Woman who called Prophet Muhammad a 'pedophile' has conviction upheld by top court
47-year-old Mrs. S had made the comments during two seminars she had held in 2011 and was earlier convicted of slandering religious doctrines by Austrian courts
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against a woman who had previously been convicted of disparaging religious doctrines for calling Prophet Muhammad a pedophile and declared that her freedom of speech rights have not been violated.
According to the Daily Mail, the woman, identified by court documents as one 47-year-old Mrs. S from Vienna, had made the statements during two seminars she had held in 2011. The comments reportedly came during discussions on the Prophet's marriage with six-year-old Aisha, which scriptures indicate was consummated when the girl was just nine years old.
Addressing the topic, she allegedly said that Muhammad "liked to do it with children." She also reportedly said, "A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? What do we call it if not pedophilia?" The comments led to her February 2011 conviction by the Vienna Regional Court for slandering religious doctrine and she was ordered to pay a fine of $545 plus legal fees.
Mrs. S appealed the decision with both the Vienna Court of Appeals and Austria's Supreme Court but, in both cases, her argument that her freedom of speech rights had been infringed did not hold. The 47-year-old then took the matter to the ECHR, the continent's highest court charged with protecting human rights and political freedoms, where the judges once again ruled against her.
She had complained to the ECHR that Austria's domestic courts had failed to address the substance of the impugned statements in light of her freedom of expression. She stated that her "criticism of Islam occurred in the framework of an objective and lively discussion which contributed to a public debate" and that they were not aimed at "defaming the Prophet."
However, the court found that there had been no violation of Article 10 (which pertains to freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights and released a statement that read, "The Court found in particular that the domestic courts comprehensively assessed the wider context of the applicant’s statements and carefully balanced her 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."
It continued, "It held that by considering the impugned statements as going beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate, and by classifying them as an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam which could stir up prejudice and threaten religious peace, the domestic courts put forward relevant and sufficient reasons."