In the past three months, Czech citizens showed concern regarding the issue of xenophobia, which triggered the rise of political activism. 

Recent shootings in Paris and Copenhagen encouraged discussion on various levels of society and divided it in two polar views. Both sides of the argument surprisingly agree that Czechs are not exactly xenophobic; however, they are still unwelcoming and closed towards foreigners. 

“Nobody is illegal,” shouted around 300 attendees of a demonstration “Refugees Welcome” held in Prague February. The demonstration was organized by a self-described leftist initiative “No to Racism” and the Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in Czech Republic.

The demonstration’s goals were to promote religious freedom, provide legal assistance to the refugees, spread their political agenda and decrease anti-Muslim tensions, according to CMAO spokesperson Magda Faltova. Various religious and age groups came to support the movement. “It can bring new ideas,” said Lucka Piklova, who was there with friends. According to Faltova, the demonstration is a response to the “We Don’t Want Islam in the Czech Republic” movement, which is trying to eliminate Islam in the country.

Artur Fiser, the anti-Islam movement’s spokesperson, is convinced that accepting refugees is a security threat to Europe. “The main goal of Islam is the same as the Islamic State’s – to impose a worldwide caliphate,” said Fiser. 

However, he suggested that providing assistance on the spot in the conflict zones is more effective and less costly.

The movement is concerned with alleged European islamization and the establishment of Sharia Law. 

However, an anonymous Muslim attendee of the anti-racism demonstration rejected any connection between Islam and ISIS’ agenda. 

According to her, the perception of Muslims in Prague has worsened in the last six years. “People do not directly insult me [for religious views]; however, the way they look at me is often unpleasant,” she said.

Fiser disagreed stating that Muslims are the victims of their faith and should either convert to another religion or become faithless in order to live peacefully in Europe.

Where to draw the line between freedom of speech and incitement of hatred was also the main question raised at a panel discussion on the post-Charlie Hebdo events at AAU.

Panelists expressed their concern with the rise of radical Islamic activism in Europe and mentioned anxiety among citizenry. 

Those events have contributed to misperception of Muslims in Europe and triggered an incredible increase in support of far right parties, also revealing problems with immigration policies of the EU.

After long negotiations, the Czech government accepted 15 Syrian refugee families in January 2015. At the demonstration, Amnesty International promoted a petition to accept another 100 Syrian refugees.

By Kateřina Glacnerova and Kristina Zakurdaeva