Czech senator racially insults Roma with fake 15th-century quote
Czech Senator Jozef Regec believes "gypsies" are an "unclean race". On his Facebook profile he has referenced words allegedly written by Czech religious reformer Jan Hus in the 15th century condemning members of that ethnicity.
News server Czech Justice (ceska-justice.cz) reports that Regec believes the phrase to be inspired and is standing by his words. However, as news server Romea.cz has previously reported, Jan Hus never wrote any such thing.
Regec, who was first elected for the Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD) but who is now representing the Citizens' Rights Party for Zeman (SPOZ), used the alleged quote in a status update to his Facebook profile on Tuesday morning. "Master Jan Hus wrote already in 1409: 'Gypsies are an unclean race with reprobate morals who avoid work, steal from one another and do not recognize God!' In this inspired phrase he has summarized the whole gypsy problem, the essence of which has not changed for 600 years. Only [former Czech Human Rights Minister] Mr Kocáb, [former Czech Human Rights Commissioner] Uhl and similar 'scholars' are doing their best to convince us that up until 1948 the Gypsies mainly painted their little jugs, sewed their little shirts, played their little violins and were then tainted by 40 years of Bolshevik totalitarianism! The worst thing is the fact that a generation of 20-year-old Roma are growing up here who have never seen anyone around them work! I fully agree with what Master Jan Hus wrote in 1409 and I only hope that some of our modern 'scholars' who so distort history won't claim that the communists were already here 600 years ago to taint them," the senator writes, closing with the question: "Was Master Jan Hus a racist?"
Jan Hus, however, never wrote the quoted words, which supposedly come from a work called "On the People of Prague" (O pražském lidu). Regec is merely repeating one of many internet hoaxes that have been spread by various racists through social networking sites for some time.
News server Romea.cz reported last fall that the quote from Jan Hus is a fake. "In response to your question, no writings by Jan Hus entitled 'On the People of Prague' have been preserved and the existence of such a title is not attested in contemporary sources. This alleged quotation from Hus is most probably completely invented," Prof. PhDr. Petr Sommer DrSc., director of the Center for Medieval Studies, and Prof. PhDr. František Šmahel DrSc., deputy director of that institution, told Romea.cz.
PhDr. Jan Kalivoda, an historian who chairs the Hus Museum Society in Prague (and who also works at the Center for Medieval Studies), responded similarly. "In response to your question about the origin of the statement condemning Gypsies which is currently making the rounds of internet discussions and being attributed to Jan Hus, after consulting my colleagues I can answer that several letters by Hus addressed to his supporters in Prague and to Praguers in general have been preserved, but none of them is cited under the title 'On the People of Prague' or anything similar. Those letters were written during tense situations in which Hus focused on completely different topics than the one now attributed to him. Generally speaking, we cannot say anything , with 100 % certainty about the textual content of the entire collection of literary works by Hus that have been preserved, but neither I personally, nor any of the colleagues whom I have consulted, are familiar with the statement now being attributed to Hus in this anti-Roma polemic," Kalivoda told Romea.cz.
Bishop Filip Štojdl of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church considers the dissemination of this hoax to be extreme. "This is an abuse of the legacy of Master Jan Hus, a manipulation of his person. In his teachings, Hus called for reconciliation, for people to love one another and seek the truth, not for the spreading of hatred and lies or for matters to be addressed with violence," he told Romea.cz.
The senator, however, does not intend to change what he has written. "Believe me that I stand by everything I say and write. I have always honored certain principles I was taught by athletics and my upbringing," Regec, who once was a mountain biker, wrote in to Czech Justice.
Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (ČSSD), who was once a senator himself, warns that we can now expect attempts at abusing anti-Romani sentiment to surface in the public arena because of the upcoming elections. "Unfortunately, in recent years it has become customary for topics that are anti-Roma, intolerant and populist to be abused. Facts are very often manipulated. This is a topic with which it is easy to score political points," said Dienstbier's spokesperson, Jarmila Balážová.
Regec is not the first populist to want to score such points here with the Roma topic. Czech Senator Miroslav Krejča (first elected for ČSSD, now unaffiliated) has also used the alleged quotation from Hus in an "expert discussion" on this topic, one which was not so much about expertise as it was about spreading hatred of Roma.
Moreover, this is not the first time this senator has inveighed against this minority; other anti-Romani invective by this politician and others can be found in the ROMEA association's 2012 Report on the State of the Romani Minority. For more examples, all you have to do is type the full "quotation" into a search engine and you will find dozens of authors using this alleged statement by Hus to spark the flames of anti-Romani sentiment.
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