Debate on Islam reveals strong emotions, less knowledge

Photo: Czech Television

A debate in the Czech Senate held under the title “Should we fear Islam” turned stormy on Wednesday after one of the speakers compared Islam to totalitarian regimes such as Nazism or Communism. The ambassadors of several Muslim countries walked out in protest, and the Czech Foreign Ministry later issued a statement denouncing the comparison and calling for greater inter-religious dialogue.

Muníb Alravi,  Benjamin Kuras,  Zdeněk Soukup,  Klára Samková,  photo: Czech Television
It was meant to be an intellectual exchange on one of the most debated issues of the present day, that might to some extent throw light on the Czech stand to the migrant crisis and provide a platform for representatives of Muslim countries and experts on Islam to have their say on the matter. Among the invited guests were the ambassadors of Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The debate raised emotions and things came to a head when lawyer Klára Samková, a former member of the Block against Islam, took the stand to say that Islam should not be feared, but should be fought.

“Islam is a totalitarian ideology that hides behind religion and abuses the fact that the Euro-American legal system is based on freedom of religion. It is a totalitarian ideology that is anti-human, anti-civilization and essentially the same as Nazism, Fascism or Communism.”

In response to this, the diplomats from Muslim countries walked out of the assembly hall as did a few others outraged by the turn of the debate. Former justice minister Helena Válková says there were many who distanced themselves from this incident and who criticized the title of the debate “Should we fear Islam” as ill-chosen.

The head of the Czech Muslim community Muníb Alravi nevertheless tried to answer the question.

“One should not fear Islam, but individual Muslims, one should not judge Islam according to individual Muslims because then nobody could claim allegiance to any ideology or religion because there will always be someone who will abuse it in a way that we find unacceptable.”

Zora Hesová,  photo: archive of Association for International Affairs
The debate lasted for over four hours touching upon such questions as whether Czechs had a bigger problem with Islam or with migration; and what exactly the majority of Czechs knew about Islam. According to Zora Hesová, one of the panellists and an expert on Islam, not a great deal.

“There can never be too many debates of this kind, because after the rather stormy beginning, the debate revealed that people here do not have a clear understanding of concepts such as Islam, radical Islam or Sharia. There are many misconceptions and I agree with the closing speech of prof. Helena Válková who said the debate must continue and should be more concrete and more pragmatic.”

A similar appeal came from the Czech Foreign Ministry which denounced the comparison of Islam to a totalitarian ideology and called for greater inter-religious dialogue in Czech society.