In October 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld the blasphemy conviction of an Austrian woman who called the Prophet (ﷺ) a ‘paedophile’; highlighting her statements had caused offence and went over the boundaries of presenting the facts about the issue in a neutral and objective manner.
The woman in question was initially convicted of ‘disparaging religious doctrines’ in Austria in 2011 after she delivered two seminars in Vienna called ‘Basic Information on Islam’. She then turned to the ECHR to appeal this conviction.
In the seminars, which were supposedly about ‘basic information on Islam’, she talked about the incident of the Prophet (ﷺ) marrying “Aisha (ra) at the age of six and consummating it when she was aged nine. The lady said, Muhammad “liked to do it with children” and “a 56-year-old and a six-year-old? . . . What do we call it, if it is not paedophilia?”
This case and similar ones once again demonstrate that the modern day non-Muslim ‘intellectuals,’ ‘thinkers,’ and ‘critics’ of Islam can only view this particular marriage of the Prophet (ﷺ) through the narrow lens of the hyper-sexualised Western societies and problems they face such as abuse of young boys and girls by clergymen in religious institutions and the case of widespread paedophiles who sexually abuse and prey on young children.
There is no attempt at all to understand or explain this particular marriage from the point of view of marriage and the financial and leadership responsibilities Islam has placed on the man.
If the marriage to ‘Aisha (ra) was discussed in a comprehensive manner, this would highlight the Prophet (ﷺ) as a noble and responsible man who looked after so many women in disadvantaged positions.
They would naturally have to explain the Prophet’s (ﷺ) marriages to a woman 14 years his senior, a widowed woman, a prisoner of war and a daughter of a tribal leader, which he (ﷺ) freed and married. Not to mention that ‘Aisha (ra) was the daughter of the closest companion to the Prophet.
For Muslims, the real question: is this ruling by the ECHR a victory for Islam and Muslims? Will people in Europe and the West now stop insulting the Prophet (ﷺ) as a ‘paedophile’ amongst other slanderous terms associated with his noble name? And more importantly, will they stop believing this accusation? The answer is no.
The contradiction with this situation is that the basis of the ECHR decision is secularism, which believes in freedoms for man – which is the basis upon which the convicted woman believed she was free to make her statements.
For example, the court noted that her remarks had caused widespread offence to Muslims and didn’t present the case of the Prophet (ﷺ) neutrally and objectively. However, this means if a person made similar comments which caused minimal offence and outrage there would be no case against this woman or others.
This is highlighted with the case of Stephen Fry when he is reported to have said that God was “capricious, mean-minded and stupid”. The state police in Ireland, for example, couldn’t find a large enough group of people offended by the comments and hence no charge was brought forward.
The details of what is legal and illegal are determined by man’s’ mind and thus can change from time to time or from one situation to the other. Hence, freedom is not fixed in stone in its criteria of what is right or wrong.
According to secularists, this is a sign of progression for humanity as values, rules and laws should constantly change according to the times. However according to Islam, the values, rules and laws do not change as they have been decided by Allah (ﷻ) in the Quran and explained through the example of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).
Hence, freedom allows people to believe and express whatever they wish, irrespective of the consequences to Muslims or any other religious or ethnic grouping.
Furthermore, at a higher state or government level, freedom is used to support political agendas such as anti-Semitic laws. It is illegal to be anti-Semitic, but it is not illegal to insult the prophets of Allah (ﷻ).
This is because being anti-Semitic is a whip used by the Western media to support the creation and existence of the illegal occupation in Palestine by the Zionist entity; Israel. This serves the interests of the US, UK and Western nations in keeping the Middle East divided and preoccupied with the Zionist entity instead of focusing on how to unify the Middle East as a bloc against Europe or the US.
To conclude, defamation and insults to the Prophet (ﷺ) will continue under the watchful eye of Western societies through direct inflammatory statements, comedy and political satire.
The real way for Muslims to challenge the Western secular ideology is to expose it with its inherent contradictions and to present Islam as an alternative way of life.
At a state level, this will only happen when the Khilafah arises in one of the Muslim countries and presents Islam as an alternative to secularism.
Allah (ﷻ) tells us in the Qur’an,
ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۖ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good speech, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” [An-Nahl : 125]