Strasbourg (France): In a landmark verdict, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Thursday ruled that insulting or defaming Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) is not covered by freedom of expression.
Defaming the Prophet “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate" and "could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace,” the ruling stated.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling came after an Austrian woman was convicted for her statements insulting to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The woman, identified only as ES by the court, had held seminars on Islam in 2008 and 2009 for the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) where she while discussing the Prophet's marriage made insulting remarks about him.
The court said that the woman's comments could not be covered by the freedom of expression, stating that it had found that "the applicant's statements had been likely to arouse justified indignation in Muslims" and "amounted to a generalization without factual basis."
“Mrs. S. appealed but the Vienna Court of Appeal upheld the decision in December 2011, confirming, in essence, the lower court’s findings. A request for the renewal of the proceedings was dismissed by the Supreme Court on 11 December 2013,” it said.
“Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Mrs. S. complained that the domestic courts failed to address the substance of the impugned statements in the light of her right to freedom of expression.”
"It found in particular that the domestic courts comprehensively assessed the wider context of the applicant’s statements and carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria", the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) said in its ruling.
"Religious beliefs must be subject to criticism and denial, the ECHR observed, but when statements about religions went beyond critical denial and were likely to incite religious intolerance, states could take proportionate restrictive measures", the court said.
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