Finland's Supreme Court has found a prominent politician guilty of defaming Islam for "Islamophobic" comments he made on his personal blog.
The ruling represents a major setback for free speech in a Europe that is becoming increasingly stifled by politically correct restrictions on free speech, particularly on issues related to Islam and Muslim immigration.
The Helsinki-based Supreme Court ruled on June 8 that Finns Party MP Jussi Kristian Halla-aho was guilty of "inciting hatred against an ethnic group" for blog posts he made in 2008 which compared Islam to paedophilia, and for sarcastic comments which insinuated that immigrants from Somalia are predisposed to stealing and living off welfare.
In its ruling, the court said that hate speech does not fall under the protections afforded by the freedom of speech, even though Halla-aho said his comments were a protest against public policy and not against Islam and Mohammed per se.
Halla-aho, who has become well known in Finland and elsewhere for his well-argued essays criticizing multiculturalism and runaway immigration, was ordered to pay a hefty fine and delete the comments from his blog.
Halla-aho maintains a blog called Scripta, which deals with issues such as "immigration, multiculturalism, tolerance, racism, freedom of speech and political correctness." His blog attracts thousands of readers every day, and the Tampere-based newspaper Aamulehti has described him the best-known political blogger in Finland. Halla-aho's notoriety has placed the guardians of Finnish multiculturalism on maximum alert.
In a blog post in June 2008, Halla-aho wrote that the Islamic prophet Mohammed was a paedophile, and that Islam is a religion of paedophilia because Mohammed had sexual intercourse with his wife, Aisha, when she was only nine years old.
According to Halla-aho: "This sentence is related to a discussion where I criticize the idea of the subjective offensiveness of some sentence as being sufficient criteria for its judicial offensiveness. In other words, if some group is offended by sentence X, sentence X is illegal irrespective of whether it is true or not. In my opinion, stating of facts cannot and must not be criminal, even if they offend someone. This is also a problem of equality. For example, a Muslim is offended by criticism of his religion far more easily than an average Christian. If subjective offensiveness suffices as the elements of a crime, the law protects a Muslim with greater force than it protects a Christian."
He continued: "My sentences about Mohammed and Islam were not opinions, but inescapably logical conclusions based on known facts. I did not use the word 'paedophile' as psychopathological concept, but in its popular meaning of a person having sex with children. The traditional Muslim knowledge, the Hadith literature, tells us that Mohammed had sex with his wife Aisha when she was nine years old. A nine-year-old is seen as a child today, and physically she was a child in 7th century, no matter what her judicial status was. Therefore, if Mohammed had sex with Aisha and Aisha was a child, Mohammed had sex with a child. That Mohammed is a holy figure to Muslims cannot make him immune to criticism in West, especially if criticism is based on undisputed facts."
In another post, Halla-aho responded to a Finnish columnist who wrote that drinking excessively and fighting when drunk were cultural and possibly genetic characteristics of Finns. In order to show the double standards of such arguments, Halla-aho asked sarcastically if it could be stated that robbing passersby and living at the expense of taxpayers are cultural and possibly genetic characteristics of Somalis.
According to Halla-aho, "I turned the newspaper Kaleva's sentence into parody where 'Finns' were replaced by 'Somalis.' My hypothesis was that Somalis are under the special protection of the media and government officials, and my argument is that what is permissible to present about Finns becomes impermissible when it is about Somalis. My own version was as follows: 'Robbing passers-by and living as parasites on tax money is the national, maybe even genetic characteristic of Somalis.'"
He also wrote: "In order to poke fun at The Council for Mass Media in Finland, I mentioned in the text that I present this argument as supposition, not as a fact. In addition, I proved that by using crime statistics, the argument about Somalis can be proved just as effectively as Kaleva's argument about Finns."
Halla-aho continued: "I emphasize that, unlike the writer of newspaper Kaleva's primary editorial, I didn't present my own, offensive argument as my opinion, but used it to criticize and insult double standards. Factually speaking, and considering the mechanisms of evolution, the mere thought of living as a parasite on tax funds or killing people while intoxicated as being genetic characteristics of some population is insane."
He concluded: "Therefore, even if I had presented the argument about Somalis as my opinion and not as demonstrative material, the fact that an indictment was made against me for my proposition concerning Somalis but not against newspaper Kaleva for its proposition concerning Finns, would be in conflict with the equality section of the Constitution."
Elsewhere, Halla-aho wrote: "The imams are building, on European soil, in their mosques paid for by Europeans, a fanatic robot army without free will, whose only task is to destroy Western society."
Later, Halla-aho also wrote -- based on the common opinion in Finland that immigrant rapists select their victims randomly -- that they should choose leftwing supporters of multiculturalism, since only that would persuade them to reconsider their uncritical support for mass immigration from Muslim countries.
In November 2008, the leftist Finnish Green Women's Association responded by announcing that they had asked Finnish police to initiate a criminal investigation of Halla-aho. The leader of the Green Women's Association, Heli Järvinen, claimed that Halla-aho's texts were not simply expressions of freedom of speech and bona fide criticism of multiculturalism, but that they "incited both hatred and rape."
As a result, public prosecutors charged Halla-aho, who has a doctorate degree in Slavic linguistics, over allegedly racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim comments.
According to Deputy Public Prosecutor Jorme Kalske, "Halla-aho had uploaded to the Internet and submitted writings to the general public, in which Islam and its sacred institutions were combined with paedophilia, and in which was also presented the robbery of pedestrians and the looting of tax revenue by a certain national group or with a specific genetic characteristic."
When the charges were presented in the Helsinki District Court, Halla-aho stressed that he was opposed to violence against women and he denied that he was against foreigners; he said that he was simply "critical of immigration."
According to Halla-aho, the biggest problem associated with immigration is the large number of immigrants in relation to the resources used to integrate them. He has said that the one minority group whose integration has failed everywhere is Muslim, and that their refusal to assimilate creates problems such as social exclusion and ethnic ghettoization.
Halla-aho has also said that he is opposed to so-called positive discrimination, which grants special privileges to Muslims due to their culture or nationality. Moreover, Halla-aho has said that criticizing "totalitarian fascist ideologies like political Islam" should not be considered racism and that "facts cannot be criminalized."
Two lower courts had previously dismissed the hate charges against Halla-aho and only fined him for "defaming religion." But Finnish public prosecutors, outraged at the lenient rulings of the lower courts, appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which actually increased the lower court sentence by ordering Halla-aho to pay a 50-day fine instead of a 30-day fine.
Halla-aho, who chairs the Finnish Parliament's Administration Committee (which deals with immigration issues), says he will appeal the verdict in the European Court of Human Rights.