Authoritative Muslim texts record the marriage of Islam’s founder, Muhammad, to a 6-year-old girl named Aisha, and the consummation of their relationship when she was 9.
While some might think it an impertinent cultural judgment, describing such an action by a 53-year-old man as “pedophilia” aligns with the sensibilities of the Western world.
But not in the European Court of Human Rights, which upheld Thursday the criminal conviction and fine of an Austrian who discussed the Islamic prophet’s child marriage at a conference of the populist Freedom Party.
The woman, described as E.S. by the court, was convicted of disparaging religious doctrines and fined more than $500 in a judgment that was upheld on two appeals, the Daily Sabah of Istanbul reported
The Strasbourg, France-based court found that her statements describing Muhammad as a pedophile “had been likely to arouse justified indignation in Muslims” and “amounted to a generalization without factual basis.”
Such comments, the court said, are not protected by the freedom of expression provisions of Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The court asserted her statements “were not phrased in a neutral manner aimed at being an objective contribution to a public debate concerning child marriages.”
The Austrian courts had drawn a distinction between pedophilia and child marriage, the Turkish newspaper said, which they contended was also a common practice historically in European ruling families.
The European court classified the woman’s “impugned” statements as “an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which was capable of stirring up prejudice and putting at risk religious peace.”
Among Austria’s 8.8 million people are about 600,000 Muslims.
Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer commented that the problem the Austrian courts overlooked was that Muhammad is held up in Islam as the perfect example of conduct for Muslims.
In Afghanistan, Spencer pointed out, because of Muhammad, virtually all girls above third-grade age are married.
But the Austrian court, he wrote, “would have us believe either that there is no pedophilia in these child marriages, or that they have nothing to do with Muhammad, both of which could be proven false readily.”
In July, an Islamic Shariah court in Indonesia allowed a 41-year-old man to keep his 11-year-old bride. He was fined only for not seeking approval from the court or from his current two spouses.
Che Abdul Karim drew international outrage when he posted a photo of him with his bride on Facebook.
He told the Borneo Post: “I was disappointed with various criticisms and allegations made against me in the social media after I took her as my third wife.”
The couple were married by an imam in June.
Spencer, the author of “The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS,” called the European court ruling “an important step toward the imposition of Sharia in Europe, as it is a tacit acceptance of Sharia blasphemy restrictions on criticizing Muhammad.”
He asked rhetorically if the European Court of Human Rights would rule that someone deserved a fine and imprisonment for criticizing Jesus.
“The case wouldn’t even come to them,” he said.