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October 22, 2021



Commentary: Merkel, refugees, no to terrorism, Echo24 "mooing", Putin has already won

12.8.2016 17:24
Commentator and journalist František Kostlán. (Photo:  Lukáš Houdek)
Commentator and journalist František Kostlán. (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)

This commentary reflects on selected events from this past week in the media. Commentator František Kostlán gives us his take on the news.

Who's more popular - Babiš or Merkel?

Those opposed to receiving refugees here are howling over the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity is falling, according to polls. Allegedly this is the consequence of the recent violent attacks there, according to a survey commissioned by the ARD television station.

A month ago Merkel was supported by 59 % of Germans, compared to 47 % now. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union, however, remains in first place, with 34 % of voters saying they would choose it (both last month and this month).

The most popular German politician is Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) at 71 %. He is followed by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) at 60 % and the Prime Minister of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) at 51 %.

Merkel continues to reiterate that Germany can cope with integrating migrants. Our fingers are crossed for our neighbors and we hope they succeed.

Now let's compare Merkel's popularity with the German electorate to that of the Czech Republic's loudly anti-refugee ministers with the Czech electorate - according to the latest poll (Sanep in May), they rank as follows: Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš 40.6 %, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec 40.4 %, Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnický 37.9 %, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka 36.8 %. Even when she is unpopular, Merkel still beats them all.

A miracle! Instead of talk, the French try action

In recent months France has closed 20 mosques or prayer halls as part of combating Islamist extremism and others are apparently due to close. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced the news after meeting with the chair of the Council on Islamic Religion (CFCM) there.

The chair of that organization said the Council will begin to work on "disrupting the promotion of jihadism" after the summer holidays and will place greater emphasis on educating clergy and on the transparency of mosque financing. This is good, but why did the French wait so long?

Were they not previously bothered by the dissemination of hatred, with terrorism as its consequence? Instead of actual integration of this community, including law enforcement, all France has managed to do so far is to ban Islamic headscarves in the schools, a move that was just supposed to deflect attention away from their lack of action otherwise.

Hate speech and incitement to violence have no place in a democratic society. It doesn't matter whether such phenomena are being committed by Islamists or by ultra-right extremists.

Refugees at the Olympics

At the Olympics a team of refugees is competing, and there is no doubt that this is a positive thing. Making it possible for people who have fled their home countries because of totalitarian regimes or war to compete among the best athletes in the world is an idea worthy of those who established the modern Olympics - which, of course, has gradually and unfortunately become just an outpost of the sports business.

"Fifteen minutes after we sailed away from the shore, the motor fell off of our boat. Everybody began to shout... My sister jumped into the water and began to pull the boat. I jumped in right after her. I wasn't able to think, I just saw my life sailing away. Three hours later we made it to Greece, to the island of Lesbos. Nobody could believe it. After that we walked through half of Europe and ultimately ended up here, in Berlin," Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini said in an interview for Die Zeit.

Mardini is now competing at the Olympics herself. Jan Martínek translated that interview into Czech and posted it to his website "Honzovy komentáře".

When stupidity is echoed

When stupidity "moos", it does so loudly. When it echoes 24 hours a day, it can cost you your eardrums and your sanity.


The photograph on the left shows us the "mooing" of the online weekly Echo 24, which shared the image with the following introduction: "Islam puts pressure on Olympic traditions and the sports buffoons quickly back down. The canary in the coal mine is the hijab in beach volleyball. What next?"

The simple readers of Echo 24 are supposed to believe that what will result from the hijab on the beach is clear, of course: Competitions over who can blow up the most opponents at one time. We doubt that anybody who is widely read spends time with a magazine that operates at this level.

The photograph on the right shows the athlete Ruqaya A-Ghasra, representing Bahrain, during her participation in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens (the 100-meter sprint). She also competed in subsequent Olympics.

Indeed, Bahraini women participated in the Paralympics as early as 1984. Photographs of other female Muslim athletes competing with their hair covered at the last Summer Olympics in London are available here - but Echo 24 didn't exist back then, so it wasn't able to "moo" loudly about it.

The culture buffoons are backing down too

The New York Times ranks quite differently in terms of global renown than Echo 24, but we'll quote from them anyway. That local rag has reported on the refugees momentarily living in the infamous refugee camp in Calais, France, known as "The Jungle", some of whom have composed and recorded 13 songs together.

Their group calls itself The Calais Sessions. The article describes a song called "In Kandahar" whose authors wrote the lyrics first in English before translating them into Farsi.

You can hear the song on YouTube. Yes indeed, Islam is indeed putting pressure on European traditions and the cultural buffoons are quickly backing down - what next?

A full gesture

Muslims living in the Czech Republic demonstrated against terrorism on Prague's Jiřího z Poděbrad Square this week. First they attended a Catholic mass, then read declarations and gave speeches.

The Muslims not only condemned terrorism, they pointed out that their fellow Muslims are very often terrorists' first targets. Events like this are sometimes spoken of as "empty gestures".

If an effort sounds fake or hollow, then that description fits. When it comes to this event, I would call it a full gesture, since it reached out to all of us with an genuine message of reconciliation.

Putin has already won

Putin blamed Ukraine for attempting to invade Crimea this week. Moscow allegedly has captured saboteurs whose actions demonstrate that an invasion was their aim.

Ukraine denies the charges. The media say a war is beginning between Russia and Ukraine.

Putin, however, has already won on the substance of this issue, as none of the major international players are discussing it or reminding Russia that Crimea is a Ukrainian territory that Russia forcibly occupied. If the Ukrainian Government were to actually send its soldiers to Crimea, they would be in the right, not Russia.

Cops in the settlement are innocence itself

The Slovak Interior Ministry's Inspection Authority has halted the prosecution of police officers over their raid on a Romani settlement in Moldava nad Bodvou in the summer of 2013. The Slovaks are evidently even better at this than we Czechs are - here GIBS, the body that is supposed to investigate police officers' allegedly criminal activity, usually "develops" such officers instead of prosecuting them.

"Police officers went from one dwelling to the next breaking in doors and windows, smashing furniture, and assaulting individual residents very aggressively without communicating with them in any rational way. Injuries resulted and some of our clients had to seek medical treatment, for which there are medical reports," said Martin Vavrinčík of the ETP Slovakia nonprofit, which runs a community center in the settlement.

The victim who was left in the worst condition as a result of that raid was a six-week-old who was taken to the hospital unconscious. The cops are innocence itself, though - what else should we expect?

Greetings to Prague Pride

Prague Pride is underway - greetings to all my acquaintances and friends participating in this brilliant event. Carpe diem.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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