The refugee crisis has caused an increase in hate speech and hate crimes directed towards Muslims. According to Klára Kalibová, director of In Iustitua, a legal-aid organization, 23 such incidents have been recorded in 2015, which is a more than 100% rise since last year. Most of this year’s cases have taken place since June and can be thus directly connected to the recent influx of refugees into the Czech Republic.
The attacks against Muslims usually consist of hate speech and threats, which are in some cases also directed at organizations providing aid to foreigners or refugees. No cases involving physical violence against individuals have been recorded so far; however, a physical attack was aimed at offices of the Multicultural Centre Prague. The attacks are not directed at Muslims only but also at women wearing head-scarves for whatever reason, who occasionally face verbal assaults as well as attempts to pull the scarves off their heads.
Those who stage such attacks usually chose their victims based on distinctive features associated with Muslims, such as skin colour or clothing choices. According to Ms Kalibová, this testifies to the fact that aggressors are motivated by racism rather than an actual fear of Islam. Muslims tend to come from Africa or the Middle East and are thus easily distinguishable in the overwhelmingly Caucasian Czech society. For example, Jews face fewer such attacks in the Czech Republic (3 incidents last year as well as this year so far) and when they are targeted, their Judaism is always clearly visible.
According to Miloš Mendel, a Czech Arabist, hate speech directed at Muslims is generally considered acceptable in the Czech society and its perpetrators thus do not have to fear criminal charges for denigrating a group of persons based on their race, ethnicity or religion and inciting violence towards them. In Mr Mendel’s opinion, authorities tend to treat anti-Semitic speech far more strictly than anti-Muslim speech of similar intensity. Although Ms Kalibová points out that such an opinion cannot be supported with clear evidence, she also believes the Czech society to be more sensitive towards antisemitism than any other form of hate speech.
Ms Kalibová adds that Muslims have been having difficulties trusting the Czech police since last year’s raid in a Prague Muslim meeting-house during a religious service. Representatives of the Czech Muslim communities consider that a breach of religious liberties and have been forced to seek judicial remedies after internal investigations concluded that there were no deficiencies in the police actions. Generally, Czech Muslims attempt not to stand out and not to be viewed as causing any problems.