This article by Bridge Initiative Senior Research Fellow Farid Hafez originally appeared on the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project (IRDP).
The ECHR on anti-Muslim hate speech
Recently, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against a woman who claimed calling the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile was protected by free speech. The woman behind the appeal was fined €480 ($625) or an alternative sentence of 60 days in prison and was required to pay the costs of the trial before in 2009 a complaint was filed against her for hate speech and found her guilty in 2011. But who is this woman, who tried to fight this through all domestic courts up to the ECHR? Eventually, this trope of the last prophet of Islam being a pedophile is wide spread in Islamophobic discourses.
The woman behind the case
In fact, the woman behind this initiative is a champion of Islamophobia on a global scale. Her slurs over Muhammad were uttered in a closed seminar in the political academy of the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party. While she claimed she was contributing to public debate, she held many more deeply racist views and had argued in the same seminar that “Muslims kill or rape kids because of their religion” or “we are all lied to by Muslims on a daily basis, because this is their religion.”
I happened to have had a controversy over free speech and Islamophobia in the op-ed section of the Austrian daily Die Presse back in 2011. The author, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, was not just an individual fighting for freedom of speech, as she often pretends. No. She has rather been a central figure of what is often referred to as the Organized Islamophobic Network (OIN). She was the leader of the Österreich Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa, the Austrian arm of a Germany-based registered NGO that fights an alleged Islamization of Europe. She also heads the Mission Europa Netzwerk Karl Martell and recently spoke at an OSCE meeting at a side event, which is organized by NGOs, for the Wiener Akademikerbund. All these three institutions are well known for promoting a staunch Islamophobic discourse. Beyond her activism in the German-speaking area, she is widely connected on an international level.
To learn more about Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff and the Global Islamophobia Network read the full article here.