Should you be allowed to say that the founder of one of the world’s largest religions was a paedophile? According to the European Court of Human Rights the answer is ‘no’. In a decision issued this week the Court in Strasbourg ruled that this statement is defamatory towards the prophet of Islam, ‘goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate’ and ‘could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.’ Details of the long-running case can be read here.
I will come to the civilisational problems with this in a moment. But first allow me to point out what a difficult position this puts my book collection in. For beside me as I write I have a huge four-volume collection of the hadith (sayings) of Mohammed picked up on my travels in North Africa some years ago. They are the Bukhari hadith – that is the collection of hadith that scholars of Islam recognise to be the most authentic and reputable collection of Mohammed’s sayings. Whenever I open them I find out many interesting things about the founder of Islam.
For example, in ‘The Book of Ablution’ I can read what Mohammed thought about urination and the stances one might adopt during that act. I can also find advice about what to do with faeces and traces of blood coming from those same regions of the body. Crucially I can also learn what the prophet of Islam thought you should do with traces of ejaculate. I read, for instance about what those close to the prophet used to do with traces of semen found on his clothes. Sulaiman Ibn Yasar recounts what Mohammed’s last wife, Aisha, told him regarding this delicate subject:
‘I used to wash the traces of semen from the clothes of The Prophet “Allah’s blessing and peace be upon him” and he used to go for prayers while water spots were still visible on it.’