Prophet Mohammed cannot be called a paedophile says ECHR

Prophet Mohammed cannot be called a paedophile says ECHR October 26, 2018

A few years back Austrian citizen Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was convicted for ‘denigrating the teachings of a legally recognised religion’ by suggesting that Mohammed was a ‘paedophile’. She was stung with a fine of €480 ($546).

The case , in which Sabaditsch-Wolff, above, claimed she was contributing to public debate, wound up in the European Court of Human Rights, which yesterday roundly rejected her defence.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR ruled that Austrian courts had carefully balanced the applicant’s:

Right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.

In 2009 Sabaditsch-Wolff held two seminars entitled “Basic Information on Islam”, during which she likened Mo’s marriage to a six-year-old girl, Aisha, to paedophilia.

She said at the time that Mohammed “liked to do it with children” and:

A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? … What do we call it, if it is not paedophilia?

Cartoon strip reproduced with permission from Jesus and Mo

An Austrian court later convicted her of disparaging religion and imposed a fine. Other domestic courts upheld the decision before the case was brought before the ECHR.

At one of the hearings judge Neubauer found that it was not legally acceptable to apply the label “paedophile” to the “prophet”, for two distinct reasons:

1. Apart from the marriage to Aisha, which was formalised when she was six and consummated at the age of nine, Muhammad had many other women, in wedlock, as mistresses, or as war booty. This documents the fact that Mohammed did not have a primary sexual attraction directed towards minors.

2. The marriage, and thus the sexual relations with Aisha, did not end when she reached puberty, but continued until she was 18 and Mohammed died. This further underscores the fact that Mohammed was not attracted to her primarily due to her being a minor.

The ECHR recognised that freedom of religion did not exempt people from expecting criticism or denial of their religion. But it ruled that Sabaditsch-Wolff ‘s comments were not objective, failed to provide historical background and had no intention of promoting public debate.

The court ruled that her comment:

Could only be understood as having been aimed at demonstrating that Mohammed was not worthy of worship.

The court added that the statements were not based on facts and were intended to denigrate Islam.

It also found that even in a debate it was not compatible with freedom of expression to:

Pack incriminating statements into the wrapping of an otherwise acceptable expression of opinion and claim that this rendered passable those statements exceeding the permissible limits of freedom of expression.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Savpunk

    So, would it have helped if she had more precisely called him the child rapist prophet? Since many of his wives were the “spoils of war,” and unable to give consent, would the courts still have objected if she had called him simply the rapist prophet, covering both women and girls?

  • Incidentally, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff is part of the right-wing CounterJihad Europa organization. So her motivation here probably wasn’t a completely objective commitment to historical Truth, but rather a crusade to characterize Muslims as deviants and degenerates.

    Just so you know what kind of “thinker” you’re defending here.

  • Vanity Unfair

    We have to bear in mind that under C6 Arabian law (or the law of a particular area of what is now Saudi Arabia) it would have been quite normal for a father to sell a minor daughter (pun intended) into sexual servitude under a form of marriage in which all the advantages were held by the “husband”. The idea of paedophilia, apart from being unknown to that culture, would not enter into the situation. In C20 UK no girl-child under 16 can consent to sex, which would, therefore constitute rape, but we must not be misled by this. That Mohammed waited three whole years (he said) before consummating his “marriage” shows that he was not interested in six-year-old girls, only the mature nine-year-olds. The only reason he would “marry” a six-year-old would be to preserve her for later. After all, some of his other wives and sex-slaves would be getting a bit long in the tooth by then.
    In short, it would seem it is all right to call Mohammed a middle-aged man who would go to a lot of trouble to have sex with a child but not a paedophile. I think that is clear.

    The [court] ruled that her comment:
    Could only be understood as having been aimed at demonstrating that Mohammed was not worthy of worship.

    The court had better watch its own step. Mohammed is not worshipped. To make such an accusation must, surely, be blasphemous, or at least ‘denigrating the teachings of a legally recognised religion’. I hope there will be an apology at least.

    I am now going to imbibe something that will remove the nasty taste.

  • igotbanned999

    Stopped clocks…

  • Vanity Unfair

    Sometimes even the loonies have a point.
    Addressing the known facts does not confer honour on the messenger. At the same time argument must not be solely ad hominem.

  • Vanity Unfair

    I must work on my concision.

  • I’m not disputing the facts. But as long as we’re talking about facts, trying to make it seem like calling the Muslims’ prophet a pedophile is just conveying information, not trying to demonize or antagonize Muslims, sounds a little phony to me.

    Call me a skeptic.

  • Do you think that means she should be punished? Because that’s the issue here legally.

  • Yes, ironic how they said that. A bit more research was in order.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    “The ruled that her comment:

    Could only be understood as having been aimed at demonstrating that Mohammed was not worthy of worship.”

    Quite correct, he is NOT worthy of worship. Indeed, in Islam (please correct me if I’m wrong) only allah is worthy of and is worshipped. I think the judges have made a rather fundamental and basic mistake here.

  • Brian K

    “the right of others to have their religious feelings protected”

    I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a more succinctly stupid idea.

  • Under those criteria, he wasn’t a pedophile, just a child molester.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    I’ve always been on the fence about this one. There are plenty of substantial criticisms about Islam; this never seemed like one, since it was less a criticism of Islam and more a criticism of the period of time that Mohammad lived in. Yes, he married a child. That’s disgusting.

    But that’s also something that still happens in the United States today. The GOP just this year shot down a bill in I think Kentucky that would prevent the marriage of minors because of some bullshit about “traditional marriage”. The year, of course, being 2018, not 518 (not that the GOP would know the difference, mind). And need I remind you of what the Duck Dynasty guy said? He isn’t alone in thinking that.

    If you’re using it as a broader critique of misogyny in not just Islamic culture but in culture as whole, east and west, then yes, it absolutely is a valid criticism. It’s a demonstration of just how deep those roots go, and how anchored they are in one of the major world religions (and you don’t have to dig very deep to find similar misogyny — albeit worse, since Islam was fairly forward thinking with regards for women, shockingly enough — in Christianity and Judaism, as well). But as a way to criticism the religion specifically, esp. from right-wingers who could care less if Christians do the same thing? It feels a lot like special pleading.

  • Do you think she was simply conveying information, expressing an opinion like she was discussing ice cream flavors? Or, as I implied, is she engaged (like her cronies Pam Gellar and Richard Spencer) in a campaign of antagonism against Muslims?

  • roger818

    Her motive could very well be to demonize or antagonize Muslims, that absolutely has nothing to do with her punishment, we don’t punish Bill Maher for ripping on Christianity and your comment is nothing more than a pathetic deviation from the fact that Europe has archaic and grotesque free speech laws, something Dr Chomsky pointed out years ago. But Chomsky also pointed that, what are you doing is a third grade technique used by Lawyers, where they try to defame their opponents, in order to change the subject, basically a win win, since the person now has to defend his image from malicious attacks, instead of actually debating the topic at hand.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    You haven’t visited the Fox news twitter feed in a while, have you?

  • Brian K

    Nope. I haven’t poured hot sauce in an open wound in a while either.

  • Her motive could very well be to demonize or antagonize Muslims, that absolutely has nothing to do with her punishment

    It doesn’t? I’d think it makes it qualify as hate speech or incitement to violence.

  • Kevin K

    1. Muslims don’t worship Mohammed. Kind of an important point. One wonders if the court actually consulted a Muslim to see what they thought.

    2. The “age of consent” has been fluid since before Mohammed and most certainly after. In fact, in New York State in the year 1900, the age of consent was 10.

  • Kevin K

    So was Socrates…

  • Yeah, it’s kind of a “gotcha!” trick. How many prominent figures of history were what we’d consider child molesters?

  • Don’t say that! You might hurt some philosopher’s feelings.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    Something I’ve seen happen is that folks who challenge the culture will adopt a position that critically examines a belief held by the greater society — for instance, the Science Wars. That wasn’t about how accurate science was, that was about how much science was “contaminated,” for lack of a better word, by the society it grew out of. But motivated critics of science like creationists and global warming deniers who knew nothing about science began aping these criticisms as a way to justify their own stupid beliefs. And it’s transparent; as transparent as a person using a hammer instead of a screwdriver.

    This is the same thing. Feminists and others have begun critically thinking about misogyny not just in western but eastern culture as well, and they make good criticisms of the misogyny that runs rampant in these cultures. The problem starts when reactionaries, without the academic intentions, get a hold of these ideas and they start weaponizing them against Muslims as a whole. And the “logic only” crew can’t tell the difference, so they glom onto this criticism of Islam because “hey, I’m an atheist, and I’d never treat women that way, making them wear black bags over their head — hell, I love women so much I want them to wear as little as possible, unless I think they’re ugly or fat. I’m not misogynistic at all!”

    The quickest way to learn if someone is doing this as a “gotcha” or if they’re sincere in their criticism is to see how they respond to criticisms of Western patriarchy. If they reject the notion, then you’re dealing with someone who isn’t approaching this from a place of honest criticism.

  • raymond metcalfe

    the hot sauce will be the least painful

  • Probably not, but that doesn’t answer the question.

  • *cringe*
    AFAIK, no human rights documents have such a right. The frightening thing is that the Religious Right could easily weaponize this to set up a theocracy.

  • I don’t think it is hate speech; after all, it is not considered hate speech to rip on Christianity, regardless of what the Religious Right says. As Muslim reformer Irshad Manji says, Part of the price of liberty is that someone may say something you find offensive. (She was referencing the 2005 Danish cartoons.)

  • I think the court made a bad call; after all, AFAIK, there is no mention of “protection of religious feelings” in any human rights document. However, some things *specifically* guaranteed as human rights *do* contradict religious feelings: the right to apostasy (UDHR, article 16) is an example. Also, the fact that SSM is being increasingly recognized as a human right is something else that offends religious feelings. Often, dissent hurts religious feelings, so this ruling essentially sets up gatekeepers. Atheism itself hurts religious feelings.

    I cam easily see the Religious Right using this as a weapon, to set up the Republic of Gilead. (They, in their xenophobia, tend to get offended when American courts consider foreign laws; however, I would not put it past them to drop their objection when it is to their advantage.) Can they use it to force LGBT back in the closet, ban evolution, and force women back home with the roles of Kinder, Küche, and Kirche? Can atheists be forced into the closet, or even atheist blogs be shut down? Will this ruling empower theocracies and theocrats the world over?

    So, how will they determine whose feeling to go with, when two religions have dueling claims to “hurt religious feelings”.

    To go back to the Muhammad comments:
    I agree that the judges made ignorant comments, as worshipping Muhammad is considered shirk in Islam, which is the big no-no in Islam.

    I will also note that the judges failed to note the fact that the hadith that claims Muhammad was a pedophile is weak, which means it is not necessarily accurate, and another hadith gives Ayesha’s age as older, at 14. (Still younger than is acceptable today, but she would have reached the age of consent in some countries, including Western ones.)

    Still, that raises the question as to whether or not Roy Moore would have to be let off the hook if Muhammad is, in the name of consistency. (It is also interesting that many of Moore’s defenders bash Muhammad, and even accuse the latter of pedophilia.) Could Muhammad be given a pass under the idea of being “a product of his era”, and ex post facto laws, that one should only be punished for breaking laws after they go into effect. This would mean there *is* consistency in calling out Moore but not Muhammad.

    Nevertheless, understanding and cooperation should be encouraged, and not the “clash of civilizations” (and certainly not using this for “Christianity is superior to Islam” posturing).

  • To be fair to the atheists and “logic only”, they also criticize misogyny in Christianity, and their “logic only” annoys fundamentalist Christians. (Fundamentalist Christians make the same accusations against Islam concerning misogyny, but turn around and then do the same things they accuse Muslims of doing, and they bash anyone who calls out RTC misogyny. And they hate feminists.)

    It is noteworthy that Islamists claim Islam liberates women, and that it is the perverted West with its loose sexual mores that oppresses and objectifies women. Of course, like their Christian counterparts, they bash feminists who dare call out Islamist misogyny.

  • It’s not just about people’s feelings being hurt. It’s about right-wing white Austrians demonizing the hated Muslim minority as degenerates who would presumably prey on little white Austrian girls. Rhetoric like this has consequences. Austria has half a million Muslims, and they live in an atmosphere of distrust and oppression.

  • Brian K

    It’s not a hypothetical, they’re actively trying.

  • Jim Jones

    11 Years Old, a Mom, and Pushed to Marry Her Rapist in Florida

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/26/opinion/sunday/it-was-forced-on-me-child-marriage-in-the-us.html

    Not surprisingly, the marriage didn’t work out — two-thirds of marriages of underage girls don’t last, one study found — but it did interrupt Johnson’s attendance at elementary school. Today she is campaigning for a state law to curb underage marriages, part of a nationwide movement to end child marriage in America. Meanwhile, children 16 and under are still being married in Florida at a rate of one every few days.

    TN: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/03/07/tennessee-republicans-child-marriage-bill-gay-marriage-argument/404559002/

    KY: https://insiderlouisville.com/metro/bipartisan-child-marriage-bill-faces-roadblock-from-conservative-family-foundation/

    US: http://apps.frontline.org/child-marriage-by-the-numbers/
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    Outrage After Teen Gets 10 Years for Oral Sex With Girl

    http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/LegalCenter/story?id=2833126&page=1

    Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation in 2005, after, at the age of 17, he had engaged in oral sex with a 15-year-old at a New Year’s Eve party, an offense carrying a mandatory penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

    At the time of his conviction, provisions for similarity in age that allowed underage consent to be taken into account were only applicable to vaginal sex. Because the case involved oral sex, the consent of the girl was not at that time legally relevant. (The fact that the boy is black was probably highly relevant).
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    Children as young as 12 were granted marriage licences in Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina, while 11 other states allowed 13-year-olds to wed.

    More than 1,000 children aged 14 or under were granted marriage licences — America 2018

  • Tying allegations of pedophilia against Muhammad into claims of Muslims’ preying on white Austrian girls is a bit of a stretch, as Ayesha was not a white, Austrian girl. One could simultaneously oppose racist stereotypes (like those spewed against black people in USA) while expressing concerns about Muhammad’s character.

    Also, there is evidence against your claim, for tex-Muslims there are making the claim that Muhammad was a pedoplile as well, and not all of them are white. The liberal “white racists crapping on brown people” narrative ignores ex-Muslims. (Note: Islam is not a race, but a religion: people of any race can [and do] convert, and adherents are from all races: the latter is a fact that was influential for Malcolm X towards the end of his life.) Many ex-Muslims fear for their lives.

    “Rhetoric like this has consequences.”

    So does protecting “religious feelings”: as I observed, ex-Muslims can be harsh and politically incorrect in their critique of Islam, as ex-Christians can be in their critique of Christianity. If someone said something negative about Jesus or the Virgin Mary, liberals would mostly dismiss those whose “religious feelings” were offended as “Jesus freaks”, “fanatics”, or “fundies”. Shouldn’t ex-Muslims have the same right to criticize their former religion as ex-Christians?

    Another potential consequence, as observed above, is that the Religious Right could easily use hurt “religious feelings” to push their theocratic agenda. They already used local “religious feelings” in Costa Rica to make the US embassy take down the rainbow flag. (Also consider the victim mentality Right Wing Christians have!)

    So, yeah, the consequences of this ruling are potentially the Republic of Gilead.

  • john clayton

    You use that term unwisely, “Hate speech” is a blanket term that is in truth meaningless because it can be so generaly missaplied to anything that someone finds offensive, i have a personal insight about offence, that is, it is taken, never given.The choice to ignore and thus reduce the power of those who utter “offensive” things lies with the person hearing it.Victim complexes are all to common these days, people need to toughen up.

  • “Hate speech” is a blanket term that is in truth meaningless because it can be so generaly missaplied to anything that someone finds offensive

    As I keep saying, hate speech isn’t just speech someone finds offensive. It deals with hate directed against an oppressed minority that perpetuates and intensifies their marginalized status.

    Victim complexes are all to common these days, people need to toughen up.

    Well, when people like you defend the rights of racists to have rallies and proclaim the inferiority of minorities, it’s pretty understandable that minorities will feel victimized. Maybe you have to toughen up and realize that the words free speech don’t just magically make all our social problems and institutional racism go away.

  • Tying allegations of pedophilia against Muhammad into claims of Muslims’ preying on white Austrian girls is a bit of a stretch

    Well, why else would a white supremacist like ESW make such a big deal out of it? Trying to make it sound like she was just communicating a data point is a bit of a stretch too.

    The liberal “white racists crapping on brown people” narrative ignores ex-Muslims. (Note: Islam is not a race, but a religion)

    Once again, I think it’s naive to think that white right-wing Austrians are taking issue with the tenets of the religion of Islam, rather than trying to demonize and antagonize the Muslim minority they despise. Do you think they’re closing mosques in Austria because they think that there are methodological problems with Islam? Do you think CounterJihad Europa is fighting against what their website calls “the Islamization of Europe” because there are scientifically erroneous passages in the Koran?

    “Rhetoric like this has consequences.”

    So does protecting “religious feelings”

    Looking at this strictly in terms of religious people’s feelings ignores so much context I don’t know where to begin. I already said I don’t think the disparaging-religion charge is valid; hate speech is a much better description of what ESW is engaged in. I don’t know why it’s so hard to see that the issue is having to balance free speech rights against the rights of minorities to live free of mistrust and hatred.

    So, yeah, the consequences of this ruling are potentially the Republic of Gilead.

    Let’s keep our wits about us here, okay?

  • John Thunderer

    Like Moses and Jesus, I am not even sure that Mohamed was an actual real person, anyway.
    Where is the contemporaneous evidence that any of them ever even existed?
    The only “evidence” is based on entries in the Torah, Bible and Koran, and they only came into being long after the “prophets” were said to have lived.
    So where is the archealogical and written evidence of their existence during their alleged lifetimes?
    Where are the writings of their contemporaries while they are alleged to exist, referring to them and their activities while they supposedly lived?
    I am not aware of any contemporary evidence for any of the three of them while they were allegedly alive.
    Does anyone know if any such evidence actually exists?
    If no such real evidence exists, the only rational conclusion is that they are mere fictitious individuals with fictitious life-stories.
    On that basis, “Mohamed” did not exist and “he” could not have had sexual relations with a legal minor girl.

  • espressionant

    https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{%22languageisocode%22:[%22ENG%22],%22documentcollectionid2%22:[%22JUDGMENTS%22],%22kpdate%22:[%222018-10-22T00:00:00.0Z%22,%222018-10-29T00:00:00.0Z%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-187188%22]}

    the court didn’t single out religious feelings (the press release and the article did) but merely:

    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.

  • Tom McLachlin

    If the justices on the European Court of Human Rights who ruled that a 59 year old having sex with a 9 year-old believe it is NOT a Pedophilia, then …
    I suggest those same justices step out of their court room into the street and try arranging sex with a 9 year old while the police watch.
    Will the justices be charged with being pedophiles? I bet yes.

    The court revealed it’s true motive for such an off-the-mark ruling. They are more interested in “preserving religious peace in Austria” than in making a determination on whether sex with children who can’t give informed consent is a crime. That is an act of cowardice by the court, and the rule of law in Austria suffered a setback.

    Of course having sex with a 9 year old is pedophilia, at least in every first world nation. Not abusing children is part of being a civil society.
    Clearly Austria isn’t as civilized as we all thought it was.

  • Gavin Quick

    So according to their findings, 45 IS a paedophile because he did not continue his relationships after raping them.

  • a_b704

    The Prophet was not a pedophile. He was a pedophile warlord! Like so many before him. Like so many after him.

  • roberto quintas

    Just for the records: YHVH makes Myrian/Mary pregnant at 12 YO [or less].

  • espressionant briefly