Freedom of Speech in Europe? Austrian woman charged and fined for speaking ill of The Prophet Muhammad and Aisha’s marriage.
In 2011, an unnamed woman was giving a seminar in which she stated that the Prophet Muhammad, “liked to do it with children,” citing his marriage to six-year-old Aisha when he was well into his 50s. “What do we call it, if it is not pedophilia?” she finished.
She was charged under Austria’s law against disparaging religious doctrines and sentenced to pay a fine. She repealed this charge, claiming she was merely taking a modern-approach on the relationship between the Prophet and his 11 wives. But, Europe’s highest human rights court, the apt named European Court of Human Rights, concluded otherwise.
The court and its seven judges, from Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Georgia, Ireland, and Latvia, came to a unanimous decision and upheld the 2011 charges. They stated that, “insulting the Prophet Muhammad is not protected by freedom of expression,” and that her statements were an, “abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam” which could “stir up prejudice and threaten religious peace.” Additionally, the court argued that the woman unfairly accused Muhammad’s interest in Aisha being one of a sexual nature, citing that their marriage endured until Muhammad’s death when Aisha was 18-years-old, which, in this court’s opinion, ruled out child-marriage as a motivating factor. The court concluded by saying that they, “carefully balanced [the woman’s] right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected.” She was charged and forced to pay the original fine plus the costs of the trial.
This decision comes as Europe sees right wing and far-right political parties having major gains in elections based on anti-immigration and anti-European Union platforms.