Prague official calls presidential staffer's views similar to Breivik's
Organizers and politicians involved in the upcoming carnival march of gays, lesbians, transsexuals and other minorities, called Prague Pride, have responded to Czech President Klaus's declaration backing the recent critique of that event made by his Vice-Chancellor, Petr Hájek. The parade will culminate in a Festival of Tolerance in Prague, which both the Mayor of Prague and the city manager of the Prague 1 district have given their auspices to. The event is taking place in the capital for the first time. Similar events in Vienna and other foreign metropolises are traditionally attended by tens of thousands of people.
"There is no point in responding to this latest 'Klausism'," said Prague Pride president Czeslaw Walek, who emphasized that the event is not "a festival about ideology, but about entertainment and respect." Organizers have already said they could not have hoped for a better advertisement for their showing of concerts, film screenings, and the parade than the statements made by Hájek and the president himself.
According to Petr Vácha, a member of the board of the PROUD association (an acronym which in Czech stands for "Platform for Equality, Recognition and Diversity"), the "president's message" is not surprising. "Unfortunately this demonstrates that the climate of opinion in the Czech Republic, even in the 21st century, still oscillates between a rejection of the objective reality that gay and lesbian persons exist as part of society and preconceptions about them based of lack of information or the will to understand this," Vácha said. In his view, "it is sad" that Hájek and the Czech President have a completely different understanding of the cultural festival. The Platform has welcomed the auspices of various foreign institutions and politicians who are said to be aware that gays and lesbians form "part of culture and society here as they do the world over." After Klaus defended Petr Hájek, 13 foreign embassies supported the event in a joint declaration, including the embassies of Germany, the UK and the USA.
Speaking on Thursday, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda (ODS - Civic Democrats) responded to Hájek's statement by saying he is sticking by his decision to provide auspices to the event. "Homosexuals live among us and there is no point in pretending they don't. Moreover, it goes against my soul to create divisions between people because of their sexual orientation, skin color or religion. In the past such divisions have proven to be more than disastrous," Svoboda said.
Prague 1 city manager Oldřich Lomecký (TOP 09) said his auspices for the festival are not an expression of favoritism, but of tolerance. He also said that he would not have granted auspices to an event comprised solely of radical opinions and rejected Hájek's as extreme. "Those are claustrophobic opinions. [Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring] Breivik is just the tip of that iceberg. Those opinions make for intolerance," he said.
The chair of the TOP 09 party in Prague, Czech MP František Laudát, said that if he were city manager or mayor he would have permitted the parade and ensured its security but not provided auspices for it. He emphasized that this was his personal opinion.
Czech MP Boris Šťastný, chair of the ODS party in Prague, said everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion about the granting of auspices. "However, I cannot reconcile myself to labeling a different sexual orientation in the context of this event as 'deviant'. Deviancy doesn't just mean different behavior, it means aberrant behavior, and deviant behavior is a priori considered defective," he said. In his view, when public officials use such words it can only be out of ignorance or intention. "I warn you that an innocuous summer discussion about auspices could quickly become a dangerous battle between various groups of the population," he added.
For his part, Hájek believes the carnival is a lobbying event and political demonstration for a world of deformed values. He has labeled homosexuals "deviant fellow-citizens", criticized Svoboda for granting his auspices to the festival, and criticized Šťastný for supporting Svoboda's position. The opposition Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD) and the governing Public Affairs party (VV) have called Hájek's statements unacceptable and challenged Klaus to distance himself from them.
Klaus has resolutely rejected the ČSSD and VV demands. "Those statements were not made by me and I would probably have chosen some different words. However, I too do not feel any 'pride' about this event," Klaus said. In his view, Hájek was not protesting the parade itself, but the fact that "this demonstration is receiving such high auspices from the mayor and other political actors in our country. It is one thing to tolerate something, but it is quite another to give it public support in the name of an important institution," his statement reads. In his view the carnival is not a manifestation of homosexuality, but of "homosexualism", about which he has great concern as he does about many other fashionable "-isms".
Klaus believes the uproar over the fact that Hájek used the term "deviation" in relation to homosexuals is just "the bandying of semantics". "While some are displeased by the word 'deviation', I consider it value-neutral. In any event, while homosexuality is something that is markedly in the minority and therefore deserves our protection, it does not necessarily deserve to be celebrated," he said.
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