Eleven people have been convicted of the online harassment of a schoolgirl who posted rants against Islam, in a controversial case out of France. The girl identified only as Mila changed schools and underwent police protection after receiving what her lawyer said was more than 100,000 abusive messages, including threats of death and rape, in response to viral videos critics viewed as Islamophobic, per the Guardian. "Islam is s---," the openly gay atheist, then 16, said in an initial video posted to Instagram in January 2020. She said she posted it after a boy criticized her sexuality "in the name of Allah." This and later videos prompted a debate over what is protected free speech, similar to that seen in France after satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo began publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
President Emmanuel Macron defended Mila, saying French citizens "have the right to blaspheme, to criticize and to caricature religions." It's illegal to incite hatred of a group based on religion, but not to insult religious beliefs under French law. "I don't like any religion, not just Islam," Mila testified at a Paris court, adding the response to her videos made her feel as if she'd been "condemned to death," per Al Jazeera. She celebrated Wednesday's ruling, saying "I want us to never again make the victims feel guilty," per the Guardian. Thirteen people, aged 18 to 30, were tried and 11 convicted of harassment. One said he'd seen Mila's comments as "racist" and "blasphemous." Judge Michael Humbert handed down $1,770 fines and suspended prison sentences of four to six months to each of the convicted, who will only serve time if convicted of other crimes. (Read more France stories.)