The Cable

Once Again, Slovakia Makes Life Harder for Muslims

Over the course of 2016, the government of Slovakia has worked to keep Muslims out and down.


Over the course of 2016, the government of Slovakia made it quite clear what it considers Islam’s place in its country to be.

Last March, far-right and populist parties emerged as winners in and of the parliamentary election. A neo-Nazi party won seats in Parliament for the first time. And the Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico, warned of the dangers of Muslims ahead of the election.

In May, Fico gave an interview in which he said, Islam has no place in Slovakia … The problem is not migrants coming in, rather in them changing the face of the country.”

In July, Slovakia took over the presidency of the EU Council, a change about which other European officials were apparently unenthusiastic given that Europe was (and is) in the throes of a refugee crisis and Slovakia sought to fight a refugee distribution scheme, saying it did not want to take any more refugees.

Last month, Slovakia presented a plan to the EU — of which, again, it currently presides over — to allow countries to spend more money or otherwise do more to enforce external borders or deporting people, instead of taking in their share of migrants. Also, Slovakia suggested EU member states should agree to emergency measures “on a voluntary basis” in response to peak refugee arrivals. Slovakia, like all other Visegrad 4 countries, has refused to take in refugees and migrants from Italy and Greece despite, or perhaps because of, a record number of asylum seekers reached Italy by boat this year.

And now, Slovakia’s government has approved a law that will, in effect, ban Islam from becoming a state religion. The legislation stated that a religion must have at least 50,000 followers to qualify for state subsidy. Per the latest census, there are about 2,000 Muslims in Slovakia, a number the government’s own policies have worked to keep relatively low. The law was approved by a two-thirds majority. It was proposed by the Slovak National Party, the chairman of which said, “We must do everything we can so that no mosque is built in the future.”

Slovakia’s internal politics are unlikely to change in the near future, even with 2017 regional elections. But European politics might: Malta takes over the EU Council presidency in January, and has already suggested that it will seek a “mandatory relocation plan” for resettling refugees and migrants throughout Europe. Including in Slovakia.

Photo credit: SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty Images

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