Finland Prosecutes Politician for Blasphemy in Calling Mohammad a Pedophile

200px-img_1078_jussi_halla-ahoRecently, I wrote a column on how the West has used hate crime laws to create a Western version of blasphemy prosecutions in the Middle East. Finland has now added to the list of countries charging people with blasphemy. Helsinki city councilman, Jussi Halla-aho was charged with blasphemy and incitement of an ethnic-group for publishing on his blog that Islam’s prophet was a pedophile. Mohammad is often accused of being a pedophile due to his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha, which was consummated when she was 9.

Jussi Halla-aho is a Finnish Slavic linguist, blogger and a politician who is a critic of immigration and multiculturalism.

Section 10 of chapter 17 of the Finnish penal code makes blasphemy a crime. Undeterred by the attack on free speech, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Jorme Kalske charged:

“Halla-aho had uploaded to the Internet and submitted writings to the general public, in which Islam and its sacred institutions were combined with pedophilia, and in which was also presented the robbery of pedestrians and the looting of tax revenue was a certain national group or a specific genetic characteristic.”

Regardless of how obnoxious some may find his view, Halla-aho has a right to speak his mind about religion. The West is sacrificing free speech on the alter of free exercise. The latter is increasingly defined as being free from insult or challenge.

Notably, in these abusive cases, the defendant is not allowed to argue truth as in a defamation case. Instead, the focus is whether the content of his views attacks religious views and would incite hatred — a ridiculous standard from a Western standpoint. Finland will have to decide whether it will stand for free speech principles or join such countries as Iran and Saudi Arabia in prosecuting those who espouse unpopular or unpolitic thoughts.

For the story, click here.

39 thoughts on “Finland Prosecutes Politician for Blasphemy in Calling Mohammad a Pedophile

  1. Gyges, how you call it doesn’t make a difference:
    “(…) silencing the [hateful] voices (or whatever] of others leads to more hate (…)”
    is as logical as:
    “A higher percentage of protected sex leads to more HIV infections”. or
    “Reducing poverty leads to more crime”.

    Dehumanizing others through propaganda is violence with words and a prerequisite of physical violence.

    Mike S., yes such laws would be horrible. Luckily thats just stuff you made up.

    And how you perceive a country that is traditionally divided into three ethnic and linguistic groups (Finns, Swedes, and Sami) as homogeneous is astounding.

  2. “And how you perceive a country that is traditionally divided into three ethnic and linguistic groups (Finns, Swedes, and Sami) as homogeneous is astounding.”

    Berliner,
    Nice defense, but ultimately disingenuous.

    Finland has a population of 5.3 million people.

    The Sami (formerly called Lapps) are indigenous peoples and there are estimated to be some 4,500 currently in Finland today. The archaeological belief is that they have resided there for the last 7,000 years.

    Finnish and Swedish are both considered the official languages of Finland.

    Swedish speakers make up 5% of the population and Swedish was the official language of Finland from about the 13th to 19th Centuries when Finland was part of the Swedish Kingdom.

    Finns make up 92% of the population, but those who are Swedish speaking are also considered Finnish and thus a total of 97% are Finnish. Ethnicity is not considered culturally divisive, only the native tongue is used for demarcation and does not represent strife, such as seen between Serbs and Croats for instance.

    84% of Finns consider themselves Lutherans.

    That seems like a pretty homogeneous population to me.

    “Mike S., yes such laws would be horrible. Luckily thats just stuff you made up.”

    Here’s where you disingenuous argument arises. I was merely giving examples of situations that could arise from blasphemy laws, not making up laws (or claiming to)but taking the notion of legal blasphemy to its logical conclusion. You purposely misinterpreted what I said and then went on to state what you felt was a flaw in my homogeneity argument, rather than logically dispute my hypotheticals. The trouble is that you did only some of your homework and sloppily at that.

    Let me go further. When I first read your comment my initial reaction was to write back apologizing for my ignorance, without justification of it. That is what I do when shown to be wrong, as others on this site will attest. I believe I am wise enough at my advanced age to realize that as smart as I may think I am, I can be and am wrong often enough that I just accept that as part of my being human and try to learn from it. I suspect that you have not as yet achieved this understanding and so you approach all of this as if it were a game to be won. If I’m correct, admitting I might be judging you too harshly, then you’re trying to win a game that exists only in your own mind. This would be a waste of time and ultimately unproductive.

  3. Berliner,

    You’re taking a symptom and making it the illness. Outlawing rashes won’t cure Chicken Pox, it will just make people with chicken pox wear long shirts. Outlawing hate speech will only drive the movement underground. It will also add credibility to paranoid claims about whatever group is being hated.

  4. Mike Spindell, your initial argument was that due to their lack of experience with minorities the Finns are overreacting to the novelty of having a small Muslim minority.

    I remarked that the Finns do have experience with two minorities: one the indigenous people and one the former overlords.

    I don’t think that’s “disingenuous”, because it directly contradicts your assumption that Finland has no experience with minorities.

    “(…) I was merely giving examples of situations that could arise from blasphemy laws, not making up laws (or claiming to)but taking the notion of legal blasphemy to its logical conclusion. (…)”

    “Reductio ad absurdum” is an “argument” against everything.
    Your assumption that “a Christian saying Jesus is not the Messiah is blasphemy” in the legal definition and therefore punishable, is wrong in under every European statute I know.

    That’s like assuming that because the US still has capital punishment, everyone who gets a parking ticket is in danger of being beheaded.
    You ignore the careful definitions, the checks and balances which make up 95% of the legal profession.

    Gyges, “(…) You’re taking a symptom and making it the illness. (…)”

    No. Propaganda (and advertising) works.
    If angry people think of “the other” as people too, only psychopaths will use violence.
    Dehumanization is the prerequisite to widespread violence.
    Even worse: If one is convinced that “they” are not even fully human, violence will become almost inevitable.

  5. Berliner,

    This has been an interesting conversation, however you seem bound and determined to ignore a large part of what I have said. In this case we’ll have to continue to disagree, but thank you for contributing an outside viewpoint.

    I’m not going to say that hate is good for a society, or that propaganda doesn’t work. However, the best inoculation against propaganda is an exposure to as wide a variety of views as possible, with a healthy dose of instruction in critical thinking.

  6. Mike Spidell

    Linknd, is a business networking. The adult version of Facebook. Why an adult would get one of those accounts I do not know. Well, yes I have a feeling and it is a creepy feeling, as to why they get one of those accounts.

  7. “(…) However, the best inoculation against propaganda is an exposure to as wide a variety of views as possible, with a healthy dose of instruction in critical thinking. (…)”

    We’ve tried that 1918-1933. I think you overrate the robustness of that method.

  8. “Mike Spindell, your initial argument was that due to their lack of experience with minorities the Finns are overreacting to the novelty of having a small Muslim minority.”

    Berliner,
    How nice of you to re-interpret my statements so that they better fit your own pre-judgment. My initial argument was:

    “I don’t care what country people live in if blasphemy is defined as a crime than human rights are headed down the tubes.”

    Secondly, this was in fact my statement regarding the Finns and other European nations:

    “I suspect though that this is symptomatic of a deeper problem in these European countries. Many like Finland have had a long history of cultural and religious homogeneity. In recent decades Muslims have been brought in to do some of society’s less valued work. They have found a home in their new country, perhaps relationships, had children and want to stay. As with most human societal grouping there is a good percentage of people who dislike and distrust these newcomers and have begun to react badly. The government is forced to try to protect this burgeoning new minority and so enacts laws to protect them.”

    This is indeed what is happening if you go to the original story which Professor Turley referenced. Your use of “novelty” was another exhibition of your disingenuous writing since it drastically changes the meaning of what I wrote and allows you to counter with something to the effect of the Finns have been dealing with minority’s for a long time.

    Or as you put it to refute an argument I didn’t make:

    “I don’t think that’s “disingenuous”, because it directly contradicts your assumption that Finland has no experience with minorities.”

    I wasn’t talking about minority’s I was talking about the homogeneity of a society. 92% Finnish meets the definition of a homogeneous society. By the way how are the Turks making out in Germany? Welcome no doubt with the usual German hospitality.

    “Reductio ad absurdum” is an “argument” against everything.”

    “Your assumption that “a Christian saying Jesus is not the Messiah is blasphemy” in the legal definition and therefore punishable, is wrong in under every European statute I know.”

    Unlike you I fairly quote another’s argument to deal with it.
    My example was about the extent that blasphemy can be defined and I make no pretense of knowing any European law. I assume for the sake of discussion that you are correct, but so far your veracity leaves much open to question. I do know that once a Nation begins to deal in blasphemy laws than my examples are not extreme, but rather quite reasonable. That indeed is the trouble with a State defining blasphemy. When it comes to our Muslim brethren, I have not by the way been a Muslim detractor but a detractor of all Fundamentalist religious philosophy’s, they have made very sweeping claims about what constitutes blasphemy and unfortunately the European’s dance to the tunes of who ever has the oil.

    Finally though, I do not usually get sarcastic, or snide when disagreeing with people who present reasonable but differing points of view. You, however, immediately adopted a sarcastic tone and I do react to that. your responses do remain disingenuous as I continue to point out and some of your answers to other posters are rather questionable.

    “We’ve tried that 1918-1933. I think you overrate the robustness of that method.”

    Let us see before 1918 was the Kaiser and after Adolph Hitler, neither of which worked out well, did it? Yet in another comment you talk of the richness of the German legal tradition going back hundreds of years. However, that offered great protection against Hitler and the Kaisers were always rather despotic. Weimar fell for many reasons, many not the fault of Germany, but I don’t think that the liberality of the Republic was the main factor. Wasn’t there the onerous peace treaty, the stabbed in the back by traitors meme, the world wide depression and ruinous inflation. You blaming its’ fall on their tolerance seems more than a tad peculiar.

  9. Berliner,

    You are more familiar with German history than I, but I have doubts that “as wide a variety of views as possible” were available to the German public in those years.

  10. “(…) I wasn’t talking about minority’s I was talking about the homogeneity of a society. (…)”

    If these are two different, unrelated things then you don’t make an argument.
    What is the result of this “homogeneity” on a society which is used to dealing with minorities?

    What’s is the relevance of a statement like “Many like Finland have had a long history of cultural and religious homogeneity.” is you move the goalposts of “homogeneity” away from minorities?

    I don’t understand your point.

    I assumed that this was just justification to dismiss the legal traditions and systems of those “homogeneous” countries who have no experience in dealing with a “burgeoning new minority”.
    If I’m wrong I apologise.

    “(…) I do know that once a Nation begins to deal in blasphemy laws than my examples are not extreme, but rather quite reasonable. (…)”

    I live in a country which had “blasphemy laws” in one form or the other since medieval times, and this
    “(…) For instance to a Christian saying Jesus is not the Messiah is blasphemy. therefore neither Muslims, nor Jews would be allowed to proselytize because they would be blaspheming Jesus. Conversely, any Christian preaching Jesus is the Messiah would be blaspheming the God of the Jews, or Allah. This becomes unworkable quickly and leads to a place where nobody can say anything about their beliefs. (…)”
    simply hasn’t happened yet.
    What you know and the reality in which I live are not congruent.

    I don’t like “blasphemy laws”. And yes, you can find stupid cases, but your apodictic statement of a “place where nobody can say anything about their beliefs” is simply wrong.

    “(…) unfortunately the European’s dance to the tunes of who ever has the oil. (…)”

    We get our oil from Russia. They’re of cause not poster boys for a free society, but there are no European troops and intelligence agents propping up the medieval-Wahabist Saudi tyranny. Those are the American dancers.

    “(…) By the way how are the Turks making out in Germany? (…)”

    There are some problems. We’re working on them. Germany is far from perfect.
    But its good enought that we want to keep and build it, and have no desire to copy the “shining city upon a hill”.

    “(…) and the Kaisers were always rather despotic. (…)”

    The executive of Prussia and the Empire was undemocratic, but they had a functioning parliament, and, more to the point, the rule of law and independent courts.

    “(…) but I don’t think that the liberality of the Republic was the main factor. (…)”

    Depends on how you define “main”.
    But if Hitler had been truely procecuted for his failed coup 1923, instead of slapped on the wrist, he would’ve been still in jail 1933…

    “(…) but I have doubts that “as wide a variety of views as possible” were available to the German public in those years. (…)”

    Well, there were 16 parties in the 1930 parliament: nazis and communists, social-democrats and Christian-conservatives (of different flavours), special propose parties for farmers and liberals, monarchists and a special purpose party for small businesses.

  11. “Finland has now added to the list of countries charging people with blasphemy.”

    Added? Blasphemy has been illegal in Finland for centuries. The last people charged under the old blasphemy law were Finnish artists in the ’60s. This was replaced in 1998 by a law against “disturbing religious peace” which is still quite stupid, but the crime is committed against a specific religious group, not God. Halla-Aho was charged with this and “incitement against a group of people”. For instance he apparently described Somalis as “human filth” who are genetically predisposed to rob people.

    Halla-Aho is not the first person to be charged under the newer law, although there have been very few convictions. It’s very unfortunate that it exists, but there’s no need to go into hysterics about Finland suddenly enacting new laws to protect muslims. It’s not new.

  12. “If these are two different, unrelated things then you don’t make an argument. What is the result of this “homogeneity” on a society which is used to dealing with minorities?”

    Berliner,
    Homogeneity in a society, which was my specific statement of the issue, is a big deal. When you have 92% of your population of the same ethnicity and another 5% similarly ethnic but with a different native language, that constitutes a homogeneous society in my view. While as it seems all in human nature there may well be some bickering about minorities, these minorities are still Finnish with in one instance 700 years and another 7,000 years standing. We then see the entrance of people from a vastly different cultural set, with a religious belief not congruent with at least 84% of the host population. These newcomers, strangers in a strange land have a prickly intolerance of anyone casting aspersions on their beliefs, some of it driven by years of experiencing imperialist incursions in their native lands, that lead them to sorely feel what they perceive as disrespect.

    This situationally becomes problematic for the host country, the government of which feels the need to aid this new group and prevent the outbreak of inter ethnic strife, a condition of which most of Europe has experienced to its’ detriment. This is my point, for better or worse and it had nothing to do with the concept of majority/minority strife. That this has become a problem in Finland, France and Germany due to an influx of Muslim workers is indisputable. I believe that anti-blasphemy laws are not only ineffective but conversely serve to inflame those whose hatred for the newcomers already exists. You obviously don’t think this is true and thus the crux of our disagreement.

    “I assumed that this was just justification to dismiss the legal traditions and systems of those “homogeneous” countries who have no experience in dealing with a “burgeoning new minority”. If I’m wrong I apologise.”

    Your apology is accepted, since you have little idea of what I believe and assumed I am a typical America is the best type. I don’t dismiss the legal systems of any European Countries, by believing that if a Country not like the US, it is prima facie inferior. I am too much a student of my own country’s history to do that. However, when it comes to “Blasphemy Laws,” in any nation I view them with a jaundiced eye. I am Jewish and the history of my people has been intertwined with oppression stemming from Christian and Islamic beliefs, so I do look at such laws with a jaundiced eye, in that laws that start out protecting have in many instances been shown to have unforeseen consequences.

    Since I am Jewish and since I assume you might be German I feel it is necessary to make another thing clear. In many ways the German peoples, via their various States prior to the establishment of Greater Germany, represented the most civilized and enlightened group in Europe. Although I am not familiar with German jurisprudence, I have no doubt that it was enlightened and thorough. However, jurisprudence is only as effective as the government’s that oversee it. All jurisprudence can be bent in the service of those with bad intentions. I would be lying to you if I didn’t admit that the Nazi era and the time leading up to it doesn’t churn my stomach with horror. I think though it is clear that Hitler came about for a multiplicity of reasons, the least of which was probably German Jurisprudence.

    “I don’t like “blasphemy laws”. And yes, you can find stupid cases, but your apodictic statement of a “place where nobody can say anything about their beliefs” is simply wrong.”

    Was I being hyperbolic, perhaps so and in that sense my statement can be seen as lacking clarity. In the current world, to me, blasphemy has taken on a bad odor, since there is to me a war being waged by religious fundamentalists of all stripes, to ensure that “their revealed teachings” take precedence. In that sense I believe theirs is a war for the soul (perhaps not the best word choice)of humanity. This is occurring in the US, as much and more as anywhere else outside of the Sharia Law issue in the Mid East. In truth I would be the last to denigrate Europe, which seems mostly to have resisted anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-woman’s rights crusaders.

    “(…) unfortunately the European’s dance to the tunes of who ever has the oil. (…)”
    We get our oil from Russia. They’re of cause not poster boys for a free society, but there are no European troops and intelligence agents propping up the medieval-Wahabist Saudi tyranny. Those are the American dancers.”

    That was hyperbolic on my part and you restate a truth that I am not ignorant of, so please accept my apologies for being disingenuous.

    “But its good enought that we want to keep and build it, and have no desire to copy the “shining city upon a hill”.

    Amen. “The shining city upon a hill” has become rather tarnished lately and the attitude of some American’s that this country serve as a model for the rest of the world is I’m afraid provincial and short sighted.

    “Depends on how you define “main”.
    But if Hitler had been truely procecuted for his failed coup 1923, instead of slapped on the wrist, he would’ve been still in jail 1933…”

    It seems to me, with the vanity of hindsight and the conviction of a foreigner, that Hitler found protection in the arms of some of the wealthy and the Weimar government was thus hindered from fully prosecuting him. Then too he was dealing in various mythology’s that fit in with the German people’s searching for exculpatory answers, in the light of the disaster of WWI and the unfortunate peace treaty that exacerbated the ignominy of defeat.

    Please stay around this site if you can, while we are at times contentious, I think you’ll find us open to all points of view. Having yours adds new perspectives to the ongoing discussion. Of late we have been beset by trolls (agents provacateurs) and many of us regulars have become too chary of new posters. You do not fit the troll particulars and so would be a welcome addition.

  13. I think there is a lot of common ground here. Berliner does not like blasphemy laws. Niether does Mike Spindell. I don’t like them either.

    I think Berliner has questioned the absolute view of freedom of expression, and said that it is subject to some limits. That is in fact the prevailing legal view in the United States. I recall that Justice Hugo Black admitted that his view that the First Amendment was absolute had never secured a majority of the Court, since only Douglas had concurred with him. The Supreme Court has always used a balancing test for freedom of expression. Berliner correctly noted that it is limited, for example, by libel, slander and defamation rules. Even public figures can challenge offensive speech that is made with actual malice.

    We ought to take a look at our own side in context. For example, the peaceful, non-violent symbolic act of expression that is embodied in the burning a draft card can be prosecuted in the U.S., ever since the O’Brien case. The American laws that banned symbolic flag-burning are a good analogy. Many folks revere the flag with a devotion that is nearly religious, and they see any desecration as blasphemy. They want it outlawed. They passed laws and got convictions. They disagreed with the Supreme Court and supported constitutional amendments.

    The U.S., unlike Germany, experienced 250 years of slavery. The war to end slavery cost 600,000 lives. It was followed by more than a century of intimidation by the KKK, discrimination and lynching. This history informs our present laws. In Virginia v. Black, the Supreme Court held that a state, “consistent with the First Amendment, may ban cross burning carried out with the attempt to intimidate.” The concept of attempt to intimidate is subjective, but we live with it. In the related post, I think Berliner has said, in effect, that intent and circumstances limit the holocaust denial laws. Our cross-burning laws are the result of over a century of murder and intimidation. The source of the denial laws is obvious.

    Berliner says he does not like blasphemy laws. I think he says that they are limited and curtailed by national and European jurisprudence. We ought to recall that Europe is a federal system today. Finland has its national laws, just as our states have state legislation. But I think (correct me) that all EU member states have agreed to be subject to a continent-wide code of human rights enforceable in EU courts. So a Finland prosecution may only be the first step in a process.

    Finally, I found Berlin to be a great city when I visited.

  14. Well, there are many Hadiths about Mohammad’s marriage to Aysha. Some Hadiths cite her age at 19, but I’m not sure why that is excluded in this article. It’s somewhat disingenuous to pick only one of many conflicting sources.

  15. I’m really sorry to hear that in the 21 century religion is a matter of court of law. Back in time 4000 B.C.E in Babylon, the pantheon consisted of more than 1,000 deities. Like Mesopotamia, the Egyptian religion was based on polytheism. Their two chief gods were Amon-Ra and Osiris. There are about 40 organized religions and faith groups in the world today and they all claim to be the real one. The Ra and Osiris of the antique Egyptians ruled the Egyptian deities for 3000 years although still fascinating Egyptologists, but Ra and Osiris are not longer workshop. From Hades to Hera, and from Apollo to Aphrodita, Greek Gods have enthralled people. The Mount Olympus is today just an archaeological research and tourism attraction since centuries ago and their Gods are gone. Definitely religion is a very human invention and is a pervasive and significant cultural phenomenon. Religion is the universal tool for explaining things which we do not comprehend through the context the known physical world. Crime and genozide have been made in the name of GOD. People be careful.

    Robert M. Pirsing, the author of the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, has something interesting to say about what religion is: “When one person suffers from delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from delusion it is called Religion.”

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