The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that criticism of Mohammed, the founder of Islam, constitutes incitement to hatred and therefore is not protected free speech.
With its unprecedented decision, the Strasbourg-based court — which has jurisdiction over 47 European countries, and whose rulings are legally binding on all 28 member states of the European Union — has effectively legitimized an Islamic blasphemy code in the interests of "preserving religious peace" in Europe.
The case involves Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, an Austrian woman who in 2011 was convicted of "denigrating religious beliefs" after giving a series of lectures about the dangers of fundamentalist Islam.
Sabaditsch-Wolff's legal problems began in November 2009, when she presented a three-part seminar about Islam to the Freedom Education Institute, a political academy linked to the Austrian Freedom Party — which today forms part of the Austrian government. A left-leaning weekly magazine, News, planted a journalist in the audience to secretly record the lectures.