Czech racists threaten online to kill children because they are of Arab and Romani origin
The Czech Government's HateFree Culture website is reporting that a wave of racist reactions has been prompted in the Czech-language Internet environment by a photo of first-graders from a primary school in Teplice that has been published by a local daily. The photograph and the names of the pupils and teachers was published last week on a nationalist website, and hundreds of Internet users have shared it from there, frequently with racist commentary.
The class is comprised predominantly of children who are of Arab or Romani origin, which many of those using online social networks commented on as follows: "Equal (image of a pistol)", "classroom full of terrorists", "Plynárenská [Gasworks] Primary School. The solution offers itself immediately.", or "A grenade would fit there like a little bottom on the bench!"
Some Internet users are also sending similar messages by e-mail directly to the school. "It never occurred to me that such an enormous wave would be launched," commented principal Marcela Prokůpková.
According to the testimonies of instructors and parents, the children get along well at the school and don't see any differences among them. Mohamed Ghaleb, a member of the school board, who has enrolled three children at the school, has confirmed that.
"It is sad how far hate and fear can push people. It is sad that the victims of hatred and fear are exactly those of us who are most vulnerable - the children. I think we should learn from these children, they have overcome their differences and managed speak with each other in spite of them, to establish friendships, to find a common path and language," he said.
The photo was published as part of "My First School Picture", a new series by the Deník.cz news server, the regional newsrooms of which are publishing group photos of first-graders from the Czech primary schools. "One never forgets one's first day of school. It is one of the most emotional experiences in human life, the pupils and their families will always remember it. Deník.cz is recording this celebratory moment in a unique series during which first-graders from each school in the country will be introduced over the next several months," the news server describes its series.
Hateful commentaries and e-mails to the school
"It never occurred to me that such an enormous wave would be launched. Under no circumstances did I ever anticipate such a reaction," Mgr. Marcela Prokůpková, principal of the school, told HateFree Culture.
E-mails have been sent to the school warning the principal that the first-graders' photo was being shared online with vulgar commentaries, while offensive e-mails about the photo were also being sent to the school, messages such as: "Nice first grade full of shitty Muslims :) but wait until they slit somebody's throat someday." Posts to Facebook are being written in a similar spirit, and that network is the main source for disseminating the photograph (now deleted) from the Neklan page, which is named after a mythical Bohemian prince and features nationalist content.
The Facebook users are expressing ridicule and vulgarities about the ethnic composition of the class, discussing alleged "Islamicization" and implying that the children with Arabic names are either immigrants or refugees. The pupils of Arab origin are the children of doctors who work at the local hospital, and the ethnic composition of the class is also determined by the fact that the school is located immediately adjacent to a housing estate where most residents are socially vulnerable families.
"On Facebook people are writing that we are the worst school in North Bohemia, calling the children garbage, saying we have the worst teachers, etc. I have been working at this school for three years, I actually live for this school, and together with all the pedagogical workers and the other employees we are really doing the maximum to educate our children. They have adapted themselves a great deal and they function alongside each other in the same classroom - Vietnamese, Russians, Ukrainians, Iraqis and everybody else," the principal described the "mixed" classes to HateFree Culture.
One user of the Neklan page posted the following: "Afghanistan was once Buddhist, Pakistan was once Hindu, Lebanon was once Christian and I could continue with more examples. By the way, in Israel the city of Bethlehem (the birthplace of Jesus Christ) was 84 % Christian in 1948. In the year 2015 there were just 12 % of them left. Why is that?" Another user posted the following: "This is all going to hell terribly fast, our ancestors must be turning over in their graves to see what we have allowed to be done to our homeland, which THEY fought for so that we and our children could live here."
The principal, however, does not find there to be any problems with the Arab (Muslim) children and their parents - on the contrary, she praises the good mutual relations with them. "The Arab parents, and not just them, are some of the few parents who come to the school events, they come to Open House, they come to the Christmas party too," she said.
Parents are startled
Mohamed Ghaleb, the head physician in the department of follow-up care at the local hospital who is also a member of the school board, has expressed his views of the entire situation. He told HateFree Culture that three of his children attend the primary school, including in the first grade, and that he has not noticed any problems with it.
"The children love going to school and they look forward to their friends. For that reason, I was surprised by what is going around on the Internet, because in reality there is no problem - this is a problem for some people in the virtual world who do not comprehend that children of different colors or nationalities have gathered in the same class. It is sad how far hate and fear can push people. It is sad that the victims of hatred and fear are exactly those of us who are most vulnerable - the children. I think we should learn from these children, they have overcome their differences and managed speak with each other in spite of them, to establish friendships, to find a common path and language," he told HateFree Culture.
Passions have been awoken not just by the darker-skinned children, but also by the two assistants photographed with them. "Is there one teacher and two assistants for one class???" posted one commentator, while another posted that "in normal conditions the salary would be enough for one teacher. IT'S NOT ENOUGH! An assistant, an interpreter and who else? THIS IS WHY THERE IS NOT ENOUGH MONEY FOR THE SCHOOLS."
The principal explained to HateFree Culture that there are two pupils in the class for whom special measures have been recommended by educational counseling facilities. There is no interpreter, however, and one would not even be necessary.
The school has been entrusted by the Ústecký Region with organizing courses of Czech language for foreign nationals and their children, and children enrolled at other schools in Teplice also attend those courses. Those participating include nationals of China, Iraq, Syria, Vietnam and Yemen.
The principal says interest in the Czech language courses is significant. Her assertion is supported by Bc. Martin Hudeček, an instructor at the school who posted to the City of Teplice's Facebook page that: "Yes, we also have pupils who do not speak Czech, but they master it rather quickly. They attend Czech language classes that are organized at our school for them. These are not just Muslim pupils, but also other foreign nationals. Many of the pupils have very successful, intelligent parents."
The instructor concluded his comment as follows: "I just felt the need to stand up for these children, whom I personally know. I know how they are doing their best at school and how diligently they work. I would like to have more such pupils."
Alongside the hate, support
In the online discussions, in addition to the negative commentaries, there are also posts supporting the education of children together irrespective of their ethnicity or origins. "Everybody is always shouting that if they are here they must join society. Where else than in school? Young children do not have to deal with people's prejudices, and these will probably not have to deal with them when they are adults either. They will judge people according to whether they are good or bad, not according to whether they are green or purple," one Facebook user posted.
"Hey, people, what do you want? If the kids don't go to school together with local residents, then they will not be able to integrate and they will end up excluded from society, which is the most frequent reason for terrorist attacks. If they will attend school together with Czechs and other ethnicities/nations, then they will better integrate into society. That is something we should stand behind. We will prevent many problems this way," somebody else posted.
The principal said this year is the first time her school has opened just one first grade class. "Due to the low number of children enrolled, the school this year was able to open only one first grade. If there were two first grade classes, the children would be more scattered ," the principal said.
The children themselves, reportedly, are not bothered by the arrangements. "The children get along well together. They are unaware of any differences," the principle said.
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