THE FIRST hearing in Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff’s case took place yesterday (November 23rd, 2010) in the court of Vienna, Austria. Charges were brought against Elisabeth because of a seminar she taught.
An eight-hour recording of her seminar will be the central piece of evidence in the trial. The entire audio recording from the seminar will be played in court, permitting the prosecutor to explain in detail what cannot be permitted to be said in public, and why the "religiousness" of Islamic teachings makes it impermissible.
The defense will seek to prove the accuracy and truthfulness of what Elisabeth said in her seminar, thus focusing on the core question: Is it illegal to speak the truth about Islam?
My interest in Elisabeth's case is threefold: First, this is the front line in the war on freedom of speech waged against people who are trying to educate the public about Islam's prime directive, Sharia law, and the third jihad. Her case is similar to Geert Wilders', who is on trial in the Netherlands for similar reasons.
The second reason this case interests me is that Elisabeth used excerpts from the Citizen Warrior article, Why I Am Worried About Islam But Not Christianity, in her seminar. The content you've been reading is on trial. Read more about that here.
The third reason is that Elisabeth is a sweet, soft-spoken, kind-hearted woman, entirely devoid of hatred or bigotry, devoid of rabble-rousing rhetoric, who was simply teaching basic, established, mainstream principles of Islam, calmly, reasonably, in a classroom setting, and she is being charged with a crime for doing so!? The whole idea is an outrage.
The following is an edited version of a blow-by-blow report of the first day of Elisabeth's trial, brought to us by Henrik Clausen, as posted on the Save Free Speech website:
9:41: Austrian TV shows up with a camera crew.
The room has seats for 15, but 25 spectators are there. Austrian TV asks for comments from Elisabeth, but on advice of her lawyer, she says, ”No comments now; talk to me after the hearings.”
The judge informs Elisabeth about her rights: Anything she says can be used against her.
The public prosecutor makes a short summary of various conclusions from Elisabeth's seminar, and, taken out of the context from, they sound ominous, like speaking of a "Burqa ghost" (which you'll find out about in a moment), comparing her statements to those of Susanne Winter, mentioning that Muhammad married a child of six, as well as saying we risk eventually having a civil war.
Elisabeth's defense lawyer talks of the principles of gender equality, freedom of religion and the lack of reciprocity that exists in Islam (for example, other religions cannot be freely practiced in several Islamic countries). The lawyer mentions that Elisabeth grew up in Islamic countries and has experienced the situation of women there directly.
He continues to explain that the statements mentioned were taken seriously out of context, and that some were not public, thus not relevant to the case. And that we should play the entire eight hours of recordings to understand the context.
He proceeds to invoke three expert witnesses who will testify that Elisabeth has spoken the truth: Wafa Sultan, Hans Jansen, and Robert Spencer.
10:53: The judge asks if we are talking about "Islamic extremism" or about "Islam as such?"
Elisabeth explains that we are talking Islam as such, as defined by its scripture, and quotes Erdogan (Turkey's Prime Minister) that there is no moderate Islam anyway.
The judge accepts that we can play the tapes, then proceeds to ask about us being lied to 24 hours a day. Elisabeth explains the concept of taqiyya. The judge says: "That is your interpretation," to which Elisabeth responds: "No, this is the canonical interpretation."
Next question is: "Is Islam in a never-ending war with the West?"
Elisabeth refers to history and newspapers to document that yes, it is a never-ending war with the West and that jihad has at times been considered the sixth pillar of Islam.
11:15: The "burqa ghost" story is related. Elisabeth took a photo of a woman in a burqa in Vienna, and told about this in her seminars. It is difficult to figure out why the public prosecutor finds this offensive, not to mention illegal. The defense asks about this. Elisabeth explains a few things about freedom for women — all women — to decide for themselves.
A reference is then made to some debates Elisabeth participated in where she discussed child molestation, and says: Christian cardinals molest children in conflict with their religion, Muslims do it in line with theirs. As background, the marriage between Muhammad and Aisha is related, as documented by several Hadith authors.
Pedophilia is discussed, in light of Muhammad being the perfect example for Muslims, as stated in Quran 33:21. That means everything Muhammad ever did or said, which is in the hadith, is to be considered a model for behavior for orthodox Muslims.
Elisabeth explains what the hadith collections are, how they constitute an indispensable part of Islam, due to 33:21 and similar suras. And emphasizes that she is not making up statements, merely quoting canonical Islamic scripture.
11:34: The Judge opens a discussion by asking if we’re talking of "all Muslims" here.
Elisabeth says no because most Muslims do not know what is in the Quran, which is in a language (Arabic) they do not understand, and thus place their confidence in the imams for interpretations.
Judge: "Is every Muslim a jihadist?"
Elisabeth: "No, not at all. But jihad is an obligation for Muslims. This is about the teachings of Islam, not about Muslims."
Judge: "But you said 'Muslims' in the seminars?"
Elisabeth: "Yes, but I said it in a context which is needed to understand the relevance of this."
Judge: "What percentage of Muslims are jihadis?"
Elisabeth: "I don't know. Not the majority. One thousandth is enough to be a problem, though."
Then the quote about "Islam is shit" is debated. Elisabeth points out that she was debating and using visual quotes (with her fingers). And she asks if it is punishable to say "Islam is shit."
12:06: The defense lawyer goes through some point of the charges, asking Elisabeth:
Lawyer: You said: "Muslims kill due to Islamic teachings. Christians also kill, but not due to their religious teachings." Are there not verses in the Bible that encourage killing?
Elisabeth: Not in the New Testament, and not actively used today.
Her defense lawyer explains the death threats against Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the security she needs. Elisabeth tells about the killing of Theo van Gogh and the Quran quotes used to justify that.
Lawyer asks: Are there child marriages in Islamic countries?
Elisabeth: Yes, for example Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan. Also the late ayatollah Khomeini recommended pedophilia, and the current Iranian President Ahmadjinedad recommends his teachings. According to Islamic law, these marriages are legal and justifiable.
Lawyer: Are corporal punishments, like chopping off limbs, part of Islamic law?
Elisabeth: Yes, this is described, for instance, in Reliance of the Traveller.
(Elisabeth and her defense lawyer have explained about the classical Sunni Islamic book, "Reliance of the Traveller," unwrapping a fresh copy in court.)
12:40: The lawyer continues to ask Elisabeth to explain various statements:
Lawyer: What is meant by, "We are decadent?"
Elisabeth: That's the point of view of Islamic fundamentalists.
Lawyer: What is meant by, "We do not want Sharia here, full stop?"
Elisabeth: Free, secular societies is what we want.
Lawyer: What is meant by, "Islamic law is not compatible with free societies, we need to understand this."
Elisabeth: Islam is a whole, and this whole is not compatible with free societies like the Austrian.
Laywer: Did you see any veiled Muslim men?
Elisabeth (laughing): No, this is an obligation just for women.
Lawyer: You were referring to Paris, Brussels, Rotterdam. What is the meaning of that?
Elisabeth: This is a reference to the no-go zones, where Sharia is effectively the law. There immigrant youth torch cars, throw stones at the police, etc.
Prosecutor: Are each and every one of these persons Muslims?
Elisabeth: The majority are.
Lawyer: What is meant when you say: "How many times have we been told that Islam is a religion of peace?" Is this an incitement to hate or violence?
Elisabeth: I do not mean to incite hatred or violence. We need to be informed, make people aware, inform our politicians and write letters to the newspapers.
Lawyer: What is meant by, "We do not want gender apartheid or polygamy."
Elisabeth explains polygamy in Islam, and the fact that this is a reality in Europe today. Elisabeth speaks about the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the absolute right to express ones’ opinions, as a fundamental prerequisite for a sound democracy.
At this point, more people have arrived. There are 18 seats for the audience, 30-35 listeners total.
14:00: The news journalist, Dolna, was called as witness. Technicalities of her recording equipment are discussed by the judge, including the fact that of the first seminar, only a half hour was recorded.
The judge asked if some of the statements quoted were from breaks, not from the seminar proper. The reason this is important is that three or four people heard those comments, not the 32 or more, which is the criterion for a statement being considered "public." This is a crucial question for legal reasons, as only statements made to a large group can be punishable.
The judge dug further into the methods of the journalist. Why did the journalist quote statements made in the breaks that were not part of the lecture? The journalist answers: "For journalistic reasons."
Further, the judge asked if it was made clear in advance that the journalist would be recording the seminars. She responded that she had not told anyone, as her work constituted "investigative journalism."
The lawyer probed further into the issue of the quotes being part of the prepared seminar, or offhand comments in the breaks.
Next, the events concerning the opera, "Idomeneo" were discussed. The performance of this classical Mozart piece scheduled to be performed at the famous opera house, Deutsche Oper Berlin, was cancelled due to Islamic pressure. The director had added decapitation of Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad to the original play. Fear of riots or violence caused the play to be cancelled. The well-known German magazine Focus had, in that context, written that we should under no circumstances cave in to pressure like this.
This rounded off the day after roughly three hours of hearings. Since there is a need to play the complete recordings (eight hours) from Elisabeth's seminar, the next hearing is scheduled for January 18th.
Read more about Elisabeth's case, and find out what you can do to help her out: The Leading Edge of Freedom: How to Support Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff.