Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff's trial has resumed. You can stay updated on it here: Save Free Speech. You can also donate money to help her with her defense at the same site. The following is an interview with Elisabeth by Jerry Gordon from two months ago, just before her trial began.
You can read what happened at that first hearing here. You can read more about Elisabeth's case here. Now, the interview:
Jerry Gordon: I am Jerry Gordon, Senior Editor for the New English Review and we have with us today an important fighter for human rights in the world, Ms. Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff.
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff: Yes.
Gordon: You are the second Austrian who has been charged with hate speech for criticism of the Qur’an and Islam. Minister of Parliament Dr. Susanne Winter was convicted by a Graz court in January 2009 of hate speech against Islam, received a suspended sentence of three months and was fined the equivalent of $30,000 in Euros. Dutch M.P. Geert Wilders’ trial on similar charges in the Netherlands has been halted because of witness tampering by one of the judges in the Amsterdam tribunal. Now you, an Austrian housewife and leader of the Act for America Chapter in Austria, are the subject of an unprecedented legal action. My question for you is why is your hate speech trial different from that of M.P. Winter and extremely dangerous?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: My trial is different from the simple point of view that I am a housewife and I am not a member of parliament or a politician. That’s basically all there is to it. I’m a private citizen who is concerned about Islam and the contents of the Qur’an, the Sunnah and Hadith. That is the main difference between Geert Wilders, Susanne Winter and me.
Gordon: Are these politicized trials in Austria based on existing hate speech law regarding criticism of a religious belief, in this case Islam?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Yes, they are based on existing hate speech laws. These laws have been in existence, as far as I know, since the post-Nazi era. They belong to a set of hate laws against officially recognized religions, basically regarding religious teachings and the other laws banning anything on National Socialism. Hate speech laws are absolutely dangerous because I am being prosecuted for the thoughts that I have; for conclusions that I have come to based on my readings.
Gordon: What triggered this trial brought by the Vienna Public Prosecutors Office?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: The trigger was a series of seminars that I gave last fall, a three-part series on the doctrines of Islam and Sharia. The Islamization of Europe has come about as a result of the teachings of Islam. In addition, Eurabia is one aspect I covered. A young Austrian journalist from a very liberal left-wing weekly glossy magazine was apparently asked to infiltrate and attend the seminars, record them without my knowledge or my consent. The magazine had the lectures transcribed and then had their lawyer go to the public prosecutors office and hand over the transcripts. Then the public prosecutor decided to follow up and bring the case. Now in less than two weeks I will have to stand trial.
Gordon: Who brought the charges against you and what was their motivation?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Well, the charges against me were first brought by this magazine called “NEWS.” Because they handed it over to the public prosecutor’s office it’s now the State versus Sabaditsch-Wolff. Their motivation? That is an interesting question because I don’t really know. I can only suspect that motivation was to try and halt Freedom Party leader Heinz Christian-Strache and cause problems for him. What they didn’t realize is that they got the wrong person with me. I don’t take this personally. Their motivation was probably also a concern about Islam. The leftist liberals as you probably are aware are very pro-Islam so it’s a combination of a couple of factors I suspect.
Gordon: What are the alleged charges regarding your supposed hate speech against Islam?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Well the charges are very foggy. I’m being charged for a collection of statements I made in a fully-sourced seminar, actually all three seminars were fully-sourced. The charge is ridiculous; I'm saying that I am against Sharia Law in Austria and gender apartheid. It’s just ridiculous. We will have to see what happens on November 23rd and how the prosecutor will react to my defense.
Gordon: You have a court date on November 23rd in Vienna. What kind of a tribunal will hear this matter?
Sabaditsch-Wolf: Well, the tribunal is just the judge. A lady, incidentally, and she will then decide based on whether or not she finds my response regarding the Qur’an, the Sunnah and you know, all my other proofs acceptable. It’s up to her to decide whether or not she will accept that proof. If she doesn’t, it remains to be seen what happens. If she does, it will be even more interesting because then it is actually the state that has to decide on the content of the Qur’an, whether or not it is compatible with Austrian law.
Gordon: Who will be representing you?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: I have one of the best lawyers in Austria. His specialty is not only media law, because as you know the allegations were brought to the attention of the prosecutor’s office by a very successful weekly magazine. However, he is also an expert on the UN Human Rights Convention so he knows exactly what it means to defend somebody who is being charged for a crime against freedom of speech. So he’s the best.
Gordon: Will you be allowed to have expert witnesses and who have you considered testifying on your behalf?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: I don’t know if I will have to have expert witnesses. We will certainly be asking the courts to allow expert witnesses. Following Geert Wilders line of defense we will be asking Professor Hans Jansen of the Netherlands and Wafa Sultan to testify on my behalf. I might also add that I have asked Robert Spencer to come to Vienna to sit next to me and help me, in case I need Qur’anic Sura quotes. He has indicated he would be willing to come to Vienna as well.
Gordon: You are the daughter of an Austrian diplomat who was in Tehran in 1979 when the Shah’s regime fell and the Islamic Republic was founded. What do you recall as a girl then about that experience?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Well, I was six years old at the time. I had just started school, first grade, and it seems that at the age of six, it’s a pivotal time in one’s life because you seem to have a very good memory from ages five to six. I do remember a lot and it seems to have really influenced me; especially the shouts and the crying for Allahu Akbar and the hatred that I remember seeing in people’s eyes, but also the mobs of those black-clothed women. I’m still afraid of big masses of people. I try to stay away from them. Apparently, that may stem from my experience back then. I saw tanks rolling in the streets. I remember the food-rationing that started quite soon after the revolution. I remember, for instance, my mother laughing about a new law that had been passed immediately after Khomeini came to power outlawing Sprite because it would remind people of vodka. They outlawed Pepsi because it reminded people of whiskey. I mean, it was totally ridiculous stuff, but you remember that of course. I also remember that I wasn’t able to go to school as often as I should have because I was told later on that there were many dead lying in front of the school gates and they had to keep the school closed because they weren’t able to remove the bodies quickly enough.
As a six year-old, you just don’t understand what’s happening. But later on when I started really looking into the doctrines of Islam, then it all made sense. It is hard for me to come to terms with Iran because this is a country that I’ve come to love very much and it would be my biggest wish to one day return there. Obviously, I can only do that when the Iranian people have freed themselves from the chains of Islam. Because I refuse to go to a country where I’m only worth half according to Sharia. So yes, the experience especially in Iran and later on in Kuwait has influenced me. It breaks my heart, reading about Iran and looking at the photographs from last year’s uprising. It just tore my heart apart.
Gordon: You were in Libya on 9/11. What did you experience there?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Wow! I mean Libya on 9/11 was such a crazy and horrible place. I came home at 3:00 in the afternoon from work, turned on the T.V. and all of a sudden I saw there was a special show of breaking news on German television. I saw this aircraft fly into one of the Twin Towers and then all of a sudden the satellite connection broke down. It took me about half an hour to fire up the satellite connection again. I sat there and watched in horror and basically stupefied knowing that it was clear right away who did it. For me that was no surprise. I remember that all of a sudden there was a banging on my door, and my Libyan landlord ran into my apartment and started screaming “oh, I’m sure the Jews did it, the Jews did it!” I politely told him that it is probably not the case and I asked him to leave. It was a weird feeling for me that day because I was actually due to fly out that night to Vienna. I questioned whether travelling out of Libya was still safe. But thank God everything was okay. I was more concerned that perhaps the Libyans were involved. However that turned out not to be the case which was good for me. Because I didn’t really want to go through any bombing of the country.
Gordon: What motivated your study of the Qur’an and Islamic doctrine and what element of that doctrine did you find particularly disturbing?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: When I was living in Kuwait in the late 90’s, I was actually experiencing Islam for the first time as an adult. There were things that happened every single day like you had Ramadan, the alcohol ban, the pork ban, you couldn’t read this and you couldn’t watch that, the books and the newspapers were censored. We also had a very nice guy from Jordan as our interpreter at the Embassy. I really liked him. He was a very devout Muslim. One day, I don’t know where I read it, but I found out that Muhammed the Prophet apparently liked young girls and married one of them. I went to the Muslim interpreter and I said, “Oh my God, did you know about that, I mean is this something that people know about? He became verbally aggressive towards me and he said you must never talk about this ever again. He never said if it was true or not. That was in addition to all the bans and all the Sharia I had to expect to live there, and Ramadan I hated with a passion. This was one of the reasons that after I returned to Austria, I picked up a book that I keep quoting because I think it’s one of the best out there and hopefully it will be available in English soon. It is called, “Gabriel’s Whisperings,” written by an Indian atheist. It is one of most shocking books I have ever read on Islam. It tells the ugly truth and it really shocked me.
Once I started reading this book it opened my own Pandora’s Box and actually changed my life in that I started really becoming active. I wanted to know the elements of the Islamic doctrine. I cannot tell you exactly the elements. The whole thing was just awful. Disturbing and destructive. It was terrible, reading about how genital mutilation is rooted in Islamic doctrine, along with honor killings. I mean those two examples are just horrible especially because I’m a mother of a young child who probably would have already undergone this awful procedure in the name of a so-called religion.
Gordon: You characterize yourself as a liberal and a feminist. However, why do some European and American feminists and gays object to criticism of Islam and Islamic doctrine?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: I wish I knew. I don’t. It’s baffling to me and I don’t understand it. I have always made it one of my personal premises that I try to look at the other side, and figure out what makes them think the way they do. I can’t understand why a liberal feminist or gay doesn’t understand it. It’s like they want to block this awful truth. On the other hand, they probably don’t even know it and in the name of liberalism, they think that anything goes. It seems that human rights are not cool. Let’s leave it at that.
Gordon: Have you met Dutch political leader Geert Wilders and do you share his views about the threat of Islamization to the West?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Yes, I have had privilege of meeting him in Berlin on October 3rd. It was a wonderful to have had five minutes with him outside the hotel after his rousing speech, before he was whisked off by his bodyguards to go back to the Netherlands. He knows about my case. He has offered his help, his support. He is just as disgusted with the proceedings as I am and we are in touch with each other. I share his views. I think he grasps the problem very well. He is a politician. I am a simple housewife and that makes a difference, probably will make a difference.
Gordon: Wilders and others have expressed the view that the EU needs a free speech law equivalent to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Do you agree with that and why?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Absolutely I agree with that. You see, I attended Junior High School in Chicago in the 80’s. I don’t know if this still is the case, however, in order to graduate from junior high school I had to study the U.S. Constitution which I wasn’t too happy about at the time, but which has subsequently influenced my thinking. Can you imagine the impact of studying the Constitution on a young girl in junior high school? The most important part for me of the Constitution is the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech. That is a right that is so precious and I will always hope for a similar constitution in Europe. Of course there is no First Amendment, nothing similar to that even though the EU prides itself in guaranteeing freedom of speech. We desperately need a First Amendment. However, I cannot see with the current political situation in Europe that there will be a First Amendment. It is not in the interest of the elite.
Gordon: Do you view the violation of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and Swedish artist Lars Vilks free expression and threats to their lives a disturbing development of Islamic intimidation in the EU?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Absolutely, I mean, it is stealth Jihad, Sharia, and more Sharia in Europe. I wouldn’t call it Islamic intimidation. I would call it Sharia. You may not do that according to Sharia. There is no fun in Islam is what Ayatollah Khomeini said and if there is no fun in Islam then you can’t draw anything and you can’t be an artist other than making a mosque more beautiful or writing the Qur’an, copying it and whatever. As regards your question about Lars Vilks’ free expression. There is no free expression in Islam; otherwise it wouldn’t work. The system would break down. So yes, it is extremely disturbing because we already have the EU submitting to Sharia.
Gordon: Have you received similar threats as a result of your lectures in the hate speech case brought against you in Vienna?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: No, thankfully not.
Gordon: Do you view the adoption of Sharia law in civil matters in the U.K. and other EU countries of concern and why?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Yes, this is a huge concern, and I keep bringing this up in my lectures and whenever I talk to people who ask me about what I am doing and why I do it. I tell them there are 86 official Sharia courts recognized by the British government in the UK. So de facto, we already have Sharia law instituted within the European Union. That means that there are two parallel legal systems operating within the EU. Those are only the courts we know about. I am sure that there are thousands of Sharia courts in operation within the EU. This must not ever be tolerated. If one knows about Sharia law and its consequences on both Muslims and non-Muslims then can one come to the conclusion that the European Union calls itself a haven of democracy and freedom and the rule of law? You cannot reconcile Sharia with democratic values, human rights and equality of the sexes.
Gordon: Why do you believe that Islamic doctrine prevents Muslim integration in Austria and other EU countries?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Islamic doctrine clearly states that a devout Muslim can only be loyal to the Islamic state, the Ummah. That is basically the simple answer. I mean, how can the devout Muslim ever integrate into a non-Muslim, kafir country? It just won’t work. There is no need to go into further detail because it’s as simple as that. You have it written in Islamic doctrine that a devout Muslim must never accept living under non-Muslim rule.
Gordon: Wilders has argued for restrictions on Muslim immigration in the Netherlands. Are you in favor of such restrictions in Austria and throughout the EU?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: Now there is a good question. Remember that I am not a politician. It is not up to me to make these decisions. This is a tricky question for me because, like I said, I’m not the one to decide that. The question also is what difference it would make in the long run, because you have such a large Muslim population already within Europe and you have reproduction rates that are just skyrocketing. This is a question for the politicians.
Gordon: Final question for you is how are you and your family dealing with the stress of the upcoming trial?
Sabaditsch-Wolff: It is stressful. I can tell you. My family plus my husband and my daughter are supportive. My daughter, of course, understands within the limits of a five, almost six year old. My husband realizes that it is very taxing on me. My mother supports me in the sense that she often has my daughter over so I can prepare for the trial. I have realized that my back pains have popped up in the last couple of days which seem to be the stress. I personally feel okay. I try to get enough sleep, even though I am very tired. This trial is not about me personally. This is a trial about all of us. All of us who believe in freedom of speech and opinion, the freedoms that should be guaranteed by a free democracy. I’ve tried to take myself out of the equation and that has helped me. I have to also add it’s very important to me that I have received tremendous support from all over the world and I am very thankful for that. This has made my life coming up to the trial easier. That is not to say that it’s not hard but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not a tragedy, and we will see this through.
Gordon: Well, we view you as Mother Courage in the 21st century. We want to thank you immensely for kindly consenting to this interview and all the best of luck to you in your proceeding and may you emerge victorious.
Originally published in New English Review here. Follow that link to see the 22-minute video of the interview, which was done using Skype.