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

    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.

    The problem is these type of laws are unworkable and only inflame those avers to newcomers. In the US we’ve watched this play out with the Irish, Chinese and the myriad of resulting waves of new immigrants now highlighted by Latinos and Indians (East) searching for a land of the free. This doesn’t even get to the problems of Afro-Americans and Native Americans. Easy times are not ahead in Europe.

  2. Berliner,

    You’ll forgive me if I view that as tangential to the topic at hand.

    In an effort to avoid a semantics debate (I feel that what you call hate speech falls fairly nicely into the realm of “opinion”) let me just edit my earlier comment to, “Less hate speech doesn’t equal more hate, silencing the voices of others leads to more hate.” I actually like that better anyway.

  3. Gyges, usually courts are deemed capable of judging even complicated matters, so it seems not unreasonable to assume that they can differentiate between opinions (e.g. “Mohamed was married to a 6 year old/slept with a 9 year old/was a pedophile, so the moral teachings of Islam are not reconcilable with the western world”) on one hand and hate speech (e.g. “All Muslims should be shot on sight!” or “Muslims are pedophiles!”) or insults (e.g. using the Qur’an as toilet paper) on the other hand.

  4. Berliner,

    If I may answer for Mike:

    Less hate speech doesn’t equal more hate, silencing the opinions of others leads to more hate.

  5. Berliner, thanks for your response. I am the last person in the world who would attempt to urge the “purity” of the American legal system. But I believe you would agree that there is a substantive difference between offending a person’s feelings and taking his life. We are talking about words. Although language can be hateful and deeply offensive, it is still just the arrangement of words to convey ideas. I happen to believe that we have had quite enough of punishing, and even executing, the speakers of words. History ought to have taught us that every despot of whom we have any knowledge has used the suppression of words as a tool for the extension and retention of power. History has also taught us that good intentions do not offset the damage done by bad laws. If you believe that what I have to say about your religion is blasphemous, do not listen to what I have to say, or, better yet, engage me in dialogue on the issue. But once we begin to punish the criticism of religion, we shall next create new categories of civil blasphemy to justify punishing those who criticize government or other civil institutions.

  6. Hopefully in future people in Finland who don’t like Islam will not use “insulting language” but explosive devices instead.

  7. Mike Appleton,
    “(…) That is the sort of argument one usually associates with right-wing apologists. (…)”
    No, it was meant as a gentle reminder that the “American standpoint” may not be the faultless “one true way” everybody should emulate…

    “(…) But Mohammed is dead. (…)”
    So are murder victims.
    Non-American law systems don’t judge this as a justification of libel/slander/etc. Usually it is seen as a aggravating circumstance: the victim is unable to defend him/herself.

    “(…) To criminalize those statements encourages religious intolerance (…)”
    Less hate-speech equals more hate? How?

    “(…) It subjects people to prosecution at the whims of the majority, or of the favored minority du jour, or for purely political reasons. (…)”
    Unless of course you have a independent jurisprudence.

    And if you have a jurisprudence that will do the bidding of “the majority, or of the favored minority du jour” or will make judgements “for purely political reasons”, it will not stop at “free speech cases”. It will make such skewed in every case — from homicide to civil disputes.

    “(…) The point is that if people are going to be able to get along, they had better get over some things. (…)”
    So victims should just “tough up“?

  8. So, Mohammed was a pedophile? Judeo-Christianity has its own pedophile, but we don’t hear much about that inconvenient truth, do we?. Does any one recall the Bible’s account of Job’s daliances with his two daughters? It’s right there in the Bible. Shouldn’t it be legal? Shouldn’t pedophilia be a Commandment? Why don’t we see those who want the Bible to be taken literally (Palin, Huckabee, Dobson, etal.) and have it placed above the Constitution clamoring to legalize pedophilia? The Bible is used to justify gay-bashing. It was used widely to justify slavery and to forestall women’s and minorities’ rights since the early 70’s. Where are these religious zealots to come to the defense of pedophiles? Is EVERYTHING in the Bible acceptable to these folks or not? Are we to assume the Bible ISN’T sacrosanct? That would be quite and admission.

  9. Berliner, although your distinction between American and European views of free speech is appropriate, your suggestion that free speech is a fetish in this country is hardly buttressed by references to torture. That is the sort of argument one usually associates with right-wing apologists. The fact is that we do have well-recognized restrictions on speech. Libel, slander and defamation are all actionable in this country, and there are other restrictions as well. Indeed, were Mohammed alive, he might have a civil action for libel against those who have accused him of pedophilia. But Mohammed is dead. He can no longer be libeled. Criminalizing religious criticism or statements which offend the “dignity” or “sensibilities” of a group or religious sect are inherently subjective. To say that Mohammad was a pedophile is undoubtedly offensive to many people. To say that Martin Luther was a heretical, defrocked monk is likewise offensive to many people. To criminalize those statements encourages religious intolerance and Balkinizes religion in general. It subjects people to prosecution at the whims of the majority, or of the favored minority du jour, or for purely political reasons. One might just as well propose a law banning Islam in Great Britain on the ground that their presence is an offense against the Church of England. The point is that if people are going to be able to get along, they had better get over some things. At the risk of appearing presumptuous, I would suggest that the previously homogeneous societies of western Europe could conceivably learn something about free speech from the history of a heterogeneous society such as the United States.

  10. “(…) a ridiculous standard from a Western standpoint. (…)”

    That should be “American standpoint”, as all other western nations treat free speech just as any other human right: it has its limits in the rights of others.

    Your right to life is limited by the right to life of others — i.e. self defence.
    Your right of free speech is limited by the right to personal dignity of others — i.e. insult, defamation, libel, slander, etc

    But treating this American fetishization of free speech as an universal principle is of course very convenient: “Yes, we torture, imprison people without warrants or trial, execute people, and so on, but at least we don’t fine insulting speech.”

  11. Blasphemy is purely a religious offense. Statements and attitudes toward a supreme being, regardless of the name one assigns to that entity, are not proper subjects for the involvement of government at any level. The suggestion that an all-powerful being requires the protection of civil authority defies reason. The imposition of sanctions for criticising or even ridiculing religion, regardless of the motives or attitudes of the speaker, is the first step toward religious establishment and threatens the freedom of those who believe as well as those who do not. More offensive to me than the debate over this issue is the fact that it is even deemed worthy of debate.

  12. Speech isn’t free when the government can punish or control what opinions citizens can express. Finland (like much of Europe) is on the fast track to totalitarianism. Mythology tells us that the path to Hell is paved with good intentions. That’s why even the most egregious examples of “hate speech” must be protected. The proper response to hate speech is to publicize the speakers and to ridicule them mercilessly in the public sphere.

    BTW, if Mohammed consummated a “marriage” with a nine year old girl, then he was not a pedophile, but a pathetic and twisted creature who should have been locked up for life in some dark hole. Instead he became a moral leader for the wor’d’s second biggest religion. I may have my problems with some elements of the Jesus myth, but there is no evidence that he was a pedophile. In that respect, he was a better and more person than Mohammed.

    If I were in Finland, I guess the gestapo would be knocking on my door right about now.

  13. I have never been a fan of “hate crimes laws” because in the end this is the result. Anti-blasphemy laws are even worse.
    The problem with free speech is that there will always be those who go to the extreme, although in this case I think that Jussi Halla-aho has a point and so is not extreme. The multiculturalism theory is one that has merit on its’ face, however, when Arabs for instance oppress women by dint of their cultural morays, I don’t think that is acceptable.

  14. You ethnocentric oppressors! How dare you critique another culture whose traditions you do not understand! Any crime is completely justifiable when the ‘God told me to do it’ defense is raised! PRAISE ALLAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry, I had to.

  15. Bob,

    That is a really good point. If god is the victim let him appear in court to give his testimony.

    BuehlahMan,

    I also agree. It’s child sex abuse. Cultural traditions and religion cannot be carved out as exceptions to critical thought.

  16. “Section 10 of chapter 17 of the Finnish penal code makes blasphemy a crime.”

    So, is the victim God? Has Finland stated that God categorically exists and blasphemous comments about said God are illegal?

    Jesus H. Christ, the hubris…

  17. I don’t know about you, but I cannot imagine any attraction to a 6 or 9 yo girl. Call me a pedophile hater or whatever, but in my opinion, if Mohammad had sex with a 9yo, then yes, he is a pedophile.

    I am not a legal specialist, but this just seems to be common sense.

  18. I am sorry that my fingernail got into your eye, it is my extreme hatred for religions that allow sex with a child. Would this be protected speech in Finland?

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