Monday 17 June 2019

Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Slovakia

Slovakia, a landlocked country in Central Europe, bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the west, and the Czech Republic to the northwest, is an interesting case study as far Islam is concerned. Of the total population of about 5.5 million, Muslims count is only 5,000 or a little over, ess than 0.1% of the country's population, yet it seems the Slovaks are fearful of this tiny Muslim population.

There are 18 state-registered religions in Slovakia, of which 16 are Christian, one is Jewish, and one is Bahá'í. But when it came to Islam to be recognised as a registered religion in 2016, a two-third majority of the Slovak parliament passed a new bill that to obstruct Islam and other religious organisations from becoming state-recognised religion by doubling the minimum followers threshold from 20,000 (agreed upon in 2007) to 50,000. Today, Slovakia is the last member state of the European Union without a mosque fro its Muslim population.

Not being officially recognised, on the other hand,  poses major difficulties for the group. Among other things, they are not allowed to have official religious leaders, conduct Muslim marriages or receive financial contributions from the State, rights which 18 other recognised religions have. 
The reason behind this attitude is the assumption that, according to many of the country’s politicians and citizens, Islam is a serious threat. 
“Islamisation begins with kebab and in Bratislava it has already begun. So understand what it could be like in 5-10 years,” says MP Andrej Danko. 
Imagine the ill founded fears about a people practicing Islam whose proportion are the least, almost 0.1% of total population, and becoming a threat to the mainstream Christian Orthodox Slovaks. 

In 2015, amidst the European migrant crisis, Slovakia agreed to admit 200 Christian asylum seekers, but refused to accept Muslims under an EU scheme to share migrants between member states. Slovak Ministry of Interior Affairs explained this decision by the absence of Muslim places of worship in Slovakia which will allegedly complicate the refugees' integration in Slovak society. The decision was criticized by the EU, which doubted the decision's legality, and expressed concern for its discriminatory nature.

Michael Colborne, a Canadian journalist based in Prague who covers all things central and eastern Europe, tweeted in 2017 that It’s not easy being a Muslim in Slovakia. He further added: [4]
  • Slovakia’s politicians, including the man at the very top, have made it clear that Muslims are public enemy number one. Prime Minister Robert Fico, a man re-elected last year despite being mired in a series of scandals, jumped on the anti-Muslim train in the wake of the European refugee crisis in 2015. “Islam has no place in Slovakia,” he said after being elected in May 2016.
  • In the wake of the November 2015 attacks in Paris, Fico flat-out stated that his government was “monitoring every single Muslim currently present in the territory of Slovakia.” Later in 2016 he told journalists that one of his three fundamentally unchangeable positions was his stance “against the emergence of a united Muslim community in Slovakia.”
  • “The problem is that Islam is more than just a religion,” one of Kotleba’s MPs, Natalia Grausova, once said. “It is a cruel, disgusting and inhuman political system.”
Such is the hatred that is aired both officially and officially in the streets of Bratislava and the corridors of government.

The indifference and hatred to Islam and Muslims is despite the fact that the Article 24 of the Constitution of the Slovak Republic clearly states:
  • (1) Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief shall be guaranteed. This right shall include the right to change religion or belief and the right to refrain from a religious affiliation. Everyone shall have the right to express his or her mind publicly.
  • (2) Everyone shall have the right to manifest freely his or her religion or belief either alone or in association with others, privately or publicly, in worship, religious acts, maintaining ceremonies or to participate in teaching.
Slovak Muslim women walk their children from the school in Topoľčany, Slovakia. They converted to Islam five years ago. (photo source: Vladimír Šimíček/Denník N)

Eva Purgatová, High school history teacher in Slovakia in Central Europe writes: There are about 5,000 Muslims in Slovakia, living mostly in cities such as Bratislava, Košice, Martin, Nitra, and Levice. They are practically invisible and they just want to be left alone. There is no Islamic terrorist threat in Slovakia whatsoever to justify even the slightest political action against Muslims in Slovakia. [2]

“Every normal European – Christian or atheist – should fear this satanic-pedophile creation of the devil, which is the religion of Islam” said Stanislav Mizik, another People’s Party MP.Islamic Center of Cordoba (Kultúrne Centrum Córdoba), located down the Obchodná street, Bratislava, is the only place of Muslim worship in the country under Islamic foundation in Slovakia. Even though it’s an unofficial Mosque, it is open every day of the year for all daily prayers except the Fajr prayer. Friday sermon is held in Arabic, English and Slovak language and starts Friday on 13:00 am. The mosque is not very big, but it is enough to hold congregation prayers of about 80 to 100 people. The Kultúrne Centrum Córdoba has tried to attain an official mosque permit from the government, but had its proposal rejected.

In the eyes of those who fear Islamisation is a threat to Christianity and European values this video may get a different perspective:
Author's Note: The data above has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

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