The European Court of Human Rights Kneels to Islam
Thanks to Danish blog Uriasposten for pointing out this case to me. The European Court of Human Rights has just ruled in favor of the Turkish state, which sentenced a man for publishing a book that "insulted the Prophet and religion". I'm not entirely sure, but I believe this ruling is binding for all EU nations. This is part of a wider pattern. At the insistence of Turkey, in May 2005 the Council of Europe included Anti-Islamism as a “dangerous inclination” that has to be fought. Recently, Turkish PM Erdogan stressed that anti-Islamism must be treated as a crime against humanity. This happens at the same time as Turkish society is brimming with Antisemitism, and Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is a bestseller. In April 2005, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) pushed the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to pass a resolution calling for combating defamation campaigns against Islam and Muslims in the West. Freedom of speech is being abolished by a succession of recommendations and court rulings, and the mainstream media couldn't care less:
İ.A. v. Turkey (no. 42571/98) No violation of Article 10
The applicant, İ.A., is a Turkish national who was born in 1960 and lives in France. He is the proprietor and managing director of the Berfin publishing house. In November 1993 he published a novel by Abdullah Rıza Ergüven called Yasak Tümceler (“The Forbidden Phrases”) in which the author addressed philosophical and theological issues in a novelistic style. 2,000 copies of the book were printed.
The applicant was prosecuted under Article 175 §§ 33 and 4 of the Criminal Code for publishing insults against “God, the Religion, the Prophet and the Holy Book”. On 28 May 1996 Istanbul Court of First Instance sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment, which was later commuted to a fine equivalent at the time to 16 United States dollars. The court based its decision on an expert opinion and on an extract from the book in which the author asserted, among other things: “Some of these words were, moreover, inspired in a surge of exultation, in Aisha’s arms ... God’s messenger broke his fast through sexual intercourse, after dinner and before prayer. Muhammad did not forbid sexual intercourse with a dead person or a living animal.”
The applicant appealed on points of law but was unsuccessful. The applicant alleged that his conviction and sentence had infringed his right to freedom of expression, in breach of Article 10 (freedom of expression). The Court considered that the applicant’s conviction had amounted to interference with his right to freedom of expression. The interference had been prescribed by law and had pursued the legitimate aims of preventing disorder and protecting morals and the rights of others. The issue for the Court to determine was whether the interference had been “necessary in a democratic society”; this involved weighing up the conflicting interests relating to the exercise of two fundamental freedoms, namely the applicant’s right to impart his ideas on religious theory to the public, on the one hand, and the right of others to respect for their freedom of thought, conscience and religion, on the other hand. The Court reiterated in that connection that those who chose to exercise the freedom to manifest their religion, irrespective of whether they did so as members of a religious majority or a minority, could not reasonably expect to be exempt from all criticism. They had to tolerate and accept the denial by others of their religious beliefs and even the propagation by others of doctrines hostile to their faith.
However, the present case concerned not only comments that were disturbing or shocking or a “provocative” opinion but an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam. Notwithstanding the fact that there was a certain tolerance of criticism of religious doctrine within Turkish society, which was deeply attached to the principle of secularity, believers could legitimately feel that certain passages of the book in question constituted an unwarranted and offensive attack on them. In those circumstances, the Court considered that the measure in question had been intended to provide protection against offensive attacks on matters regarded as sacred by Muslims and had therefore met a “pressing social need”. It also took into account the fact that the Turkish courts had not decided to seize the book in question, and consequently held that the insignificant fine imposed had been proportionate to the aims pursued by the measure in question. The Court therefore held, by four votes to three, that there had been no violation of Article 10.