Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Thursday met with the Minister For Human Rights and Minorities Jiří Dienstbier to discuss problems and priorities in the given portfolio. He praised the minister’s strategy in fighting social exclusion and integrating the Roma minority. Minister Dienstbier is pushing ahead with plans to establish social housing and is currently working on a bill that would increase the powers of the Ombudsman.
A group of two dozen MPs from across the political spectrum received the 2013 bePROUD prize for supporting minority rights. The prize was awarded in recognition of their joint effort to push through legislation which would enable gay and lesbian couples to adopt their partner’s child. The draft legislation tabled shortly before the lower house was disbanded to open the way for early elections late last year failed to win approval. The 2013 anti-prize went to psychologist Jeroným Klimeš for “spreading stereotypes and homophobic statements about the gay and lesbian community”.
A recent dramatic police raid of two Islamic centres in Prague has put the spotlight on the country’s Muslim community. Community leaders have denounced the operation as excessive but the police have charged one man over the distribution of an allegedly xenophobic book. So why did Czech Muslims publish a book by a radical Wahabi author? In this edition of In Focus, we discuss the situation of the Czech Muslim community with Bronislav Ostřanský from the Czech Academy of Sciences. I first asked him about the book, The Fundamentals of Tawheed by Bilal Philips, whose Czech edition was the apparent cause of the police raid. More
The Indonesian Embassy in Prague has filed a complaint to the Czech Foreign Ministry over Friday’s police raid at the headquarters of Prague’s Islamic Foundation and a mosque on the outskirts of the city. The raid, made in connection with an allegedly racist publication, took place during Friday prayers disrupting the ceremony attended by around one hundred believers, including women and children. Among them were members of the Indonesian Embassy who were detained for an hour and a half despite their diplomatic status. The police detained 20 people and charged one of inciting racial hatred and xenophobia.
The Czech Republic’s Muslim community has complained after police raided the headquarters of Prague’s Islamic Foundation and a mosque on the outskirts of the city during Friday prayers, detaining some 20 people and filing hate crime charges against one man. Muslim community leaders say the operation was over the top – and deny inciting ethnic or religious hatred. More
A number of Czech towns and cities marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday with traditional outdoor ceremonies at which the names of Holocaust victims are read out by politicians, church dignitaries and leading cultural figures. In the Czech capital the ceremony took place at Prague’s Náměstí Míru square attended among others by the minister for human rights and minorities, Jiří Dienstbier, the Israeli ambassador to Prague Garz Koren and others. The event, held for the 9th year now, is jointly organized by the Foundation for Holocaust Victims and the Terezín Initiative Institute. Of Czechoslovakia’s pre-war Jewish population of 350,000, 250,000 died during the Holocaust.
Current AffairsGovernment’s agency for social inclusion issues grim report on the situation of the Roma minority
The government’s agency for social inclusion on Wednesday presented the Rusnok cabinet with a grim report on the situation of the Romany minority, in which it claims that the problems in housing have deteriorated in an alarming way and little progress has been made in other areas. Coincidentally, on the same day, the Senate rejected a proposal by the EC on how to address these issues successfully. I asked the head of the government’s agency for social inclusion Martin Šimácek to outline the main areas of concern. More
The Interior Ministry has confirmed it aims to hire an additional 1,000 police to its roughly 39,000-strong force next year. According to the ministry, many would serve in districts in the country hit by high unemployment, growing crime and extremism and ethnic unrest. Officers are to receive special training to operate in sometimes difficult conditions, gaining knowledge of the local environment. In addition, the government aims to boost the number of crime-prevention assistants operating in areas, a programme which has already seen a good measure of success. More
The Interior Ministry wants to station specially trained police officers in the country’s slums, according to a report presented to the government on Friday. The move comes in the wake of rising petty crime in poverty-ridden areas of the country and growing tension between its inhabitants and the majority population. There are presently between 300 and 400 slums in the Czech Republic with an estimated 80,000 inhabitants, the greater part of them Romanies. It is not clear how many specialists would be needed but the ministry envisaged training around 50 a year.
In its quarterly report on national security the Czech intelligence service BIS recently warned of an alarming rise in anti-Roma sentiments among the public. The report referred to a growing number of anti-Roma marches in Czech towns and cities organized by ultra-right groups but openly supported by many ordinary citizens. There are concerns that the Roma are being made a scapegoat for the country’s social problems and that growing hostility towards the Roma minority will make coexistence even harder. More