Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe there are numerous worrying examples of prime ministers and presidents adopting hostile anti-Muslim rhetoric, much of which strongly echoes the conspiratorial assertions…

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In Eastern Europe there are numerous worrying examples of prime ministers and presidents adopting hostile anti-Muslim rhetoric, much of which strongly echoes the conspiratorial assertions of counter-jihadism.

Generally, though, explicitly counter-jihadist groups and activists have not entered the mainstream themselves and the movements remains relatively small (indeed, tiny or non-existent in some places), but with mainstream politicians saying the same things, there is little impetus or need for the movement to exist or grow.




Czech Republic



Slovakia experienced its first large scale anti-Muslim demonstration against the ‘Islamisation of Europe’ in June 2015 in Bratislava, organised by Stop the Islamisation of Europe.

The former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who resigned in March 2018, once said that: ‘Mass migration of Muslim immigrants who would start to build mosques will not to be tolerated’, and called for the ‘restriction of the freedom of Muslims in Europe’. In 2016 Fico added: ‘Islam has no place in this country.’

In December 2016 a law was passed that effectively banned Islam from gaining official status as a religion. Sponsored by the Slovak National Party (SNS), the law requires a religion to have at least 50,000 members to qualify for state subsidies and to run schools. As there are just between 2,000 and 5,000 Muslims in Slovakia the new law marginalises them completely from public and official life. Andrej Danko, the SNS Chairman, has said: ‘We must do everything we can so that no mosque is built in the future.’

A 2017 report on Islamophobia in Slovakia found that the country’s tiny Muslim community (0.1% of population) meant that Islamophobia had traditionally been a ‘hot topic’ but that this ‘dramatically changed’ during the so-called refugee crisis.

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The Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, recently re-elected in April 2018, has become a hero of the anti-Muslim movement because of his Islamophobic and anti-refugee views.

Back in late 2015 Tatjana Festerling, then of the German anti-Muslim street movement Pegida, sang his praises at a demonstration in Dresden and the crowd chanted his name in adoration.

Since then, Orbán’s public statements regarding Islam and Muslims have often been indistinguishable from the ideas of counter-jihadists. Of all the European leaders Orbán has gone the furthest in adopting counter-jihad rhetoric and has even echoed their conspiratorial assertions.

Speaking to a Swiss magazine he claimed a left-wing plot was behind the 2016 migrant crisis. ‘You cannot get around imagining that some kind of master plan is behind this’, he said. He then cited essays by ‘the European left and radical American democrats’ that envision the emergence of a transnational ‘European super state.’

His statements about Muslims have been consistently hostile and extreme. In September 2016 he said: ‘I don’t even want to think about the integration of Muslim people in Europe. The most we could hope for is a peaceful life next to each other, which is called a parallel society’ and ‘I don’t even want to envisage a Hungary which accepts migrants.’

In October 2016 Orban held a referendum on closing the door to refugees and more than 98% of participants voted against the admission of refugees to Hungary.

More recently he told German tabloid Bild: ‘We don’t see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders’, adding that the arrival of Muslims ‘inevitably leads to parallel societies’ and that Christian and Muslim communities ‘will never unite’.

‘Multiculturalism is only an illusion’, he has stated.

Despite this rhetoric, or perhaps even because of it, Orban won a third term in office in April 2018 after his Fidesz party scored a comfortable victory in the parliamentary elections.

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Czech Republic

The Czech President Miloš Zeman is the best example of a mainstream politician adopting counter-jihad and anti-Muslim ideas.

In late 2015 he took the shocking decision to speak at a large anti-Muslim demonstration organised by Martin Konvicka and his organisation, ‘Bloc Against Islam’. Thousands of Czech protestors were joined by a contingent from Pegida and Stephen Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson), founder and former leader of the English Defence League (EDL). The event was another landmark moment in the journey of counter-jihadism from the margins to the mainstream in Europe.

Since then Zeman’s rhetoric has regularly echoed counter-jihadist ideas. In December 2015 he repeated one of its key tropes, stating: ‘I am profoundly convinced that we are facing an organised invasion and not a spontaneous movement of refugees’.

He later added: ‘I believe that the invasion is organised by the Muslim Brotherhood’, saying on Czech radio that: ‘It cannot declare war on Europe, it does not have enough forces for it, but it can prepare a growing migrant wave and gradually gain control of Europe as it has been happening in some West European cities that police are afraid to enter at night.’

Referencing the sexual assaults that took place on New Year’s eve 2015/16, he has stated that Islamic ‘culture’ should not be allowed into Europe or ‘it will end up like Cologne’. He added: ‘The experience of western European countries which have ghettos and excluded localities shows that the integration of the Muslim community is practically impossible.’

The power of anti-Muslim rhetoric was further confirmed in October 2017 when the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, led by Tomio Okamura, performed surprisingly well in elections, getting 10.7% of the vote.

Okamura has stated that, ‘We want to stop any Islamisation of the Czech Republic, we push for zero tolerance of migration’. He has even encouraged people to walk pigs near mosques as an act of protest against Muslims.

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During the 2015 migrant crisis Jaroslaw Kaczynski, former Prime Minister and a leading member of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, said: ‘After recent events connected with acts of terror, [Poland] will not accept refugees because there is no mechanism that would ensure safety.’ Mr Kaczynski has also claimed that the refugees, most of which are Muslims, were bringing ‘various parasites and protozoa’ to Europe.

Current Deputy PM Beata Szydło, also of PiS agrees and has said: ‘I say very clearly that I see no possibility at this time of immigrants coming to Poland’.

In November last year there was a demonstration of around 60,000 people in Warsaw, at which extreme anti-Muslim banners and chants were seen and heard. One banner, for example, showed a Trojan horse labelled ‘Islam’ attempting to enter a fortress labeled ‘Europe’.

A recent academic study by Kasia Narkowicz and Konrad Pędziwiatr explained how the building of mosques in Poland had gone from being, ‘largely unproblematic before the Second World War and during the Communist era’ to being a subject of ‘fierce public debate’.

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