“The Islamophobes behind the European court’s rejection of a case over prophet slur”
The ECHR on anti-Muslim hate speech
Recently, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against a woman who claimed calling the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile was protected by free speech. The woman behind the appeal was fined €480 ($625) or an alternative sentence of 60 days in prison and was required to pay the costs of the trial before in 2009 a complaint was filed against her for hate speech and found her guilty in 2011. But who is this woman, who tried to fight this through all domestic courts up to the ECHR? Eventually, this trope of the last prophet of Islam being a pedophile is wide spread in Islamophobic discourses.
The woman behind the case
In fact, the woman behind this initiative is a champion of Islamophobia on a global scale. Her slurs over Muhammad were uttered in a closed seminar in the political academy of the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party. While she claimed she was contributing to public debate, she held many more deeply racist views and had argued in the same seminar that
“Muslims kill or rape kids because of their religion”
“we are all lied at by Muslims on a daily basis, because this is their religious duty”.
I happened to have had a controversy over free speech and Islamophobia in the op-ed section of the Austrian daily Die Presse back in 2011. The author, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, was not just an individual fighting for freedom of speech, as she often pretends. No. She has rather been a central figure of what is often referred to as the Organized Islamophobic Network (OIN). She was the leader of the Österreich Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa, the Austrian arm of a Germany-based registered NGO that fights an alleged Islamization of Europe. She also heads the Mission Europa Netzwerk Karl Martell and recently spoke at an OSCE meeting at a side event, which is organized by NGOs, for the Wiener Akademikerbund. All these three institutions are well known for promoting a staunch Islamophobic discourse. Beyond her activism in the German-speaking area, she is widely connected on an international level.
The Global Islamophobic Network
She has documented much of her activism at the OSCE on the well-known anti-Muslim website Gates of Vienna. Gates of Vienna is home to many publications of Fjordman, a pseudonym of Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen, who is the main source of the terrorist and anti-Muslim conspirator Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people back in Norway in 2011. Breitbart News paid severe attention in support of her case.
Besides being an author for anti-Muslim platforms, she has also been an activist for the largest anti-Muslim movement in the United States. Sabaditsch-Wolff is the leader of the international chapter of ACT! for America. Only two years ago, she toured with ACT! for America through the states. Her activism has started long ago. Already in October 2007, she had addressed the inaugural ‘Counter Jihad’ conference in Brussels, which was the founding moment for the self-acclaimed Counter-Jihad Movement (CJM) that connects groups with an Islamophobic agenda in the Western world. A regular speaker to events of Islamophobic groups, she has also made herself a name in more mainstream institutions. In 2010, she addressed the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI) meeting at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington DC. She also met with US Congressional delegation from the GOP in 2014, Michelle Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, Robert Pittenger, and Steve King to discuss her hate speech trial in Vienna.
The Radical Right
But Sabaditsch-Wolff does not shy away from more radical representatives of Islamophobic ideology. She addressed the French Bloc Identitaire’s (BI) during their ‘Internationational Conference on the Islamisation of our Countries’-conference, the English Defence League (EDL) in 2011 during their demonstration. Sabaditsch-Wolff is also well connected to Felix Strüning, former head of the Stresemann Foundation, which is funded by the Middle East Forum, which is headed by notorious Islamophobe Daniel Pipes. She was knighted by Knights of Malta on 7 October 2016 alongside Brigitte Gabriel (aka Nour Saman), who is the co-founder of ACT! for America.
Connecting the Far-Right to Israel In 2010
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was the organizer of a historical trip by a far-right delegation to Israel that attempted to mainstream right-wing parties, which were famous for their anti-Semitism and superficially tried to change their strategy from anti-Semitism to Islamophobia. Sabaditsch-Wolff accompanied right-wing leaders such as Filip Dewinter (Vlaams Belang), Heinz Christian Strache (FPÖ̈), Kent Ekeroth (Sweden Democrats) amongst others to find possible partners in coalition amongst the far-right in Israel. While many of these figures were and are still regarded as persona non grata in Israel, the delegation was welcomed by far-right politicians such as the Israeli businessman Chaim Muehlstein, members of the Knesset and the Orthodox right-wing party Shas, as well as by a deputy minister and member of the ruling Likud party, who later visited the FPÖ in Vienna. This was a historic step for the far-right, which resulted in the so called ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ that forms the programmatic consensus of this far-right coalition.