A Bruges, Belgium criminal court convicted a man for shredding a Koran on March 6, 2013. The court imposed a four-month prison sentence and a 600 euro fine upon him. He now additionally faces a revocation of a previous suspension of an 18-month prison sentence for having set a fire in a wood. This case highlights yet again the greater restrictions on speech in free societies outside of the United States and how these restrictions can limit open debate about Islam.
The man, identified in print only as Arne S., attended a demonstration on June 8, 2012, in Ostend, Belgium, before retiring to a café. There Arne exchanged words with a dozen Muslims and tore apart a Koran before them. As described in a Belgian press account, Arne's counsel at trial claimed that the Muslims had thrown the "sacred book" at Arne, striking him in the head. Arne's lawyer, Olivier Ryde, thus claimed that no infraction of Belgium's law on hate speech had occurred. No reports of assault charges against the Muslims have appeared.
Arne's case demonstrates that Belgium, like many other European countries, has laws against what is commonly called "hate speech." In particular, Article 22 of the Belgian Law of May 10, 2007, Aiming to Struggle Against Certain Forms of Discrimination, prohibits incitement of hatred, discrimination, violence, and/or segregation against persons of various protected classes in public settings defined by Article 444 of the Belgian Penal Code. Article 3 of the May 10, 2007, laws defines these protected classes