Monday, January 17, 2011

Europe On Trial

by A. Millar

When Austrian anti-sharia activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff stood in court November 28 to defend herself against the charge of "incitement of hatred," her alleged "crime" was to have given a seminar on the subject of Islam in Europe, during which she quoted the Koran and several prominent Islamic scholars.

The case was suspended until January 18, when she will be back in court facing the possibility of receiving a sentence of up to three years in jail. In the meantime, although the Austrian media has largely refused to report the case, Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff has been garnering attention elsewhere for her activism. She recently visited Israel with a small delegation of European politicians. Sarah Palin has called the delegation to offer her support, and author Bat Ye'or has also sent a letter of support.

"It is so important to fight this fight," Sabaditsch-Wolff said recently, "and not to give up. I feel if ever I have to be in court, this is a very worthy cause."

Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff's legal problems began when she presented a three-part seminar to the Freedom Education Institute, attached to the Austrian Freedom Party. Veronika Dolna, a young journalist for the Left-wing News magazine attended the first two parts, recording the second part and about 30 minutes of the first.

Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff has since been studying Islam for about ten hours a day in preparation for her court case, although she says that "religion should not be in the courtroom. It does not belong there. How can you explain in court the gates of Ijtihad [questioning,]… that they have been closed.," she said.

"What is the judge going to do with information… that there cannot be any change in Islam as long as the gates of Ijtihad are closed. What is she going to judge on? Is she judging me or is she judging the Koran? What is she going to find me guilty of? Of quoting the Koran?"

Neither Dolna nor any other journalist with the magazine attended the crucial third part: the then-editor of News had reported Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff to the authorities, and pressed for a prosecution.. The third lecture was subsequently delivered as planned, and Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff says that she "would have learned the most from it because that is the part on human rights, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, honor killings, and sharia law and how it affects us in Europe today. She basically missed the most important part." Surprisingly Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff has no hard feelings towards Ms. Dolna, and says that "she's just a young girl who was just used – and abused, in my opinion. I have no hard feelings towards her. I think she is just a victim of this game that the editor in chief was playing."

The game, as far as Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff is concerned, is "lawfare." – the malicious use of the courts to try to silence free speech about Islam: "We all know," she said, "that lawfare is the name of the game."

The EU recently issued the "Framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia," which its member states were required to implement by November 28. This requires the punishment of "certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law," and Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff believes that it will be used to silence critics of Islam and sharia.

She recently spoke of this at a conference in Paris, where she derided the EU as totalitarian like "the Nazis and the Fascists and the Communists," but, she says, they are establishing their dictatorship "quietly and peacefully" through the use of lawfare rather than violence. Nevertheless, citizens of EU member states who fear Islamist terrorism, and violence or intimidation in "Muslim areas" are finding that this is backed up by EU law and political correctness.

"That is what's so evil about the European Union", Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff said. "Of course there is no violence coming from the European Union itself; it is just paving the way for the violence… Violence within the European Union is happening because the EU is making it possible. The uprisings in Paris, or Brussels, or Rotterdam – they are taking place because the EU is a conduit."

Those who dare to stand up and be counted find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff runs off a list of prosecutions against those who have criticized Islam – Geert Wilders, Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, and so on. They want "to silence us," she says, "because what we are saying goes against the politically correct doctrine that is now being preached in Europe and the United States. It is there to silence us, but I for one will not be silenced." That is certainly true: since Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff heard about her court case from the media – she was officially informed only later – she has been more active than ever, becoming the poster-woman for Europe's "Counter-Jihad" movement.

At a recent speech in Paris Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff received a standing ovations from an audience of people of all ages and backgrounds. She says that there has been a notable change in Europe over the last year. People no longer accept the reassurances of the old political class; they are "hungry" for information. "The past year," she notes "started with my story, and also with Thilo Sarrazin in Germany, and the Wilders trial in the Netherlands; and there is a movement starting because people are fed up – absolutely fed up. The political elite are telling them one thing, but what they see is a totally different reality."

This unwelcome "different reality" of Europe is, at last, beginning to find a more coherent opposition in the form of what is being described as the "New European Right." The term denotes the significant number of anti-immigration, anti-Islamist and, increasingly, pro-Israel parties in Europe. Dutch MP Geert Wilders is the best known of these, at least within the US; his Party for Freedom has undoubtedly served as something of a model for the movement.

Some of the other parties described as part of the "New European Right" are long-established nationalist, independence, or separatist parties, such as the Freiheitliche Partei Osterreichs (FPO – Freedom Party of Austria) and Vlaams Belang ("Flemish Independence"). None of them could be described as the darlings of the mainstream media, who have derided them as xenophobic and even "anti-Semitic." The pro-Israel stance does not seem to fit the accusation, although there is no doubt that these parties are maturing as the "New European Right" as growing.

Former FPO leader Jorg Haider (1950-2008) had made comments that appeared to sympathize with the Nazi regime, and, like many on the far-Right, was sympathetic toward political Islam. He had once described his party as "the PLO of Austria" and was known for his friendship with Libya's Gaddafi family. Anti-Semitism can be discerned as lurking behind all of this. However, as membership and leaders of these parties have changed, so has their outlook -- and vice versa.

Having attempted to smear Israel as a "Nazi state" and an "apartheid state", the Left has seized on the support of Haider's former party – and others like it – to be now for Israel. But they fail to acknowledge what is crucial. First, that the pro-Israel stance of these parties is a mark of a positive change (and, obviously, a rejection of anti-Semitism). Second, that the "anti-Israel," "anti-fascist" Left has now adopted positions traditionally-held by neo-fascist parties. They, too, were "ant-Zionist," just like the contemporary militant Left. The Left now, like Haider, is also "pro-Palestinian," and also lent its support to Saddam Hussein.

The Leftist equation of Israel with the Nazis, and the accusation that anti-Semitic parties support Israel is being cynically used by the Left to disguise not only its "anti-fascist" moral bankruptcy, but also its alliance with Islamist fascists and anti-Semites.

Vlaams Belang has vocally supported Belgium's beleaguered Jewish community for a number of years. After a violent 2002 demonstration, during which members of the Arab European League (AEL) smashed the storefronts of Jewish-owned shops, party leader Filip Dewinter criticized the lax security and promised to protect the nation's Jews. "You can count on us," was his message. Good thing, too, as the year following the attacks on Jewish shops, the "anti-fascist" Workers Party of Belgium went into a coalition with the AEL. Since then, the AEL posted on its website articles skeptical of the Holocaust, as well as anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial cartoons (the organization claimed that these were only meant to test free speech). At the same time, Vlaams Belang has continued to reach out to Belgium's Jews, and has been vocal in its support and defense of Israel.

In contrast to Haider, current FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache is tackling the issue of Islamism, and is also supportive of Israel. Haider effectively relinquished control in 2005, after he left to form another party. Strache took up the reins in 2006; Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff, for one, says she is "impressed," and that Strache is taking the party "absolutely in the right direction."

In December, Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff, Strache, Vlaams Belang leader Filip Dewinter, former UKIP candidate Paul Weston, and others visited Israel, where they met Likud's Vice Minister Ayoub Kara. The Austrian women's magazine Wienerin reported wrote that Sabaditsch-Wolff's speech to Kara and the other "political greats of Israel" was "favorably received." Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff was equally enthusiastic about the visit to Israel, describing it as "a fantastic trip – very, very educational."

"We got the tour of Israel at the frontline of Islamic terrorism, she said. "We were in Sderot and Ashkelon -- almost in the Gaza strip.. When you see that, you realize that there is actually a war going on, although the world says otherwise, but you are there on the ground -– you see it, you feel it.

"It was so important to travel to Israel, not only for the politicians who were invited to attend this meeting, but its also for the European 'counter-Jihad' to see with one's own eyes what we in the 'Counter-Jihad' [anti-Islamism movement] are constantly defending. We are defending Israel, Israel's right to exist, and Israel's right to self-defense. It was crucial."

The support runs both ways, with Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff since receiving "quite a few emails of support from Israel, saying, 'Go on, we support you.'" Unpredictably, former governor of Alaska and former vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin also "sent a message to one of the organizers [of the trip to Israel]," according to Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff, "saying she is following our trip [to Israel] very closely, and that she is looking forward to meeting us in the US or Israel. She found out about our trip somehow, and she is very excited about it."

Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff will soon be back in court. Although the threat of three years in prison for her seminar on Islam hangs over her, with support for her and the "Counter-Jihad" growing, she remains optimistic and plans to tour Canada and the East Coast of the US in February. "We have interesting times ahead of us," she says.

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A. Millar

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