Three stories this week spoke volumes about the challenges facing Europe during these times: discrimination against Muslims is widespread in many European countries; a string of anti-Semitic attacks have been reported in Eastern Europe; and Hungary’s top journalism prize is awarded to an anti-Semitic and Roma basher.
Despite their geographic differences, all three stories are related shedding light on the cancer that is spreading in our region. Intolerance is exceptionally resilient, surviving in the postcolonial era even after two devastating world wars that cost the lives of an estimated 100 million people.
If we had to picture how xenophobic groups are using hate speech to further their agendas, we could use a rabid vicious-looking dog being walked on a short leash by a zealous owner. The dog attracts lots of attention and the owner is happy about this.
What the owner doesn’t know is that the dog knows no master and can bite back hard like he did with Anders Breivik, who murdered on his counterjihadist crusade 77 victims in Norway in July 2011.
Another matter that the rabid dog owner doesn’t want to know, or is ignorant of, is that numerous rabid dogs on short leashes with owners can spark conflicts and wars between nations.
A shadow report on racism by ENAR, the European Network Against Racism, expresses concern about widespread Islamophobia in many European countries.
It claims: ”…damage to Islamic buildings, and protests against the building of mosques even in countries, such as Poland, where some Muslim communities have been established and integrated for centuries. Muslim women and girls are particularly affected, facing an extreme form of double discrimination on the basis of both their religion and their gender. In France for instance, 85% of all Islamophobic acts target women.”
In Eastern Europe, where the economic recession has hit some countries very hard, nationalism and neo-Nazi anti-immigration groups have been on the rise. A spate of anti-Semitic attacks were recorded in the Ukraine, Poland and Hungary in recent days.
Anti-Semitism, which is one of the poisonous fruits of intolerance inflicting Europe these days, is not only on the rise in Eastern Europe but throughout the continent.
The media plays a crucial role in forging attitudes. Even so, the media mirrors what their readers think.
Rerenc Szaniszlo, an anti-Semitic radio broadcaster in Hungary who got fined for calling the Roma ”apes,” was awarded Hungary’s top journalism prize. He has a dubious reputation for spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on his shows.
It’s a good matter that there are some self-respecting Hungarian journalists still around who saw this as a sham. Ten Transcics Prize for journalism winners from other categories handed their prizes in protest, according to The Independent.
All three cases above reveal something disturbing but known to us for a long time in Europe. Attacks on minorities have become so common in some parts of Europe that even journalists, who fuel such intolerance, are awarded coveted journalism awards.
The day will come when the crimes against minorities will be exposed. Their horrors, which reveal social exclusion, wrecked lives, abuse and exploitation, will one day awaken a wider audience to act and defend those democratic values we hold so dear and which are under threat these days.