Thursday 15 November 2018

Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Hungary

I have covered many non Muslim countries so far where Islam has flourished in varying degree. But the case of Hungary has been quite different. It started feeling the presence of Muslims in the 11th century but were forcibly checked through very demeaning legislations to an extent that the small Muslim population either vanished or forced to convert to Christianity.

It were Turks who came and stood to their ground during the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century and made their presence felt and maintained it. The Turks entered Hungary after the Battle of Mohács in 1526. From 1541 they started to control the central part directly and organized five vilayets: Buda, Kanije, Eğri, Várad (Oradea) and Temesvár. In the 19th century, after the collapse of the revolution of 1848-9, more than 6,000 emigrated Poles and Hungarians followed General Josef Bem into Turkish exile.

However, till very late, Islam has never been recognized as a official religion in Hungary. Before throwing light on the modern laws, let me take youback to 11th century draconian laws to suppress Islam. In the 11th century, St. Ladislaus and later Coloman passed laws against the non-Christians (Synod of Szabolcs). These laws subdued Islam by coercing Muslims to eat pork, go to Church and intermarry and to forbid them from celebrating Friday. Some of Coloman's laws include:
  • § 46 If someone catches Ismaelites in fasting or eating or on keeping away from pork or in ritual washing or in other false practices these Ismaelites have to be sent to the king and whoever sued them shall receive a share from their properties.
  • § 47 We command all Ismaelite villages to build a church and finance it. After the church is built the half village should move and settle elsewhere in order to become similar to us in living together and also in Christ and in Church (i.e. become similar in faith).
  • § 48 Ismaelites should not marry their daughters to their nation but only to our nation
  • § 49 If an Ismaelite has guest, or he invites someone to his house to eat, he and his guests should all eat only pork.
  • § 9 on the merchants called Ismaelites, if becomes evident from them then after their baptism they return their old laws based on circumcision they should leave their homes but if they prove innocent they should stay.
The laws against Muslims continued and Hungary's new "Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Communities" enacted 12 July 2011 which recognized only 14 religious groups - and Islam was not included in this list and Muslims have to apply to get official recognition under the new law. However, it was only on 27 February 2012, Hungary's parliament amended the country's controversial law on religious organizations and officially recognized the Hungarian Islamic Council. In 2013 Hungarian Islamic Council requested for the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina Husein Kavazović to also become Grand Mufti of Hungary.

According to the 2011 Hungarian census, there were 5,579 Muslims in Hungary, making up only about 0.057% of the total population. Of these, 4,097 (73.4%) declared themselves as Hungarian, while 2,369 (42.5%) as Arab by ethnicity. However, there is also a growing number of ethnic Hungarian converts to Islam. Since the influx of about 200,000 asylum seekers from 2014 onward, largely from the Muslim countries Afghanistan and Syria. the number of Muslims residing in Hungary rose to about 2% of the whole population.

However, as of today, the life of Muslims in Hungary is not very safe and they fear fallout from anti-Islam rhetoric now prevalent in the country. As per a report published in March 2018, Muslims attending prayers at Hungary’s largest mosque were physically abused, had their cars set alight and been the targets of anti-migration protests. The concerns are no more keenly felt than in this Budapest suburb where some 500 people gather for Friday prayers at the anonymous former offices of an executive toy maker that were converted into a mosque in 2011.
“The political rhetoric was focused against Muslims and that’s when the incidents increased and the beatings happened,” Mr Sultan Sulok, the president of the Organization of Muslims in Hungary, told The National in his office at the Mosque of Muslims in Hungary. 
A recent report says: It is a cultural crusade that has made Hungary the least refugee-friendly country in Europe." A government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told Leonid Bershidsky, a reporter of Bloomberg,  in an interview: "We've been living next to Islam and with Islam for 500 years and we know it's not going to integrate. We treat it as a civilizational problem." According to a 2016 Pew Research study, 72 percent of Hungarians have a negative view of Muslims in their country, compared with the EU average of 43 percent. In 2017, a senior Hungarian officials said at a conference about anti-Semitism in Europe:  "The absence of violence against Jews in their country owed to its refusal to admit Muslim immigrants."

The life of Muslims has also been affected by Anti-Islamic feelings in Europe after the Paris attacks last November. Even those Muslim communities that are so small as to be barely perceived face discrimination. The case of Hungary's capital Budapest shows how such sentiment can be incited by the government as well as local populations – and how it affects those individuals concerned. A heading just caught my eye: "Unseen yet unaccepted: Budapest's Muslim Community."

However, the Muslims are not giving in and try their best to show it to the common Hungarian that Islam is far different and peaceful as against the general opinion. A walking tour to learn about Budapest’s Muslim community and its mosques has become popular with Hungarians as a way of overcoming fears and reservations amid a strident anti-immigrant campaign by the government. A tour operator has been quoted as saying: “Most people have never met a Muslim in their life and this ... together with what they hear every day in the media causes a lot of tension and stress in daily life. I think this is the main reason why people are coming now.”

General public has started to attend these walking tours and the feedback is positive. “I am very interested in everything multi-cultural and in cultures and religions that live among us,” said Nauszika, a psychologist who did not want to give her full name. “It is the best way to lose your fears if you start to ask the one who you (are) afraid of,” added tour leader Marianna Karman, an Africa expert who converted to Islam herself.
Jakovali Hassan Mosque in Pécs [Photo: © Martijn.Munneke / Flickr

The majority of Muslims in Hungary live in the capital. 60 % of them are of Arabic origin, 30% are from different backgrounds like Turkish, Persian or African Muslims and only around 10% are native Hungarian. The Hungarian Islamic church maintains four mosques across Hungary: two can be found in Budapest, one in Pécs and one in Szeged. More unofficial masjids can be found in residential buildings and offices, unrecognizable unless you’re looking for them. Those which do have their own building to function as a place of worship often don’t take on the traditional appearance of a mosque due to a number of factors, often related both to cost and to building legislation. The Jakovali Hassan Mosque in Pécs is the only one in Hungary used for prayer to have retained its original form and to feature a minaret.
Budapest Mosque [Photo]
Budapest Mosque, huge building opened in Ramadan 2011 with 3 floors is the central place for the Muslims of Budapest to converge and offer prayers. The maintainer of the Budapest Mosque is the Organization of Muslims in Hungary. About 500 people pray in the Budapest Mosque on every Friday. Beside religious events and prayers, Hungarian language is also taught for better merging into the Budapest crowd.

Watch a video of walking tour in Budapest of Muslims' places, mosques, centers and Halal shops:

When in Budapest looking for Halal meat and food, do visit Mughal Shahi Pakistani Restaurant for steaming biryani, nihari and other Pakistan food. In a review, Sara from UK writes: "I have never had such delicious Nihari, shami kebabs and naan outside my mothers kitchen! It has a wonderfully homely atmosphere, I think it is someones front room actually! I loved it but if this is not your thing then go somewhere fancier but I can guarantee you won't get the same standard of food."

Other eateries for Halal food are Turkish Titiz Turkish Restaurant, Baalbek Lebanese Restaurent, Al Amir, Darband Restaurant, Istanbul Turkish Restaurent, Antalya Kebab, and Pizza ITT All la to name a few.

About Minaret of Eger (head photo): The Eger minaret is an Ottoman era minaret tower located in Eger city, northern Hungary. It is the most northern minaret left from Ottoman rule in Europe. The minaret is 40 metres high and built from red sandstone. It was built in the early 17th century as part of the Djami of Kethuda mosque. Though the mosque no longer exist, the minaret survives as a preserved monument of Hungary and a major tourist attraction of Eger. There are 97 steps on the spiral staircase inside, which leads to a balcony at 26 meters from the ground offering unique views of the surrounding city.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
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