Austrian Woman Charged for Criticizing the Koran

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VIENNA, Austria -- Burning Korans and criticizing religions may generate anger in America, but it's still freedom of speech guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

However in Europe, speaking out against Islam can lead to a jail sentence.

CBN News interviewed one Austrian citizen facing hate crimes charges for criticizing the Koran.

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff still remembers her first exposure to Islam as a small child. It was 1979 and her father, an Austrian diplomat, was stationed in Tehran during the Iranian revolution.

"Millions of people were congregating and screaming 'Allahu Akhbar,'" she said.

That incident began an eye-opening journey for Sabaditsch-Wolff, who would be stationed in several  Islamic countries during her own diplomatic career. She was living in Libya nine years ago when the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. occurred.

"My landlord came running down, banging on my door. And I opened the door and he ran inside my apartment and said, 'The Jews did it!' That was the first words he said," she recalled.

Experiences like that led her to study the Koran and Islamic culture extensively.

"I've read the Koran. I've studied the books from both sides -- the pro and the con. And I can tell you from what I've studied -- Islam is a political ideology disguised as a religion."

Back in her home country of Austria, Sabadistch-Wolff lectured on the subject and her comments on the Koran outraged a writer for a left-wing Austrian magazine.

"She took it to her editor and they apparently then decided they would take it to the lawyer and take it to the public prosecutor's office," Sabadistch-Wolff noted.

The Vienna prosecutor charged her with hate speech against Islam. She told CBN News she merely quoted directly from the Koran.

"I quoted the Koran. I told them even in the lecture, which Koran I used, which quote. Some of them even had their little Korans with them and they were flipping the pages, you know, checking on me," she said.

This is the latest case of a European charged with hate speech against Islam.

Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders expects a verdict in his hate crimes trial later this year.

In addition to Austria and the Netherlands, hate speech charges have also been filed in the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Denmark, Beligium and Finland -- all against critics of Islam.

Sabaditsch-Wolff's case is still under review in Austria. In the meantime, the self-described feminist says she will continue to speak out for the sake of future generations.

"Maybe we're all wrong. Maybe this is the way to go. Maybe Islam really is peace and we're wrong. I look at my daughter and I think 'no.' You have the right to live as you would like to live," she said.

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Erick Stakelbeck

Erick Stakelbeck

CBN News Correspondent

Erick Stakelbeck is a sought after authority on terrorism and national security issues with extensive experience in television, radio, and print media. Stakelbeck is a correspondent and terrorism analyst for CBN News.  Follow Erick on Twitter @Staks33.