The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has endorsed an Austrian court order fining a woman for her statements against Prophet Muhammad. An Austrian woman national had approached the ECHR against a domestic court ruling against her. She had contended that Austrian court order was in violation of Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
First a lower court had found the woman guilty of publicly defaming the Prophet and ordered her to pay a fine amounting to EUR 480. The order was later upheld by the Austrian Supreme Court observing that the attempt was merely to defame Prophet Muhammad by accusing him of a specific sexual preference. The woman then moved the ECHR.
A 7-judge bench headed by ECHR president Angelika Nußberge endorsed the view taken by the Austrian court that presenting objects of religious worship in a provocative way capable of hurting the feelings of the followers of that religion could be conceived as a malicious violation of the spirit of tolerance, which was one of the bases of a democratic society, says a report in the portal LiveLaw.in.
“The Court, in conclusion, finds that in the instant case the domestic courts comprehensively assessed the wider context of the applicant’s statements, and carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the rights of others to have their religious feelings protected, and to have religious peace preserved in Austrian society. They discussed the permissible limits of criticism of religious doctrines versus their disparagement, and found that the applicant’s statements had been likely to arouse justified indignation in Muslims. In addition, the Court considers that the impugned statements were not phrased in a neutral manner aimed at being an objective contribution to a public debate concerning child marriages (contrast Aydın Tatlav and Giniewski, both cited above), but amounted to a generalisation without factual basis. Thus, by considering them as going beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate and classifying them as an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which was capable of stirring up prejudice and putting at risk religious peace, the domestic courts came to the conclusion that the facts at issue contained elements of incitement to religious intolerance. The Court accepts that they thereby put forward relevant and sufficient reasons and finds that the interference with the applicant’s rights under Article 10 indeed corresponded to a pressing social need and was proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued,” the ECHR said, according to the portal that has published the full order of the European court.