Lawfare Strikes Again in Germany

by ANDREW E. HARROD August 2, 2012

While Zahid Khan defeated a German Muslim's attempt to suppress Khan's freedom of speech in the last week of June, at the same time a fellow citizen of Germany had an encounter with legal authorities there due to his internet writings critical of Islam.  In a two-hour June 27, 2012, meeting with the Staatsschutz or state security section of the provincial police in Koblenz, Rhineland-Palatinate province, Ralf Meyer, a writer for the website Forum für Deutschland (Forum for Germany) received word that a year-old posting of his raised an "Anfangsverdacht [initial suspicion]" of "endangerment of the official security and order [Gefährdung der öffentlichen Sicherheit und Ordnung]."         

In Meyer's April 3, 2011, article for the self-described "non-partisan-democratic-patriotic [überparteilich-demokratisch-patriotisch]" website, Meyer praised the Koran-burning "preacher" Terry Jones as a "role model [Vorbild]" who had the "courage to find Islam/the Koran guilty of numerous crimes against humanity in an online trial process" resulting in the Koran's being "executed by burning."  Meyer, though, qualified his praise for Terry by noting that the media had referred "not totally without justice" to Terry's "dubious reputation and small ‘community'" or, rather, "sect."  Nonetheless, Meyer concluded that "for us ‘ball-less' German BIO-potatoes [Kartoffeln or potatoes is a derogatory slang term used often by immigrants for native Germans] the guts at any rate are lacking to turn ourselves openly against the erroneous teachings of the pedophile goat herder of the 7th century A. D., who very probably was psychologically disturbed."  This was "at least one reason to value the action of Terry Jones and his mustered bravery."    

Mayer's description of Islam's prophet Muhammad drew the attention of a certain Herr Thomas at the Staatsschutz, who, according to Meyer's online discussion of his meeting there, himself raised the question of an Anfangsverdacht after apparently "reading though a few thousand articles until coming upon the last paragraph of an article over one year old."  The inquisitorial nature of the whole experience prompted Meyer to ask whether the acronym SS would be appropriate for the Staatsschutz, invoking thereby the memory of the infamous Nazi security service that grew out of Adolf Hitler's bodyguard, the Schutzstaffel or Security Squadron.  Looming over the entire proceeding was precedent of the Austrian diplomat Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff fined in her country 480 Euros in a judgment upheld on December 20, 2011, also for referring to Muhammad as a pedophile.  Mayer thus wrote that the "matter itself promises to become interesting...if the public prosecutor raises a charge then we will have in Germany a precedent according to the example of Frau Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria...and this even though ISLAM in Germany is still not even recognized as a religious community."        

For Mayer it was significant that Thomas had served as an instructor for the Afghan police under Germany's contribution to the NATO-led counterinsurgency effort there.  Thomas answered negatively Mayer's question whether Thomas had converted to Islam during this experience.  Mayer nonetheless suspected that Thomas in Afghanistan "might have experienced close-up the violent actions of Muslims with respect to themes concerning Islam...does he therefore want to fight against every ‘criticism of Islam' in Germany?"  "Can it be," asked Mayer, "that the Staatsschutz in Koblenz wants to preclude with a criminal process criticism of Islam and thereby possibly resulting ‘protests of Islamists'?"  Citing recent examples of Muslims rioting in Germany, Mayer called such an "implied chain of causality" as "nothing else than a kneeling before the ideology of violence ISLAM."        

Mayer considered "absolutely shocking" the "fundamental estimation of the Staatsschutz that I as a minor author with this sentence should have caused unrest among the bio-German population."  Meanwhile "crucifixes in urine are presented by a Muslim as art...the cross is smeared with feces in the theater...God or the Vatican are portrayed in every second film alternatively as idiots or notoriously bad...but I incite the German Michel [slang term for the ordinary German]...great!"       

Mayer's arguments illustrate an important issue today of free societies restricting discussions of Islam in a manner pleasing to Muslims in the name of forestalling disruptions to public peace, a kind of heckler's veto writ large across nations, even as groups such as Christians endure abuse and criticism precisely as a result of their docility.  In contrast to the often gratuitous attacks upon Christianity cited by Mayer, the criticisms by Mayer and others of Muhammad's biography, however unflattering, have an all too real foundation in historical sources.  The traditional Islamic understanding of Muhammad marrying one of his wives, Aisha, when she was six and consummating the marriage at the age of nine is a widely known fact (other Muslim estimations, though, have suggested somewhat older ages such as 14).  Controversies surrounding whether it is appropriate to call Muhammad a "pedophile" and the influence of Muhammad, seen by Islam as the most perfect example of human behavior, upon wide-scale practices of child marriage in Muslim societies until the present day are also longstanding.  As for accusations of Muhammad being mentally ill, entire books on this subject (e.g. those by Ali Sina and Sujit Das) have appeared, as the conservative German website Politically Incorrect noted in commenting upon the Mayer case.  Absent a defense of intellectual freedom against intimidation by various Muslims, however, such wide-ranging, important discussions will disappear to the detriment of open societies.  

Even without an actual trial, encounters such as Mayer's with authorities can easily bring about the proverbial "chilling effect" upon free speech concerning Islam.  Rather than procure public peace, moreover, pandering to Muslim sensitivities might very well encourage greater Muslim militancy.  Authorities inclined to appease Muslim concerns would do well to remember Benjamin Franklin's admonition that those "who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School.  He is admitted to the Virginia State Bar.  He has published over 150 articles concerning various political and religious topics at the American Thinker, Daily Caller, FrontPage Magazine, Faith Freedom International, Gatestone Institute, Institute on Religion and Democracy, Mercatornet, and World, among others. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies.  He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.


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