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Czech-language Facebook page slanders Romani organizations as anti-Islam

Prague, 13.1.2015 17:12, (ROMEA)
The anonymous authors of the Czech-language Facebook page
The anonymous authors of the Czech-language Facebook page "Roma against Islam" (Romové proti islámu) have misused photographs of the Romani music group Terne Čhave, which has protested the abuse. Other photographs on the page were stolen from a foreign website of a Hungarian-Turkish language school.

A recently-created Czech-language Facebook page has been created by anonymous administrators who are slandering Romani initiatives. The name of the page is "Roma against Islam" (Romové proti islámu).

The authors of the material on the page demagogically attack Islam per se and have falsely claimed that their page is supported by the famous music group Terne Čhave and by the Dživipen association. Both Romani initiatives have distanced themselves from the Facebook page.

Attacks on Islam

The authors of the "Roma against Islam" Facebook page do more than just condemn the recent terrorist attack in France - they attack Islam as a religion and demand it be banned outright. "The dangerous ideology called Islam is assaulting traditional Romani cultural values. We do not want our beautiful women to have to wear the hijab 10 years from now, which would destroy their beauty. We don't want anyone to force their faith on us, the Roma found their own here centuries ago. They remain faithful to the Catholic religion," the opening text on the anonymously administered page reads.

Attacks on Roma

However, the authors then go on to attack the Roma themselves:  "We, the administrators of 'Roma against Islam', are very well aware of all of the abuses committed by our minority and we do not intend to defend them. Romani crime is in fact very high, as is our lack of educaiton and our lack of willingness to work. These days should be days of self-criticism.... The common fight against Islam should be the way for the majority society and Romani people to achieve better coexistence."

In the discussions posted to the page, the authors have posted the following:  "We personally have very negative experiences with the ROMEA civic initiative, which, it seems, just uncritically protects the interests of Romani idlers. On the one hand ROMEA condemns generalizations about us Roma, but on the other hand it generalizes about the majority society. ROMEA has never stood up for those who really need it and never will."

According to Zdeněk Ryšavý, the director of ROMEA o.p.s., it is not at all clear who is running the "Roma against Islam" page. "I have followed that page practically from the beginning and I am convinced, based on its content, that its administrators cannot be Romani," he told news server Romea.cz.

The authors of the material on the page are anonymous. The first logo that appears as the page's profile image is the logo of the organization "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic" (Islám v ČR nechceme).

Terne Čhave is against Islamophobia and racism

The initial version of the Facebook page included photographs of the famous music group Terne Čhave. The group has distanced itself from the page and demanded its photographs be removed from it.

"The Terne Čhave group distances itself from the 'Roma against Islam' page as well as from the abuse of our photos for the purpose of promoting a hateful ideology. Those photographs were published on the page without our awareness and at our request were immediately removed by the administrators," band leader Gejza Bendig told news server Romea.cz.

"We are still in shock, it's hard to find words for this. Just as we condemn the attack on the editors of the French satirical magazine and sympathize with the survivors and victims, we are disturbed by the growing tendencies of some groups to exploit that tragic event in order to disseminate Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia. The band Terne Čhave has also endeavored to bring people of various cultures together and through its music does its best to spread positive emotions and energy," Bendig said.

Other photographs used by the authors of the "Roma against Islam" Facebook page have been stolen from a website abroad, probably without noticing who that website represents. The images come from the site of a Hungarian-Turkish language school that works for mutual cultural recognition through languages.

Exploitation of the Dživipen association

"Roma against Islam is supported by, among others, the Romani nonprofit organization Dživipen,“ the anonymous authors have written above a link to that association's website. "I don't know anything about this. Neither I personally nor our association supports any such page. We will complain to the page administrators and demand that they erase the link to Dživipen," Marek Lévay, chair of the Dživipen association, told news server Romea.cz.

After Romea.cz spoke with Lévay, Radomila Štecová also posted an official statement from the Romani organization to the Facebook page:  "Dživipen o.p.s. distances itself from the statement above asserting our support for this page. That statement was posted without our awareness or consent. This was done by someone else and we will report it and raise it with the management of Facebook. We are definitely against any terrorist attacks of any kind and we are capable of making our own statements with respect to that situation."

Disgraced EP candidate supports the "Roma against Islam" page

The page has been supported by attorney Klára Samková, who recently ran as a candidate in the European Parliamentary elections for the populist, xenophobic "Dawn of Direct Democracy" movement (Úsvit) before its chair, Tomio Okamura, removed her from the candidate list over allegations that she had deceived the Česká spořitelna savings and loan company. Samková said she believes that Romani people are "the victims of multicultural manipulation without any possibility of stopping it. They aren't interested in it. They consider the Czech Republic their home. They have been pushed out of the labor process by welfare - not only did they not want it, but they warned previous administrations not to introduce it. Of course, these are matters that no one wants to hear about... Maybe on this occasion Czechs will learn there IS a difference between Muslims and Romani people. A damned big one...."  

In response to this page another one has been created on Facebook called "Roma against Roma against Islam" (Romové proti Romové proti Islámu). News server Romea.cz is conducting a survey among the Romani community on this issue and will publish the results soon.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Facebook, Islamofobie, Média, Roma



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