The Truth is No Defense
Interview with Austrian Free Speech Advocate, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff
by Jerry Gordon and Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant (December 2020)
The latest Islamist atrocity in Europe occurred on November 2, 2020 in Vienna, Austria with a deadly attack that occurred on the eve of a lockdown triggered by an upsurge in the Coronavirus pandemic. The attack was perpetrated by one or more assailants on patrons at open air cafes on an exceptionally warm evening in the Austrian Capital. The toll was four killed, and 22 injured, several seriously. It is alleged that more than 100 shots were fired before quick work by Vienna police SWAT teams took down the principal perpetrator. Austrian counterterrorism security and police instituted a man hunt for the alleged accomplices who witnesses described as attired in white with black balaclavas and carrying long guns.
The Vienna attack is the latest in a series of Islamist barbarous attacks in France involving the beheading of a schoolteacher, the late Samuel Patty by an 18 year old Chechen refugee, who had lectured on the exercise of free speech to students in junior high school in a Paris Suburb using the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that satirized Mohammed the Prophet of Islamic doctrine. The Charlie Hebdo cartoons had triggered a January 7, 2015 massacre that killed 12, injuring 11 at the satirical Charlie Hebdo editorial quarters, and Four Jewish hostages of a group of 20 detained at a Kosher supermarket. This was followed by an attack on the Nice cathedral by a 20-year Tunisian refugee émigré who entered France from Italy as a migrant from North Africa. An 85-year-old parishioner was barbarously beheaded while at prayer, and two others were stabbed to death. The perpetrator was shot and wounded by Nice police and placed in custody. There was an attempted murder by an 18-year-old Pakistani émigré bearing a machete near the former site of Charlie Hebdo editorial offices. Seven suspects have subsequently been detained by French police.
These attacks spawned outcries in the Muslim ummah of “blasphemy” —criticism of Islamic doctrine and defamation of the image of the Prophet Mohammed – and calls for boycotts of French goods and services by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and the “massacres of millions of French” by aging Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed. In New York, the French consulate was the site of protests by local Imams of the actions of French President Macron to preserve the secular principles of free speech of the Republic.
Host Rod Reuven Bryant, he and producer and co-host Jerry Gordon reached out to interview Austrian Free speech advocate and Islamic doctrine critic, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff about the impact of the Islamist attack in Vienna. They had previously interviewed American ex-pat, writer, and author Nidra Poller on the background of the Islamist murder of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty.
Gordon has known Ms. Sabaditsch -Wolff for over a decade and had interviewed her on various trials in both Austria and at the European Human Rights Court over her criticism of Islamic doctrine. These are chronicled in her memoir, The Truth is No Defense, published by the New English Review press in 2019 and available on Amazon.
Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff’s views about free speech and criticism of Islamic doctrine stem from her experience as a child of an Austrian diplomat. She explains that when her father was held postings in New York and Chicago, as a junior high school student, where she learned about US Constitution guarantees of free speech, freedom of religious worship and criticism of religious doctrine. She learned firsthand the excesses of Islamist extremism when the family was posted to Iran during the 1979 Revolution and later working as a visa officer in Kuwait.
She gave compelling witness of the initial impact of the Islamist impact as her daughter, who is a music and performance student at a special high school, was locked down while attending a theatre performance along with 600 other attendees. First news of the attack came shortly after 8PM via alerts to her husband, an Austrian Army medical officer in cell messages and videos of the attack. He was able to dress dark clothes so as not to attract attention and combat boots and drive into the center area of the attack to await release of their daughter. Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff noted that the synagogue in the Jewish quarter was not a target of the Islamists’ attacks but rather the adjacent entertainment complex of bars, restaurants, and theaters in the center of Vienna. The 20–year perpetrator held dual Austrian and north Macedonian citizenship and apparently came from an Albanian Muslim family. He had been convicted of a prior (terrorist-related) provocation but was released early because of his age and forced to attend a deradicalization program.
She was particularly impressed over the immediate actions by French President Macron who tweeted in perfect German his nation’s solidarity with Austria’s Chancellor Kurz and the Austrian people. He also sent a wreath to the site of the attack and went out of his way to pay a visit to the legation of the Austrian Ambassador in Paris.
She spoke about her own travails regarding her trials in the Austrian court system over a lecture she gave on the Koranic doctrine involving 56-year-old Prophet Mohammed and his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha consummated at age nine. This arose from a left-wing journal report at one of her professional seminars. Unlike the US and all other countries worldwide, Austria holds it a crime to denigrate the doctrine of an established and recognized religion. She was fined for her actions and appealed the conviction through the Austrian Supreme Court. She sought ultimate relief that was ultimately denied at the European Court of Human Rights. Her fight for free speech and legal chronicle are portrayed in her book, The Truth is No Defense. Sabaditsch-Wolff views only Israel and the US as “the bastions of free speech” in the West.
What follows is a riveting interview with Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff on the dramatic Islamist attack in Vienna on November 2, 2020, impact on her family and contrast on the responses of French President Macron versus those of Austrian Chancellor Kurz. She comments on her unique experience as someone who was tried in Austria for criticism of Islam tantamount to blasphemy and appealed the convictions to the Austrian Supreme Court and ultimately the EU Court of Human Right denying her freedom of speech, that we consider sacrosanct under our US First Amendment.
Rod Bryant: You are officially Beyond the Matrix here with Rod Bryant and Jerry Gordon. We have a special guest with us today. Jerry, why do not you take a moment to introduce our guest.
Jerry Gordon: Our guest is an Austrian citizen and who is well acquainted with both the United States and Israel and how free both countries are as paragons of speaking the truth. Her name is Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. She is the author of a book called “Truth is Not a Defense” which chronicles her experience combating Islamic doctrine in Austria and before the European Court of Human Rights. It is an important work, and it should be read by many of you. However, the interview today is about the events that have occurred recently in Austria, with an Islamist attacking soft targets at cafes and threatening a nearby synagogue in Vienna. Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff goes into some details about that, her family’s personal experience, while simultaneously going back into lockdown, in Vienna because of the recent surge in COVID-19 in Austria, and throughout all the EU.
Rod Bryant: Elisabeth, so glad to have you here today.
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff: Thank you.
Jerry Gordon: Elisabeth, what was the impact on your family and thousands of others of the Islamist attack in Central Vienna that occurred on the evening of November the 2nd?
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff: Jerry, it is wonderful to be with you both and thanks for having me on your program. Let me also tell you that this is the first and probably the only interview that I will be doing on this topic, because I am basically now in hibernation due to the COVID situation, which we can go into later. You asked me what happened last night, Viennese time here in Vienna. To set the scene, to set the stage, my daughter, who is a junior in high school and very much into opera, theater and stage productions, decided to take advantage of that night, because we’re in lockdown right now as we speak. We have a curfew that starts in about three hours, and all the theaters are already closed, and like thousands of other Viennese people, she took the opportunity to enjoy one last performance at a theater in downtown Vienna.
So, it was up to my husband and me to be at home, to sit at home. We were getting ready, it was about 8:00, 8:15, we were getting ready to watch a movie, which was aptly named “Vienna Blood,” an English movie, dubbed in German, and we were watching. Suddenly, my husband’s cell phone right next to me started going crazy. Apparently, I was not really watching him closely, but he received a short video clip and he played it. I heard shots in the background, and my husband said, “Uh-oh, that doesn’t sound good if it’s legit.” And he kept replaying it, looking at the video very closely, because my husband is in the Army, so he knows a bit about shotguns and weapons and ammo. I was not paying attention yet, but I did switch channels and went to the Austrian 24-hour news channel to check up on the latest, assuming that there would be something on this news channel. Lo and behold, this news channel was replaying all the videos that had come into my husband’s cell phone. I immediately sent a text message to my daughter and was lucky because there was an intermission at around that time, informed her about the situation, told her just to remain calm and not leave the building, we would get in touch after the end of the performance. In the meantime, more and more text messages and video messages were coming in. We were starting to get a bit concerned. When I watched these video clips, one of the perps, and of course, we still do not know, was it just one or more and we can also get into that later. The perp caught on camera was wearing white clothes, and someone like me who knows a bit about Islamic law and the “ideology” knows that white has a significance in Islam. I knew right away that this was not an attack by a peaceful Muslim or Buddhist minority here in Vienna, that it was probably something quite different
The situation became serious, very quickly. My husband put on dark and inconspicuous clothes and his combat boots, and drove the car to the city center, which is about 20 minutes from our place, and basically stood guard outside the theater to be ready to welcome our daughter into his arms. He was prepared for a long night. In the meantime, multiple messages reached me from the United States, from close friends here, in the United States, from England, from other places, from my family, “Is she okay? Have you had contact with her? Do we have to worry?” I was basically juggling watching the news and keeping everybody informed about the whereabouts of my daughter. The first thought I had was, “Why is our daughter actually following in her parents’, Forrest Gump-like forays. Why does she have to be like her dad and mom in places where she probably shouldn’t be.”
Thank God, everything turned out okay. She was locked down in the building with about 600 people inside, and the audience was provided with water, they were even permitted to smoke, not that my daughter smokes, but people were getting nervous, so they needed a cigarette. And then the SWAT team came in and permitted the audience to leave in an orderly manner. It was a concerted effort to lead those 600 people outside the building and into the underground. There were two special underground trains waiting for these people to take them outside the city where they could be picked up. My husband was able to secure my daughter and her friend, drive her friend home and by about 3:00 AM, my daughter was home. She was okay.
Although I do have to tell you that today it is a little different, she does seem to be a little confused and a bit rattled, which is normal. The situation in Vienna itself is a mixture, I would say it is a mixture of utter shock, even in the government, and steadfastness, yes, in the government, but also extreme confusion. Almost, I would say almost PTSD among the population. Because you must imagine it was a very warm night for a November 2nd here in Vienna. We had about 64 degrees at that time which is very warm. It was a balmy night.
People were outside smack in the center of Vienna. Which is why there was talk about an attack against the synagogue because this is the area close to the Jewish quarter. It is a party area where young people congregate and have a drink or two before the lockdown, you have lots of theaters located in that area. The Vienna State Opera was sold out like many others in the center of Vienna. The police were busy securing the area. From what I could see on television, they did a fantastic job. We heard that the first call for help was sent out at 8:00 PM, and apparently the perp was neutralized at 8:09. So, the police SWAT teams were at hand immediately. The military special forces were on guard, put on alert. The military also helped secure the embassy buildings in Vienna so the police officers could help with securing the perimeters in the city and guiding the people back home. You could say it was not as chaotic as one would imagine. Big kudos to Austrian police force, they did a marvelous job. One police officer was shot and wounded. He was in surgery, he is apparently now doing well, despite being in critical condition. We have about, 22 injured and four people who died of gunshot wounds, excluding the perp.
Rod Bryant: Our hearts go out to the citizenry of Vienna and our prayers go out to them the family members of the dead and the injured.
Rod Bryant: I am Rod Bryant, along with Jerry Gordon and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. We are discussing the Islamist attack that took place in Vienna. Jerry, go ahead.
Jerry Gordon Elisabeth, who was Kujtim Fejzullai, perpetrator of this attack?
Elisabeth Sabaditsch – Wolff: From what we know the perpetrator was a 20-year-old dual Macedonian Austrian citizen, with family roots in Albania. He was Muslim. He was in jail until quite recently. He was caught wanting to go to Syria to fight Jihad and was sent back to Austria from Turkey. He stood trial here in Vienna for being a part of a terrorist group and was tried under juvenile law and found guilty, so his sentence was quite light.
I think he was in jail for only a few months. Apparently, he was deradicalized, whatever that means. We all know that it is a totally useless term. His attorney said he was deradicalized and because he was such a good person he was let go and freed from jail. He was put on a conditional discharge. His lawyer is extremely shocked, he never thought that this would ever happen. This was a young man from a particularly good family, and nobody understands why this man did what he did. Allow me to make a personal observation here, I do not think deradicalization worked all that well. Maybe we must rethink the deradicalization programs. Maybe they are not up to what they are supposed to do. That is just a side comment from me.
Another question is we were told that there are six places in Vienna that were attacked. Remember I said the first emergency, or 911 call came in at 8:00 PM, and the perp was neutralized at 8:09. Now, if we have six different places where attacks took place, well, either he’s Captain Kirk or there are more perpetrators. The interesting point to note here is that the Minister of Interior at a press conference said that as of now they are looking at only one perpetrator, and the perpetrator is dead. This is a major question that I have no answer to. We will have to see what the authorities and the police and counterterrorism teams come up with, but this does not make sense.
Jerry Gordon: What was the reaction of Austrian Chancellor Kurz and the interesting telephone call he got from President Macron of France?
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolf: Chancellor Kurz spoke to the nation immediately, I would say it must have been around 1:30 AM, and he immediately offered usual words we all know. There must be a playbook somewhere in the different chancelleries across Europe, it’s always the same words: “We’re shocked, we can’t understand, hatred must never divide us, love is stronger than hate. We will not permit our societies to be divided by the senseless act of terror.” I do not know if Chancellor Kurz spoke to Macron personally. Yet, I do know, and that is something I very much appreciate, Emmanuel Macron was the very first head of state to tweet his condolences to the Austrian people, and he did it in perfect German. President Macron of France knows exactly what Austria is going through. It is very reminiscent of the November 2015 attacks at the Bataclan and the other places in and around Paris, so he knows what he is talking about. There were the recent attacks in Paris and Nice including the beheading of the teacher who showed his class the Charlie Hebdo cartoon for which this teacher had to pay with his life.
Another interesting piece of information is, this morning, President Macron paid a personal visit to the Austrian Ambassador in Paris, France, which from my point of view was an especially important gesture. It was an important gesture of solidarity between France and Austria. Politically important people in the Austrian Republic laid wreaths at the site near of the execution of one innocent bystander. We do not have bipartisanism as you have in America, because we have more parties so would you call it multi-partisan? We had all political parties represented at this wreath laying, and amid heavy security. This was close to the main synagogue in Vienna, although, I do not believe that this was an attack against the synagogue, this was an attack against our way of living, our life, and our freedoms.
Jerry Gordon: What actions has Austrian Chancellor Kurz taken in the wake of this Islamist attack versus those of French President Macron following the Paris and Nice attacks?
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff: I completely concur with the following observations by Con Coughlin over at Gatestone:
French security officials have subsequently embarked on a nationwide round-up of suspected Muslim extremists, with French President Emmanuel Macron ordering the closure of a Paris mosque said to have links with the Palestinian terror group Hamas. Mr. Macron said French security officials believed that the Cheikh Yassine Collective, named after a slain Hamas leader, was to be dissolved because the French authorities had information that the group was “directly implicated” in the attack.
For once, the sudden upsurge in terror attacks appears to have prompted European leaders to acknowledge the glaring deficiencies in their ability to protect Europe against Islamist-inspired acts of terrorism.
In Austria, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called on Europe to form a common front in what he calls a “war on Islamism”, and says he will push for such an alliance against political Islam when European Leaders meet for a summit later this month.
Speaking to the German newspaper Die Welt, Mr. Kurz commented:
“I expect an end to the misconceived tolerance, and for all the nations of Europe to finally realis how dangerous the ideology of political Islam is for our freedom and the European way of life.”
In France, Mr. Macron has responded to the attacks on French soil by calling for a “deep overhaul” of the Schengen agreement. Appearing alongside his Europe and Interior Ministers this week, the French President committed France to double the number of guards at its national borders from 2,400 to 4,800 due to the rampant terror threat. “We see very clearly that terrorist actions can actually be led by some people who use migratory flows to threaten our territory,” he said.
Allow me an observation, one I have held for more than a decade, which stands now as it did then: As long as we shy away from identifying the problem, naming it and dealing with it accordingly, we will never be successful in rooting out the problem. Just imagine if Churchill et al. had called National Socialism “radical” or “political” or “fundamentalist” , thereby implying that National Socialism is somehow just fine and the “political” and “fundamentalist” version was/is the problem. Where would we stand today?
Jerry Gordon: This attack was in the cause of Islamic blasphemy against any criticism of Islam and its God, Allah. You are someone knowledged about that by virtue of your experience in trials, both in Austria and at the EU Court of Human Rights. I would like to draw attention that you are the author of a New English Review Press book, “The Truth is No Defense”, available on Amazon for purchase. Why don’t you tell our listeners about your experiences being denied freedom of speech and criticism of Islamic doctrine.
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff: The book is available as an audiobook, a Kindle version, and in both hard and soft cover versions. Jerry, you, and I go back more than 10 years. You interviewed me even before all of this happened with my trial at the European Court of Human Rights, so you know what I have been through. I have always been very forthcoming because I believe it is an important story. First, people are probably wondering why an Austrian lady speaks English with an American accent when most Europeans speak English with a British accent. Well, that is easy to explain. Part of my childhood was spent in Chicago, and before that, even in New York, because, my father is a diplomat, he is now retired. During my formative years, part of my childhood were spent in New York and in Chicago, in addition to Iran during the  Revolution.
After my high school graduation and other jobs, I entered the diplomatic service and went to Kuwait and had my little adventures in Kuwait chronicled in my book. The crucial years of having grown up in the States formed my belief that freedom of speech or any freedom is granted by our Creator, and this is totally contrary to European law. I was naive enough to think or believe that I had a right to free speech here in Europe, which I obviously do not have. Perhaps I should explain in more detail, this right of Freedom of Speech, Europe versus United States.
Rod Bryant: We are going to ask Elisabeth, one final question. I wish we had two hours to do the show with you. You are a delight to talk to, easy conversationalist and one day, hopefully Jerry will be able to do a couple of more interviews with you that we can put on video. Jerry, go ahead.
Jerry Gordon: Elisabeth, why don’t you give us in capsule form the key points in your book regarding the events that you went through, both in Austria and before the EU Court of Human Rights?
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff: I would say the main point of my book is the title, “The Truth is No Defense”. I spoke the truth about Islamic doctrine in a setting of seminars that I gave back in 2008, and 2009 here in Vienna. I educated people about the Islam in fully sourced presentations. I was then reported to the authorities and taken to court for everything I said in these 12-hour seminars. What the judge did, she was very unhappy with me saying, or asking a rhetorical question, which was, “What do we call Muhammad’s behavior, marrying a 6-year-old and consummating the marriage at the age of nine, when Muhammad was 56 at the time? What do we call this behavior, if not pedophilia?” I was looking for another word, because if you say, “Well, you can’t say that”, then I will need another word to describe it. We do not have to use pedophilia, let us call it something else, but what do we use? Which word do we use? The judge did not like me saying that, I was found guilty of denigration of religious teachings of a legally recognized religion in Austria, i.e., blasphemy.
The Austrian government and prosecutors were doing what Islamic authorities would do, found me guilty of defaming the prophet of Islam. I fought this charge all the way up to the Austrian Supreme Court, lost at that level, and then took the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Two years ago, the European Court of Human Rights two years ago, ruled that my right to free speech weighs less than the Muslims’ right not to be offended. If you want to know more details about how that came about, you need to read my book because it details how I got into all of this. Why did an Austrian like me take up this cause? God had a different plan for me. So now here I am talking about the intricacies of freedom of speech. I spoke nothing but the truth in court, so help me, God. But the truth is absolutely no defense because we could have had Aisha and Muhammad as witnesses, and it would not have made any difference at all.
Jerry Gordon: Elisabeth, thank you for this stunning interview. Our listeners can purchase the book, The Truth is No Defense, on Amazon and it comes in softback, hardback in an audio and Kindle version. So, Elisabeth, thank you. We hope you, your husband and your daughter are safe under these circumstances, and we understand the strictures of the curfew you are about to enter. Thank you.
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff: Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Rod Bryant: Shalom, Shalom. We really appreciate having Elisabeth on and as we said, we did not have the hours to spend talking with her.
Listen to the Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix interview with Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff
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Jerry Gordon is a Senior Editor at New English Review and Producer and co-host of Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix.
Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant is creator and Host of Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix and founder of NetivOnline – Torah Learning Channel.
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