25 October 2018

A shameful verdict

Jerry Coyne today reports a frightening story from Austria.  The European Court of Human Rights has upheld a lower court's conviction of an Austrian citizen identified only as "Mrs. S" for "defamation" of the Muslim prophet Muhammad -- essentially a conviction for blasphemy.  Exactly what Mrs. S said has not been made public, but it apparently involved criticism (during seminars she gave about Islam) of Muhammad's marriage to one of his wives, 'Â'ishah.  According to the Hadîth, a collection of canonical Islamic texts second in authority only to the Qur'ân itself,  Muhammad married 'Â'ishah when she was six or seven years old and consummated the marriage when she was nine or ten (he would have been 53).  Apparently Mrs. S expressed the view that this showed that Muhammad had pedophilic tendencies, which the courts judged likely to offend Muslims and perhaps stir up anti-Islamic feeling.

Remember, the "facts" here are not in dispute, given that Islam accepts the Hadîth as canonical and thus religious Muslims accept its account of the ages of Muhammad and 'Â'ishah at the time of these events.  Nor does the invocation of pedophilia seem questionable; even if you think there is nothing wrong with it, as a sheer matter of accurate meanings of words, a 53-year-old man having sex with a girl of nine or ten surely constitutes a case of pedophilia.  It was apparently for expressing the view that there was indeed something wrong with this that Mrs. S was convicted of "disparaging religious doctrines".

The penalty -- a fine of €480 -- is not the point here.  The point is that the laws of Austria (and of several other European countries) make it an illegal act to express certain opinions about certain beliefs.  By exactly the same logic, one could justify laws that banned any criticism of Leviticus's condemnation of homosexuality, or of Catholic dogma on abortion and birth control, or even of the inanity of creationism.

A couple of months ago I wrote my definitive post on censorship and the advocates of laws against "hate speech", who do exist in the US.  I pointed out that in practice, in Europe, such laws are used almost exclusively to harass people who call attention to uncomfortable truths about Islam.  If Mrs. S could be convicted, I myself could be convicted dozens of times over for things I've said about Islam and other religions on this blog.  And it's not hard to see how such laws would work in practice in our own country.  There is already a vast constituency of Trumpanzees who hate the media for reporting reality (or "fake news", as they call it), and Trump himself has repeatedly expressed a desire to punish those who criticize him or report uncomfortable facts about him.  In Europe, "hate speech" laws punish those who tell the truth about Islam; in the US, they would punish those who tell the truth about Republicanism.

Read Coyne's post, and be very grateful that we have the First Amendment and courts which -- at least so far -- have been robust in upholding its protections for free expression.


Blogger bluzdude said...

Republicans would love a law like that. For a group that so despises Iran and Shariah law, they sure look like they want to turn the US into a Christian theocracy.

26 October, 2018 05:07  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I don't even recall seeing your piece before this on the Alex Jones thing ... but I read it now. I myself have to be against the blasphemy stuff as hate speech. I censor my own speech when I write something (try to, my best), because I know that people are uncomfortable, but I at the same time, have to be straight as possible. You know, there's alot of stuff I dont like to read, some only because it simply aint my cup o' tea ... I'm sure many folks would not like to read my boring crap about global warming or economics, but that interests me, so I dont write that stuff to get readership or approval, only because it's what I choose to. At the same time, I have to express myself on how I feel about these religions, because they are nothing more to me than institutionalized culture and thought, whether someone agrees with me or not, that's just me. And I dont want Christians, Muslims, Satanists or Atheists dictating what is right or wrong for me, what I should conform to, etc ... YES ... even Satanists, and their various groups can be like that, some of the folks I associated with, even had in my home, attended rituals with or whatever, I didnt even like their one- track minds, snobbish attitudes, or company at times. My entire life, all I ever knew was exercising my freedom as I seen fit ... I mean, since I was a kid, I alwayz done what I wanted for the most (of course, with the exception of whenever I was incarcerated). And I even dont care about like when Muslim Minnesota cabbies years ago, who dominated their cab business in that town, started making rules that they dont accept fares of anyone that been drinking alcohol, some morality deal. I was even talking to Muslims about this one night, with guys I worked with ... my response, was those need to go find another job ... this is the USA, man ... that's the way it is here, it's our culture and liberty ... dont expect to come here and impose your beliefs and cultural rules on us, and get upset if we dont bow to you, plain and simple. I like to hear, read, and talk to various folks of different cultures ... whenever I learn something new, it's gratifying to me, that's all. At home I have a Quran, Holy Bible, Satanic Bible, Witchcraft books, Mein Kampf, and even clearly racist stuff like Might is Right, Malcolm X, and books from the White Aryan Resistance, Huey P Newton, etc, etc, all side by side ... am I blasphemous?, racist?, a hate monger? I had a maintenance tech come into my house one day, to do some work, he was central American ... asked about some of my wall pictures, asking stuff like "Diablo?" etc ... I simply told him it was "art", he looked strangely at some Satanic books too. He refused to work in my apartment, so they had to send in someone else to do the job. I have no problem with that or him, if it offends you or makes you feel uncomfortable, I prefer they leave my home, or even my website. I heard folks on the right even, that think that Mike Pence, is a alternative solution to Trump, more moderate or whatever. I dont like Pence even more than Trump actually ... I think he's one of them hardcore fundamoralists, and would try to saturate the country with religious laws, almost like Muslims. At least when Trump talks, he sayz what's on his mind, even if I dont agree with it. Later ....

26 October, 2018 05:16  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

The thing is, Infidel ... it has got to the point, where I dont even know what is politically correct or hate speech anymore, what to say, what you cant say, etc ... it's like getting so insane on that stuff, I cant keep up with it.

26 October, 2018 05:19  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Blasphemy laws are so terribly outdated. They should all be repealed, certainly in the West. Canada's were repealed quite some time ago, I believe.

26 October, 2018 10:47  
Anonymous NickM said...

For a lot of people who endorse such laws what you say is a feature and not a bug.

26 October, 2018 12:33  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Bluzdude: I see it on right-wing religious sites all the time. They seethe with hatred for anything that punctures religion's pomposity.

Ranch: I suspect if censorship laws like in Europe were imposed here, they'd be so widely defied that the authorities would find it impossible to enforce them. They'd be a great tool for going after people they wanted to "get" for some other reason, though.

Debra: Obviously I agree. Blasphemy is a victimless crime, after all.

NickM: Probably so.

27 October, 2018 02:39  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

That makes me so mad. All I can say is that I'm glad I live in the US where we have freedom of speech and there's not a damn thing the Muslims can do if we call Muhammad a pedophile. Which is what he was.

27 October, 2018 17:25  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I know. It's scary to think how many other Western countries wouldn't allow me to do this blog.

28 October, 2018 04:57  

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