Lawfare Reaches Germany
by ANDREW E. HARROD
May 9, 2012
Now Germany has its own version of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria - Michael Mannheimer has undergone legal prosecution for making statements about Islam displeasing to Muslims and their politically correct allies.
Mannheimer ran afoul of German authorities after he issued a "Call to General Resistance of the German People according to Article 20, paragraph 4 of the Basic Law [Aufruf zum allgemeinen Widerstand des deutschen Volkes gemäß Art.20 Abs.4 GG]" on April 8, 2011. He made this statement initially in the reader comments section of the conservative German website Politically Incorrect (PI), which has as its proclaimed masthead goal, among others, of opposition "against the Islamization of Europe [Gegen die Islamisierung Europas]". Mannheimer's internet declaration of resistance earned him a criminal conviction and a fine of 50 Euros for 50 days (2,500 Euros) from a court in the southern German town of Heilbronn in the state of Baden- Würtemburg. *
Michael Mannheimer operates his own personal conservative website that is sharply critical of Islam and has made a name for himself in recent years with various corresponding appearances at seminars and demonstrations. On his website, Mannheimer has given his support to Nürnberg 2.0, a self-proclaimed internet "collection point for the documentation of the systematic and illegal Islamization of Germany and the criminal acts of leftist Fascists for the oppression of the people." Nürnberg 2.0 collects all manner of information concerning leftist German establishment politicians and intellectuals who support things such as liberal immigration policies and culturally relativistic "multiculturalism", in order supposedly to support some vague idea of a future tribunal analogous to Nürnberg 2.0's historic post-World War II namesake.
In his manifesto on the PI website, Mannheimer referenced the sentence of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) or de facto constitution of Germany (see Grundgesetz Article 146), which proclaims that: "All Germans shall have the right to resist any person seeking to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy is available." Mannheimer's justification for invoking this German proclamation of a natural law right of revolution was that the "entire German establishment" of "politics, academia, media, justice, and now the church as well sympathizes and collaborates with Islam and has transitioned on a mass scale to working for a successive abolition of the German Grundgesetz according to Islam." Ignoring the "will of the German people", this establishment has brought "millions" of Muslim immigrants to Germany "who despise our cultural and civilizational achievements and want to abolish our European culture (which is not at all Islamic, but rather Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian in form) in favor of Islam's barbaric system." He claimed that such developments flowed naturally from the "central goal of Islam", namely "world rule." In the name of this goal, he continued, Muslims throughout history had waged an "eternal war" of "Islamic jihad" that "had claimed more deaths than Christian religious wars, Fascism, National-socialism, and Communism taken together."
Mannheimer's response to this threat was a call to "defend" against the "enemies from the ranks of those Islamic immigrants who want...[to] introduce here the barbaric-pre-Stone Age Sharia" as well as to "expel the ruling establishment from its offices" and "to place those responsible before a court." Complementing his call for a Nürnberg-like tribunal, Mannheimer referenced the Nazi accession to power so central in German history and charged that "as in 1933 this establishment had failed once again!" "Get up from your sofas," Mannheimer proclaimed. "Go to the streets! Take up arms, when there is no other alternative....Long live freedom!"
Mannheimer's internet declaration of resistance prompted his conviction under Section 130 (Agitation of the People or Volksverhetzung), paragraph 2(1)(a) of the German criminal code. This law makes it illegal to disseminate written material that "incite hatred" or are "insulting, maliciously maligning or defaming" in character with respect to groups such as religious followers. In the court holding excerpted by PI, the judges denounced Mannheimer's "defamation" of Islam as a "humanity-hostile Fascism" and the "worst possible enemy of freedom, equality, and brotherhood." Such assertions were an "undifferentiated" and "conscious distortion" of Islam's "theological contents" as a "militant, intolerant, and not peaceful religion" that is "dangerous" and "not worth the respect of citizens." Mannheimer's estimation of Islam's "central goal" as "world rule" was also, according to the court, "once again" a "falsifying of Islam's religious tenets." In all, Mannheimer's "presented picture of Islam's supposedly anti-constitutional contents and goals" was "consciously distorted."
Mannheimer's suggestion of "taking it to the streets", perhaps even with weapons, was certainly provocative. Particularly in a country like Germany, such statements evoke bitter memories of street fighting, both between political paramilitaries such as those of the Nazis and Communists during the breakdown of Germany's first ill-fated attempt at democracy in the Weimar Republic, and during the subsequent urban combat of World War II in cities like Berlin as German troops vainly tried to forestall the Third Reich's Götterdämmerung in the face of advancing Allied armies.
In Mannheimer's defense, though, he referenced violence merely as an ultima ratio according to the traditional understanding of Article 20(4) and its underlying political philosophy. Moreover, it was not incitement to violence, but Section 130's provisions on incitement to hatred and insult and defamation of a group of people (i.e. Muslims) that formed the basis of Mannheimer's conviction.
Perhaps most disturbing about the conviction was the court's politically correct editorializing about Islam's nature. Objective observers might wonder where a law court derives such theological, political, and historical assessments of Islam, or any other faith. The Heilbronn court's views are certainly not universal among all observers and scholars of Islam. For example, the Egyptian-born Muslim convert to Christianity, Nonie Darwish, refers to Islam in her recent book The Devil We Don't Know: The Dark Side of Revolutions in the Middle East as a "Dracula" and "Ponzi scheme" requiring expansion for survival. Based on her life in Egypt before coming to the United States after college, Darwish as well denounces Islam's "twisted moral and ethical system" and the "sad truth that Islamic uprisings" such as those of the once vaunted "Arab Spring...eventually crawl back to where they came from-back to tyranny." Darwish's fellow Muslim apostate, the pseudonymous South Asian-American Ibn Warraq, has also described the devastating Islamic conquest of Hindu India in his recent book Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy and has written that in Islam "life is a closed book" with matters such as ethics "reduced to obeying orders."
Michael Mannheimer's case is bad news for free speech in Germany and, along with increasingly frequent similar cases, places in like legal danger others like Nonie Darwish and Ibn Warraq. Following on the prosecution of Elisabeth Sabbaditsch-Wolf, Mannheimer's case shows that not just politicians such as Wilders, but also private citizens will be subject to legal sanction provided that they become too prominent in their criticism and condemnation of Islam. Their loss, in turn, will be the loss of societies at large robbed of the opportunity to learn about Islam from all perspectives, an issue of immense global importance today.
Ultimately, however outlandish Mannheimer's often profuse and purple prose, views on various religions belong not in law courts, but in courts of public opinion.
*Please note that I have been unable to find legal documentation verifying the details of the PI article and the Mannheimer case.
- By Andrew E. Harrod, this article also appeared on The Legal Project site, May 6, 2012.
Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is admitted to the Virginia State Bar. He has published over 300 articles concerning various political and religious topics at the American Thinker, the Blaze, Daily Caller, FrontPage Magazine, Institute, Institute on Religion and Democracy, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Mercatornet, Philos Project, Religious Freedom Coalition, Washington Times, and World, among others. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter @AEHarrod.