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There are many people for whom that ruling by a judge in Austria will come as a great comfort.

There are many more for whom it be a source of astonished dismay.

Elizabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a critic of islamic activism in Europe, has been on trial in Austria for inciting hatred and denigrating religious teachings.

The judge began the delivery of his verdict by pointing out that the integration of Muslims into the community is a question of public interest, that it is acceptable to ask questions, and even to be critical. It is not acceptable to incite hatred. The judge found that Elizabeth’s remarks had not done so.

However, Elizabeth had also said that by today’s standards, Mohammed was a paedophile. I have said the same thing. He was also a mass murder, torturer and rapist. 

I do not see how it is possible for a fifty-four year old man having sex with a nine year old girl not to fit the definition of paedophilia.

The judge disagreed. A person is only a paedophile, he said, if that person’s primary sexual interest is in children. Mohammed did not fit that description because he had other, adult wives, and because he continued to have sex with Aisha after she was eighteen.

Elizabeth was found guilty of denigrating religious teachings, and fined €480.00.

By the judge’s line of reasoning, if someone has sex with children, he is not a paedophile if he continues to have sex with them when they are adults, or if he has more sex with adult women than with children.

That is just plainly idiotic.

It may well be the case that Mohammed’s behaviour, which included raping women captured in war, was acceptable in his time and culture.

But that is not what Elizabeth was concerned about.

There would be no problem if Muslims acknowledged that some of Mohammed’s actions might have been acceptable then but are not acceptable now, and therefore that he cannot be taken as a moral exemplar.

But they cannot do this. For Muslims Mohammed is the highest moral exemplar of all humanity. His actions and the teachings of the Quran apply everywhere and at all times.

If Mohammed did something, no court or law can forbid it. If the Quran commands or even permits something, no court or law can forbid it.

Just as one example, the Quran provides for rules for waiting periods after intercourse before a man can divorce a wife. It includes a rule to cover the prescribed waiting period if a man wishes to divorce a wife with whom he has had intercourse, but who has not yet started to menstruate.

Elizabeth is right. The judge is wrong.

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