Europe rights court: conviction for insulting Prophet Muhammad did not violate freedom of expression
October 29, 2018
The case centered around two seminars hosted by Ms S in 2009. During the talks, titled “Basic Information on Islam,” Ms S referred to the Prophet Muhammad as a pedophile. Subsequently, the Vienna Regional Criminal Court convicted her for disparaging religious doctrines.
Ms S fought the conviction under Article 10, “Freedom of Expression,” of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court held that Article 10 was limited by Article 9, the clause protecting the freedom of religion.
[E]ven in a lively discussion it was not compatible with Article 10 of the Convention to pack incriminating statements into the wrapping of an otherwise acceptable expression of opinion and claim that this rendered passable those statements exceeding the permissible limits of freedom of expression.
Statements that crossed the religious criticism threshold, and could be considered as encouraging religious intolerance, would be incongruous with the freedom of religion.
Only where expressions under Article 10 went beyond the limits of a critical denial, and certainly where they were likely to incite religious intolerance, might a State legitimately consider them to be incompatible with respect for the freedom for thought, conscience and religion and take proportionate restrictive measures.
Ultimately, the court determined that the Austrian courts balanced the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion in a way that promoted religious peace within Austria.