Senator Hassan Mezian, who was born in Damascus but has spent most of his life in the Czech Republic, says he welcomes the solidarity now being shown by some Czechs to Syrian refugees. But the country’s only Muslim lawmaker strongly condemns efforts, including on the part of the president, to stir up anti-migrant feeling.
Among those watching the plight of the Syrians particularly closely is Senator Hassan Mezian. He studied medicine in Prague and decided to stay in the city rather than return to his native Damascus after graduating in the early 1970s.
The only Muslim legislator in the Czech Parliament, Dr. Mezian says he has found tragedies such as last week’s discovery of the bodies of 71 Syrians in a truck in Austria very hard to take.
“It really makes me feel terrible. Such suffering. It’s the product of the violence in their country of origin. The whole way along their journey, these people are exposed to hyenas, to people smugglers who lead them to their deaths, in trucks or on boats. Many of them drown before they get to Europe, a place where they have a sense of safety.”
Here in the Czech Republic, refugees have frequently been negatively received in recent months, with populist politicians and internet campaigns stirring up anti-migrant and anti-Muslim feeling.
President Miloš Zeman, for instance, said nobody had invited asylum seekers to the country – and they should leave if they don’t like it. Such attitudes anger the Social Democratic Party senator.
“The extremists among us say, You have scarves. You want to bring a different culture here. We don’t want you. Or they tell these refugees, You’re not invited. When something like that is said by a person from the highest level of politics, that’s nothing short of the destruction of our values, of European and world values, of the values of Christianity and all world religions working for the good of mankind.”
Hassan Mezian says, however, that he welcomes the fact that many Czechs are now rejecting anti-migrant scare-mongering – and showing their nation’s best side.
“At the level of ordinary people, I see a huge wave of solidarity. Because they have seen what these refugees are going through, how badly off they are, and how people are dying trying to reach Europe. But the Czechs are a humane nation. They are helping them spontaneously and are being accommodating toward them.”