The statement against ethnic and racial intolerance

Dangerously expanding boundaries

We, the undersigned, have for some time been concerned by the expressions of national and racial intolerance in Slovakia’s political life.  For example, the anti-Hungarian statements uttered by the leader of the Slovak National Party Ján Slota amount to a catalogue of uncivilized, intolerant and aggressive rhetoric. What gives rise to even graver concern is the fact that this xenophobic rhetoric, which has nothing to do with real patriotism, has so far failed to elicit any substantive critical response from Mr. Slota’s coalition partners. On the contrary, a number of politicians have tried to play down his statements by looking for some justifying motives or by claiming that they we have heard it all before.

Yet it is this very lack of response that creates a new situation in Slovak society by allowing Slovakia’s political culture and the country’s overall spiritual state to plumb new and exceedingly dangerous depths. Nationalistic rhetoric has become a political weapon that appeals to the most primitive instincts based on negative stereotypes. And since this strategy appears to be effective it encourages other politicians to publicly air their ethnic and racial prejudices and to employ this kind of rhetoric in clashes with their political rivals, as exemplified by the recent debate in the Slovak Parliament (The National Council of the Slovak Republic) relating to the vote of non-confidence in Justice Minister Štefan Harabin during which the M.P. Daniel Lipšic became the target of anti-Semitic comments.

Regardless of the ideological and political conviction of those who participated in this debate, we consider it a scandal that politicians such as Štefan Harabin and Vladimír Mečiar can use the Parliament of the Slovak Republic as a stage from which to make statements of an anti-Semitic nature. We regard it as particularly disgraceful that these statements were addressed to Daniel Lipšic, whose family members had suffered racial violence during World War II.  The tenor of Mr. Harabin’s and Mr. Mečiar’s speeches is reminiscent of the 1930s German Reichstag.

Ján Slota, Štefan Harabin a Vladimír Mečiar are no marginal extremists, no obscure „warlords“ heading some radical group on the political fringe. They are publicly elected officials, leaders and representatives of political parties that constitute the ruling coalition and their behaviour sends signals to the wider public that foster the spreading of the contagious virus of nationalism among young people and other social groups.

It is shocking that no representatives of the ruling coalition have yet distanced themselves adequately from Mr. Harabin’s and Mr. Mečiar’s anti-Semitic statements. We expect the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico to condemn the actions of these individuals and to issue a clear and unambiguous statement to this effect. This is the only way he can dispel the impression that he is not only covering up the excesses of his coalition partners and, moreover, that he does not object to this kind of thinking.  What credence can we give to Mr. Fico’s declarations of being faithful to anti-fascist values that he has voiced on occasions such as the anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising and events commemorating the Slovak victims of the Holocaust? We likewise expect an unambiguous condemnation of these actions on the part of the President of the Slovak Republic Ivan Gasparovič and the Parliamentary Speaker Pavol Paška.  Last but not least, we also expect a clear and substantive statement on this issue from the opposition parties.

We have been seriously concerned for some time about the insidious effect this kind of development is having on Slovakia’s social climate. Anti-Hungarian sentiments and anti-Semitic statements are part of a wider phenomenon of ethnic intolerance. It is not possible to condemn racial violence committed in the past while at the same time cooperating with those who use anti-Semitism as a weapon against their political opponents in the present. It is impossible to pay lip-service to civic values of co-operation while tolerating anti-Hungarian rhetoric. We appeal to Slovakia’s politicians and social leaders to desist from using nationalistic, xenophobic and racist language. We appeal to the public to break their silence and give voice to their disapproval.

Martin Bútora, sociologist, Grigorij Mesežnikov, political scientist, Zuzana Kronerová, actress, Lev Bukovský, mathematician, Daniel Pastirčák, priest, Milan Zemko, historian, Juraj Stern, economist, Rudolf Chmel, literary scientist, Jana Juráňová, writer and essayist, Mikuláš Huba, ecologist, Rudolf Sikora ,painter, Jozef Hašto, psychiatrist, Šarlota Pufflerová, civic activist, Andrej Bán, photographer  and reporter, Ivan Kraus, geologist, Pavol Demeš,foreign policy expert, László Szigeti, publisher, Zora Bútorová, sociologist, Robert Roth, actor, Vladimír Bužek, physicist, Martin Porubjak, dramaturg, Eugen Gindl, essayist, Samuel Abrahám, political scientist, Zuzana Sternová, researcher, Péter Hunčík, , psychiatrist, Miroslav Kusý, political scientist, Ladislav Snopko, dramaturg, Oľga Gyárfášová, sociologist, Dušan Kováč, historian, Peter Kerekes, film director, Dušan Ondrušek, psychologist,  Zuzana Bartošová, art  historian, Michal Vašečka, sociologist, Lajos Grendel, writer, Zuzana Gindl-Tatárová, dramaturg, Anton Popovič, musician and civic activist.

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