In Europe, ‘Hate Speech’ is the New Blasphemy

In Europe, calling the prophet Muhammad a “pedophile” is not protected speech, at least according to the European Court of Human Rights, the continent’s highest human rights court.

The ruling is perplexing, at least on the facts. Muhammad’s third wife, Aisha, was 6-years-old when they were married, 9-years-old when the marriage was consummated; he was in his 50s. Islamic scripture plainly says this—but don’t you dare frown upon it, bigot!

The European court’s ruling should once and for all disabuse us of the notion that the state can be neutral with respect to the good. It can’t be, nor should we want it to be. It will always take sides, and this decision thoroughly exposes as a sham the principle of state “neutrality.” If the Austrian government (where the case originated) and the human rights court were in fact neutral with respect to substantive moral questions, they would not fine a woman (and also threaten her with jail time if she were to fail to pay the fine) for having engaged in speech that offended the “religious feelings” of Muslims or their “allies” who heard her words.

Such an action both stakes out and affirms a position on the question of whether Islam is beyond critique; it endorses Islam as Islam over and against other religions and comprehensive worldviews. Only believing Muslims can truly benefit from the ruling, which is an inappropriate outcome in a society that claims to value and respect all persons, regardless of their religious affiliations. The state’s stamp of approval on sectarianism in this situation is obvious, even as it strenuously denies, in the name of “tolerance” and “multiculturalism,” that it takes sides on messy and charged moral questions. Such an endorsement is in truth no different from anti-blasphemy laws that were mainstay of centuries past.

But at least back then, we were honest about what we were doing.

A New Orthodoxy
What we’re seeing now is the birthing of a new orthodoxy—“social justice” progressivism—one with totalitarian delusions of moral, political, social, and legal domination. Conservatives’ yelps and protestations to the contrary (as when James Damore was fired from Google for saying that men and women have different interests and proclivities which is why there probably are more male than female engineers at Google—fact check: true!) are simply the birth pangs of the new regime as it is midwifed into existence by a factional elite that disdains its religio-cultural inheritance and all of us who esteem it.

Progressives in Europe (and in America) are attempting to commandeer and co-opt the putatively neutral machinery of the liberal state and weaponize it for their own substantive ends. It was only a matter of time before this happened—because it is impossible for the State to remain neutral with respect to questions of the good. Sooner or later, it will openly take a side, and right now, the most consequential political battles all across the Western world are over who will decide what the State stands for and about what it will be permissible for a polity to be “illiberal” (i.e., not compromise on). (Contrary to popular belief, “illiberalism” is not a dirty word; we are illiberal about many things we cherish, like our liberty, the rule of law, our family’s safety, and many other things besides.)

The writing is on the wall. The new system is now in its fetal stage, but its full realization and true nature are obvious. Bureaucratic technocracy is the goal, the engine and lifeblood of which is “dispassionate” scientific expertise, management, and, ultimately, control. The supranational European Union and the sprawling and arrogant administrative state here in America are the vehicles by which the new orthodoxy will be imposed—by force if necessary.

We will no longer be governed or rule ourselves but instead be condescended to, hectored, and coerced into grudgingly “accepting our place”—which, do note, will be “less-than” our elite “betters.” Such a regime, especially in recent decades, has had as its modus operandi the steady dispossession of the people’s right to determine their own fate by setting their sights on ends they find amenable, i.e., their right to debate and settle quintessentially political questions. It much prefers doing an end run around the citizenry, warping any such discussion into an academic seminar, participation in which is supposedly fit only for “intellectuals.”

Rubes and “deplorables” need not apply.

Until we accept that it is a fool’s errand to have “neutrality” in political life, we should expect more rulings like this and be prepared to cower before the 21st century’s newest strain of anti-blasphemy laws—bans on “hate speech”—imposed from without, in service of a resentful, collectivist ideology that reviles self-government, the rule of law, tradition, religion, the sacred—everything we hold dear.

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Photo Credit: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

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About Deion A. Kathawa

Deion A. Kathawa is an attorney who hails from America’s heartland. He holds a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He is a 2021 alumnus of the Claremont Institute’s John Marshall Fellowship. Subscribe to his “Sed Kontra” newsletter.