A French Teenager’s Anti-Islam Rant Unleashed Death Threats. Now 13 Are on Trial.

No excuse for death threats, words have consequences:

The French girl, 16, was sharing highly personal details about her life in a livestream on Instagram, including her attraction to women. Just not Black or Arab women, she said.

When insults and death threats started pouring in to her Instagram account in response to her comments in January 2020, some from viewers saying she was an affront to Islam, the teenager, Mila, dug in, quickly posting another video.

“I hate religion,” she declared. “The Quran is a religion of hatred.” She also used profanity to describe Islam and the crudest of imagery in referring to God.

The ensuing onslaught of threats after the video went viral has landed 13 people in court on charges of online harassment.

The case has put a spotlight on the roiling French debate over freedom of expression and blasphemy, especially when it touches on Islam. It is also a landmark test for recent legislation that broadens France’s definition of cyberharassment in regards to attacks on the internet, where vitriol is plentiful, modulated debate less so.

“We are setting the rules of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable,” Michaël Humbert, the presiding judge, said at the trial.

Some looked to history to capture the brutality of what Mila experienced online. Mila’s lawyer said she had been subjected to a digital stoning. The prosecutor in the case spoke of a “lynching 2.0.”

More than a year after Mila — The New York Times is withholding her last name because she has been the subject of harassment — posted her videos, her life remains in a tumult. She lives under police protection and she no longer attends school in person.

The 13 defendants, some teenagers themselves, are on trial in Paris, most accused of making death threats. They face the possibility of jail. The verdict is expected Wednesday.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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