular adversary.

    Actually both the arguments have to made; both for the principle itself as being proper and required in general to deal with the world as we find it; and for the application in a given case.

    One will appeal to some; the other to others. I myself am inclined to argue to argue on principle, but even if one does that, one must be able to defend the principle itself by appeal to some prior principle, or to observations of Reality itself.

    And only when we reason logically about the facts of Reality as we observe them to be and as pertinent to the issue, are we engaging in Reason.

  • bobby b

    Interesting that, just as this subject rears its head in the EU and England, Ireland repealed its laws making blasphemy against religion a crime.

    Of course, it appears facially that the impetus of the repeal was to remove protections granted to the Catholic church, but this apparently means that the Irish can now call Mo a pedo without fear of prosecution, and since the EU law detailed above merely holds that England’s anti-speech law is England’s business, the EU should have no basis to become involved in such disputes.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Why are free-speech advocates discussing obscure Islamic history? I find this stuff absolutely fucking stupid and tiresome.”

    Because the first people to stand up for free speech are the ones first in line to lose it.

    Because one of the more persuasive arguments for free speech is the danger of the law suppressing the truth, and one of the more dangerous arguments against free speech is that they are only using it to suppress error and evil.

    Because obscure Islamic history forms the basis of a belief system that is a major threat to free speech, and freedom generally.

    It’s just an example to illustrate the principles, (or should be).

    I agree, there is a strategic danger that people end up arguing free speech only for specific cases: – many want free speech for their own opinions but not those of their opponents, and don’t recognise any virtue in the abstract principle. Many ‘fellow travellers’ are of the sort to still think falsehood and evil in speech should be suppressed, and are merely arguing that their own opinions are not false and evil. I’ve tried and often failed to persuade them that the more general principle is better – both strategically and morally. But their opinions are what they are, and freedom of belief says they’re entitled to them. We can only work with what we’ve got.

    Authoritarians believe that society has both the right and duty to enforce its norms on its members speech and belief, and that the norms it should enforce are the ones they themselves believe in. When cultural fashions change with the passing generations, they suddenly find their own norms in the hated and suppressed minority, and many of them suddenly discover a new interest in the principle of free speech and see the evils of ‘political correctness’. But often they’re still basically authoritarian; they only want to return to the status quo ante, and are annoyed when other people start arguing for beliefs they have no interest in or liking for. They still have to be persuaded of the more general principle. But you are a hell of a lot more likely to persuade them of it than you are those who are still ‘winning’ the culture war.

    So yes, I agree with your concern. But criticism of Islam is still one of the major ‘front lines’ in the war on free speech.

  • Ian

    @Nullius in Verba,

    FWIW, I should say I found your post on obscure Islamic history very interesting, despite the fact I’ve been trying to shift the discussion away from that topic.

    Your comment above, regarding authoritarians, reminds me of the Democrats’ very selective approach to funded political speech. Their attacks on Citizens United contrast with the crowdfunding and payments in kind (pro bono lawyers) to Christine Blasey Ford. One could probably find examples of left-wing organizations in the States that are funded in order to lobby for restrictions on funded political speech. Arguably the Clinton 2016 campaign was such. “One law for me…”, etc. So I take your point on that issue.

    I also accept your point that it’s easier to make alliances with those at risk of having their speech restricted. However, since you accept there is some “strategic danger” in this, I won’t make a long case about the theoretical problems of this strategy (e.g., that it’s divisive, that those groups are inherently weak, that coalitions are consequently necessary and that dilutions of aim would be required, etc.) and instead give a practical example to illustrate my key point that it is simply not a winning strategy: that of attempting to obtain something like a First Amendment in the UK.

    I don’t think that relying at least partly on anti-Islamic sentiment seems like a good way of achieving a First Amendment here. To my mind, the question of how much we should accept or reject Islam/Muslims in Britain creates a gulf between those in power (the media, academics, politicians, the civil bureaucracy, the judiciary and police and increasingly industry) and a largely silent majority or at least plurality of typical Brits whose ancestors were here long ago. I was having a chat about this the other day with someone in my circle of friends who’s a retired Chief Superintendent. Being a friend, it may be sad to say but he shares a lot in common with me politically, and I’m almost certain he votes Conservative. It was all fairly normal banter (in fact we were talking about the Crimebodge YouTube channel I linked to above — he made the point that the police officers the public generally run into are the least experienced and knowledgeable, but that’s a side-issue) till I raised a topic to do with Muslims in sensitive/national security/counterterrorism positions — the case of the Met Commander with ties to Iran came up — and all of a sudden it was “Excuse me, I have to go and chat to this other person at the barbecue.”

    The point is that, realistically, we would require at least half of the population on side and guys like that to get a First Amendment, and many of those people are simply not going to listen because the professional and social costs are too high. It’s mirrored in the fact that a majority of Conservative MPs are Remainers — because it’s “the right thing to think” — despite the views of a majority of Conservative members. Choosing an issue like Islamism might be somewhat effective, in the same way that immigration played a rôle in the Brexit debate, but arguably Brexit was won because the middle could decently support it on the key issues of sovereignty or trade without having to come out as “mad, swivel-eyed loons”. Game Theory offers proof that politics is all about capturing the centre ground, and Farage, for all his popularity on the fringe, could not win a parliamentary seat. The differing strategies of Vote Leave and Leave.EU could be explored at greater length, but I think basically Farage and Banks would not have achieved “breakout” on their own. You could even say that, in a sense, the free-market/limited government Farage got captured by the immigration issue, to the point where he started sounding ridiculous with his comment about queues on the M4.

    To be a bit more positive about “our side”, I’d like to see some discussion of precisely what legal reforms are necessary, following Brexit, to turn the UK into a free speech country, and some ideas about how to get the necessary votes in parliament by finding more appealing arguments — for which it’s necessary to repair to the edifice of eternity.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I don’t think that relying at least partly on anti-Islamic sentiment seems like a good way of achieving a First Amendment here.”

    Not exclusively or with everyone, no.

    The argument is that everyone has *some* opinions that the majority disagree with and disapprove of. You need to base the self-interest argument on those that the person you’re talking to holds, whatever they may be. You start with where they’re at, then point out that their view is in a minority and widely regarded as wicked by society, so if they want to be able to talk about it without looking over their shoulder, you’ve got to widen your scope to a more general principle, and then that implies you have to include support for the less palatable minority views in society.

    If you’re talking to someone opposed to Islam you start there, point out that Islamophobia is a minority view that most British oppose, and that if they want to be able to talk about it they have to have general freedoms, not just freedom to agree with the majority. Which therefore implies that you’ve got to allow Muslims into the country, and allow Muslims to be represented in the important institutions of society (like the police), and to preach and teach their beliefs, so long as they don’t use force.

    Conversely, when talking to a Muslim you start out where *they* are. They want to express their religious beliefs, to argue publicly in their favour. But they too are a minority here, and not very popular. So if they want *their* freedom of belief, they have to allow everyone else freedom of belief, including Islamophobes and apostates and people drawing disrespectful cartoons of the prophet, so long as they don’t use force.

    You can’t consistently object to Westerners and Christians spreading their culture in Saudi Arabia and then complain when Islamophobic Britons want to ban Islam from British shores. One or the other. Either you allow everyone to go anywhere and express themselves freely and let the stronger culture win, or you build protectionist walls around yourself to keep out the cultural competition.

    And as they said about Cuba and the Berlin wall, you can always tell which culture is better/stronger/freer by looking at which direction the people crossing the wall are going. If you really believe your culture is better, and that people with the freedom to choose can see it, then what do you need to walls and rules for? Let people choose freely, and prove it.

    You can’t make the argument without bringing up politically incorrect subjects, because it’s on precisely those issues that the debate arises. The freedom to say things that are politically correct is granted in even the most totalitarian of states! But neither should one tie the validity of free speech in the abstract to the validity of any one such politically incorrect position. It’s not purely an anti-Islamic position – it’s about smoking and drinking and eating and body shape and race and religion and sex/gender and sexual orientation and politics and economics and science and art and sport and fashion and nationality and everything else that humans get tribal about. And there’s often something for *both* sides in each debate.

    Islam is just one example. But one that can’t be avoided.

  • Ian

    Islam is just one example. But one that can’t be avoided.

    I’ve tried very, very hard to change the subject. Apparently that’s not possible. It reminds me of Churchill or some remembrance of the same: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind, and won’t change the subject.”

    I suppose I have nothing more to say. Goodbye, cruel Samizdata!

  • Nullius in Verba

    But what else would you expect in a post about blasphemy?

    Oh, you can always change the subject (and you did – there was nothing of obscure Islamic theology in my last comment). There are many other similar topics to talk about too. But it will always be periodically revisited.

    Proverbs 26:11 comes to mind. 😉

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ian, you might find http://libertarianhome.co.uk is more oriented to the sort of ideas and action you seek.

    .

    It seems to me that the comments on Islam in this particular discussion are actually “walking the walk,” namely speaking freely, rather than sticking to “talking the talk” — there’s a lot of theoretical discussion on Samizdata, and How-To comments as well. In fact Natalie’s posting certainly invites the question “What Is to Be Done?”

    I only wish I knew. :>((

    . . .

    What Nullius said, above at 7:26, for sure!

    . . .

    But as far as I can see, resisting the temptation to go all PC in speech and writing is the most obvious step. (Go Samizdata! 😈 )

    (Note: the conversation here is really about a particular case of the right of Free Speech…hence my focus.)

    Publicizing the idea via hard-goods such as T-shirts carrying clever messages couldn’t hurt.

    Rallies with entertainment, carnival booths, rides, with a Liberty theme but pitched to the general public and our kids might be an idea. Or do it in a smallish way, Story Hour at the library or your house, or with small screenings of copyright-free movies. DIY, or raise funds for it.

    What about posters, or perhaps tasteful small signs, on the door or window of a small shop, or on people’s front doors? Or lawn signs? “This is a Free-Speech Zone.”

    How about Go-Fund-Me to raise money for such enterprises?

    Digging up wealthy sponsors to fund dissemination of these dangerously radical ideas couldn’t hurt. But they have to be pretty thick-skinned, like Sheldon Adelson or the Koch Bros. over here … though I don’t think the K’s are anywhere near as libertarian as they used to be. (Lawd knows I could be wrong, but they’ve seemed to back off a little, or at least Charles has.)

    We have to change the culture, and that’s tough with the MSM and a lot of websites, and the purveyors of “entertainment,” and of course most educational institutions, and plenty of Big Money supporting all of them ….

    First and last, though, say what you think. Gently or forcefully, tactfully or mock-combatively, as the conversation requires…. W

    .

    If you want anything more specific, go see Simon Gibbs’s site above if you haven’t already. Simon is trying to get real-world activities going. And after all, if you want to run a full-on activist project, you’re gonna have to find or make activists.

  • I don’t think that relying at least partly on anti-Islamic sentiment seems like a good way of achieving a First Amendment here. Ian, October 29, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Ian (if you are still here), this old samizdata comment of mine (that only in passing referenced islam) is (IIUC) the one that decided PerryDeH to offer me a login as a samizdata poster.

    You may note that, while my comment does not wholly ignore your concern above, it defends a different choice. This is Perry’s blog and if he found in that comment something that tipped the scale for recruiting me then you may expect me – and perhaps others on this blog – to be slow to adopt your point of view.

    HTH.

  • Ian

    @Julie,

    Just on a matter of tactics, I would think writing to one’s MP with a specific set of questions about, say, the Communications Act 2003 might be a good starting point. I note there has been some success in this area with reforming the Public Order Act, and that folks like the Christian Institute and Rowan Atkinson might potentially back such a reform campaign. After all, what use was Reform Section 5 when the Communications Act is far broader in scope? As for joining a libertarian group, I am a member of the Freedom Association but I think they’re kinda busy right now 😉

  • Ian

    @Niall,

    I don’t think we’re all that far apart, really — my message simply comes down to “be choosy about one’s allies” and “don’t get too distracted by individual cases”. Much too often I see people get sucked into the debate over a specific case and ending up being identified with the opinions being uttered. The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is a good example of threading the needle, in my opinion; and the Count Dankula case is also pretty good, but in this ECHR case it seems sad but true that many people will see it not as a free speech issue but an anti-Islam issue. Ditto defending the likes of Robert Faurisson: it’s just too unpalatable for most. Maybe I’m just a dreadful pragmatist.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “it’s just too unpalatable for most. Maybe I’m just a dreadful pragmatist.”

    Pragmatism is fine, as a first step, so long as you are aware of the limitations of what you’re doing. You’re trying to recruit people who don’t actually believe in free speech, so I agree that if you start off the conversation with applying the full-blown principle, you’re going to put them off before it’s even started.

    However, anyone whose final position is that certain sorts of speech are “just too unpalatable for most” and should still be banned or avoided isn’t talking about free speech at all. They’re just saying that society should follow *their* rules on what speech is tolerated instead of the ones society itself has picked. Everyone believes in allowing speech within the bounds they agree with and approve of!

    “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

    Noam Chomsky.

  • Ian

    @Nullius in Verba,

    I think it might be helpful here to point to the example of the ACLU in its heyday, when it was defending the right of the KKK and neo-Nazis to parade in D.C. and Chicago. The distinction between this high-minded, principled defence of free speech and the example of Milo is one of night and day. But there is a grey area between the former and the latter where those defending some version of free speech get sucked into arbitrating the truth of a given type of speech — in this case, whether Mohammed was a paedophile. My view is that this is no more valid for a defender of absolute free speech than it is for any court; or at least that if one engages in that kind of argument, the case for free speech gets lost in acrimony.

    It’s costly to defend the right of neo-Nazis to speak: Chomsky suffered for it, and the ACLU continues to be divided on it, even though nobody could accuse either of being a Nazi sympathizer. (I would have other criticisms of both, but that’s beside the point.)

    The only way to limit the opprobrium concomitant with a robust defence of free speech is to be absolutely clear that, e.g., the KKK, the neo-Nazis and Robert Faurisson are not “allies” and that what they are saying is not the issue — provided it doesn’t fall foul of Brandenburg v. Ohio or other overriding limitations such as whether a person has a right to be on the property where they’re speaking.

    This is the kind of pragmatism I’m proposing: essentially a restatement of the Voltairean principle, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    There seems to be too much defending and not enough disapproving.

  • Paul Marks

    Just to repeat the obvious….

    This law has nothing to do with protecting religion in general – as Dr David Wood has pointed out, do not hold your breath waiting for some leftist to be prosecuted for attacking Christianity.

    The law is indeed “Austrian” – but it was passed at the request of the European Union (some years ago) and was part of the Frankfurt School of Marxism (and French “Post Modern”) agenda of undermining the West and promoting enemies of the West – in this case Islam (NOT because the left believe in Islam, they do not, but because they see Islam as a useful ally in their campaign against Western Civilisation).

    As for the European Court of Human Rights – it did indeed start off as nothing to do with the European Economic Community, now the European Union. However, it was “incorporated” long ago – and now the European Court of Human Rights and the European Union are joined at the hip.

    Natalie also says that we (the United Kingdom) is going to leave the European Union – sadly I see no evidence that this will actually happen.

    We will get “Brexit” (a totally meaningless term) we will NOT get independence from the rules and policies of the European Union. Remember Mrs May AGREES with these “P.C.” (Frankfurt School) policies – and would (for example) happily send people to prison for such things as publically reading out the written opinions of Prime Minister Gladstone and Prime Minister Winston Churchill on Islam.

    Lastly – remember that the European Union is just the local branch of the Frankfurt School “international community”, the forces that are (for example) set to win the midterm American elections next Tuesday.

    Anyone who thinks the Democrats (who are university educated Frankfurt School types – to the core of their being) would let a little thing like the First Amendment stop them destroying Freedom of Speech has-not-been-paying-attention.

    The Democrats are very clear that “Free Speech does not include Hate Speech” – and “Hate Speech” is any opinion with which they disagree.

    Totalitarianism is what the “international community” (the university types) is about – it is NOT just what the European Union is about.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “But there is a grey area between the former and the latter where those defending some version of free speech get sucked into arbitrating the truth of a given type of speech — in this case, whether Mohammed was a paedophile.”

    Indeed. The truth of what is said is not relevant to the right to say it, with free speech. But as I said, the first people to stand up for free speech are the ones first in line to lose it. The people with controversial opinions who are arguing for free speech, also wish to use their right to free speech to express their opinions. The two commonly get tangled up.

    “There seems to be too much defending and not enough disapproving.”

    Perhaps the problem here is rather that we disapprove of the wrong things?

    People are expressing disapproval of a historical figure who took and kept slaves, who raided cities and slaughtered the inhabitants, who beheaded prisoners of war, who imposed the death penalty for a range of (to us) minor offences, including apostasy, and who instituted a religion that allows/approves the forced marriage of children to adults. The orthodoxy of the religion in question explicitly denies freedom of speech and freedom of belief, along with a slew of other rights and freedoms. We firmly assert that they have a right to believe in, follow (up to a point), express support for, and preach their religion, but we disapprove of it. Indeed, we ‘detest’ many parts of it, to use Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s paraphrase of Voltaire.

    Obviously, for Muslims and others who take their side, this disapproval and detestation is counterproductive. They don’t want to be visibly sharing a camp with Islamophobes who hate Mohammed and Islam. They don’t want to be seen voicing support for free speech if it means they’re going to get lumped into that category.

    But then, the Islamophobes don’t like the disapproval and detestation of Islamophobes, and don’t want to share a camp with Muslims and their enablers. It’s the same thing.

    The only way to prevent free speech being associated with one side of a controversy is for people on *both* sides to join together in speaking up for it. To *demonstrate* that tolerance for different opinions that is its basis. It needs Islamophobes to speak up for the religious freedom of Muslims, and for Muslim-supporters to speak up for the rights of Islamophobes and cartoonists. If you see your opponents on some issue aligning themselves with free speech and don’t want it to be tainted by the association, the best answer is not to run away, but instead to rush in, speak up, and try to balance them.

    If you think that on the Islamic issue we don’t have enough free speech advocates expressing disapproval of Islamophobia, then by all means join in and do so! I do regularly (and get roasted for it), but I could always do with some help. The point is, though, not to win the Islam/Islamophobia fight, but simply to demonstrate that people from both sides can tolerate the other, and allow it to be debated, in the interests of free speech for all.

    I agree with you though that it’s a problem, one that we probably don’t pay nearly enough attention to, and that this is made worse by the many taking part in the debate who fundamentally don’t really believe in free speech – only seeking freedom for their own side. Educating and persuading them of the virtues of the pure principle, especially if they think you’re on the ‘other side’, is a daunting task.

  • Ian

    @Nullius in Verba,

    We seem to be in agreement 🙂

  • Nullius in Verba (October 31, 2018 at 6:32 pm), the word “islamophobia” was invented under the direction of Trevor Phillips – who has since expressed his regret for doing so.

    Defending free speech with all who will, whether we agree with what they use it to say or not, is a sensible idea. It doesn’t sort so very well with those whose language says that disagreeing with them is a mental illness – unless of course, they grant others’ equal right to use similar terms of them.

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