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Hate speech by leader of a radical Salafist organisation was not protected by freedom of expression

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Fouad Belkacem, the leader and spokesperson of the radical Muslim organization Sharia4Belgium. His Youtube videos calling for viewers to overpower non-Muslims and fight them, cannot be considered as freedom of expression. This decision is welcomed by Unia: in the past, Unia has filed complaints at the Antwerp Criminal Court against Sharia4Belgium on multiple occasions.

The leader and spokesperson of the radical Muslim organization Sharia4Belgium, which was dissolved in 2012, was found guilty by a Belgian court of inciting discrimination, hatred and violence in that same year. His appeal was overturned, after which he also lost the application at the Court of Cassation. Belkacem then decided to lodge his application with the European Court of Human Rights, who has unanimously declared the application inadmissible and the decision final.

In the Court’s view, such a general and vehement attack was incompatible with the values of tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination underlying the European Convention on Human Rights.

With reference to Mr Belkacem’s remarks concerning Sharia, the Court observed that it had previously ruled that defending Sharia while calling for violence to establish it could be regarded as “hate speech”, and that each Contracting State was entitled to oppose political movements based on religious fundamentalism.

The Court therefore rejected the application, finding that it was incompatible with the provisions of the Convention and that Mr Belkacem had attempted to deflect Article 10 of the Convention from its real purpose by using his right to freedom of expression for ends which were manifestly contrary to the spirit of the Convention.

“We are delighted with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights,” according to the Belgian equality body UNIA (Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities). “The limits to freedom of expression were exceeded by Sharia4Belgium. There was a clear incitement of hatred and violence which can never be accepted. We see no other option but to have his statements be judged by the court.”

Further Information

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights is available in English here.

See more on this decision by UNIA in Dutch and French.

For related readings, you can visit the website of UNIA here.

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