Unfit to Print

Where is the New York Times coverage of the Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff case?

The other day I took note here of a recent New York Times feature in which several prominent figures from the worlds of law and religion were invited to answer the question: Is religious freedom in America under threat?  I focused on one of the responses, entitled “A Campaign Against Patriotic Muslims,” in which Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, maintained that when it came to his coreligionists, the answer was a definite yes.  Al-Marayati painted a picture of an America awash in “anti-Islam groups” and “Muslim haters” who make life difficult for American Muslims, whom he depicted as overwhelmingly peaceful, freedom-loving, and terrorism-hating.  It didn’t seem to matter to the Times that Al-Marayati himself is a longtime associate of and apologist for terrorists.

Another participant in the same Times feature was Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor.  Like Al-Marayati, Feldman claimed to be concerned about a plague of Islam-hatred in America.  Feldman complained about legislative proposals in Oklahoma and Tennessee that would “ban Islamic law from the courts — a measure that the American separation of church and state makes completely unnecessary.”  Feldman concluded: “It would be nice to say these proposed laws are un-American. But they are sadly reminiscent of our history of targeting vulnerable religious minorities out of bigotry and political expediency. We can only look forward to a day when anti-Islamic sentiment seems as archaic as these other old hatreds do today.”

It’s interesting to note that while the New York Times was giving Al-Marayati and Feldman a platform from which to preach about the supposed persecution of Muslims in America, a woman named Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was actually being persecuted, and prosecuted, in Austria – not for being an adherent of Islam but for speaking the truth about it.  Most readers of Front Page will know about Sabaditsch-Wolff, whose whole saga has been covered here, from her frank, fact-based statements about Islam at a 1997 seminar to her conviction last February on the charge of “denigration of the religious beliefs of a legally recognized religion” to her appeal to a higher court, which last week affirmed the February verdict and ordered her to pay a €480 fine or spend two months in jail.  Sabaditsch-Wolff, who refuses to pay the fine, quite rightly called it “a black day for Austria.”

Most readers of Front Page will also know exactly what got Sabaditsch-Wolff in trouble with the Austrian judiciary: she said that the founder of Islam “married” his wife Aisha when she was six and consummated the “marriage” when she was nine, and that this made him, by definition, a pedophile.  This, of course, is a plain statement of fact – and, according to the court, if Sabaditsch-Wolff had just indicated that Muhammed had had intercourse with a child, she supposedly wouldn’t have been convicted.  But the appeals court didn’t like the way she put it – she said that Muhammed had a thing for small children, or words to that effect, which added to the statement of fact something that the court viewed as an unacceptable expression of opinion about the facts.  In other words, it would appear to be illegal in Austria now to express disapproval of the sexual molestation of children, provided the child molester in question is the prophet of a certain religion.

The court underscored, moreover, that while Austrians’ freedom of expression is guaranteed by the European Court of Human Rights, that right is bound up with the obligation not to be insulting – which is another way of saying that there’s no real freedom of expression at all.

All of this is, needless to say, disgraceful.  But the question I’m interested in here is the following one: how much attention did this disgraceful episode – this landmark event in the history of modern European jurisprudence – receive in the Western media?

Well, the Austrian press covered it pretty extensively.   A statement by Geert Wilders was widely disseminated.  A number of blogs were all over the story.  But, with the exception of a syndicated Diana West column entitled “A New Silent Night Descends on Austria,” a series of Google searches didn’t turn up a single report on Sabaditsch-Wolff’s appeals verdict in any newspaper in the Western world – certainly not any major one.  A search on the New York Times website for any mention of Sabaditsch-Wolff since 1981 yielded the following strangely chilling sentence: “Your search for Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in all fields returned 0 results.”

What about Lars Hedegaard, who has been undergoing similar judicial persecution in Denmark for statements he made about Islam at his kitchen table?  What kind of coverage has the Times given his case?  Exactly the same: absolutely none.

(Needless to say, Geert Wilders, who was hauled into court in the Netherlands for speaking the truth about Islam, has received considerable attention in the U.S. – though the media almost invariably portray him not as a victim of persecution but a perpetrator of it.)

Let’s sum up, then.  Whether motivated by fear, ignorance, multicultural convictions, or all three, editors at the New York Times – in lockstep with their colleagues at other mainstream news media – seek out contributors who they know will wring their hands over thoroughly imaginary threats to American Muslims’ religious freedom and over Americans’ purportedly unfounded concerns about the spread of Islamic law.  Meanwhile these same editors – again in lockstep with their colleagues elsewhere – turn a blind eye to the fact that in one Western courtroom after another, judges are, in fact, negating fundamental democratic rights and applying the principles of sharia.

To any objective observer, the situation is clear: it’s not Islam but free speech about Islam that’s in danger in the Western world today.  And newspapers like the Times – by routinely turning this reality upside-down and spreading lies – are effectively collaborating in the punishment of brave people for speaking the truth.

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