On Thursday, 25 October 2018, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that an Austrian woman’s conviction for disparaging religious doctrines in 2009 did not breach her freedom of speech. The ECHR said Austrian courts had “carefully balanced [the woman’s] right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected.”
In 2011, a Vienna court convicted the woman for having called the prophet of Islam a pedophile and ordered her to pay a fine (plus attorney’s fees), a ruling that was later upheld by an Austrian appeals court. In its decision last week, the ECHR said the appellate court ruling was appropriate, as it had “served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace.”
This is another blow against European freedom of speech by the ECHR. Sohrab Ahmari, formerly of The Wall Street Journal Europe and now a writer at Commentary, had this to say the day after the ECHR’s abominable decision:
This will not end well for European liberal elites, who imagine they can use coercive judicial power to shut down debates about immigration and assimilation and Islam’s place in Europe. The stultifying, decayed Europe these elites have created, and which they struggle to maintain, is a “false Europe,” as the signers of last year’s Paris Statement, including philosophical luminaries such as Roger Scruton, Pierre Manent, and Rémi Brague, noted:
‘Europe now seeks to tighten existing regulations on freedom of speech, an aboriginal European freedom—freedom of conscience made manifest. The targets of these restrictions are not obscenity or other assaults on decency in public life. Instead, Europe’s governing classes wish to restrict manifestly political speech. Political leaders who give voice to inconvenient truths about Islam and immigration are hauled before judges. Political correctness enforces strong taboos that deem challenges to the status quo beyond the pale. The false Europe does not really encourage a culture of freedom.’
The ‘false Europe’ rests on so much spiritual and intellectual fluff. Its custodians have no ultimate truth commitments beyond the ‘ever-closer’ integration of markets and nations. That’s why they fear criticism of Islam: Such theological talk, however crude, reminds them that their own populations still do have ultimate commitments. At least, they have an inkling of what the true Europe was all about, with its classical, Judeo-Christian, and Enlightenment inheritance. Europeans still long for the true, the good, and the beautiful, despite the best efforts of their leaders.
[…] The true Europe will return one day, simply because no truth can be repressed permanently, and no great civilization will consent forever to the ignominious silence and self-negation demanded by the judicial censors and petty bureaucrats of the European Court.