BUDAPEST – The mayor of Hungarian town of Ásotthalom on the Serbian border has slashed a ban on all Islamic aspects of life, including mosques, muezzins and Islamic clothes such as niqab and burkini, a move widely criticized by the country’s Muslim community.
In a statement, the Hungarian Islamic Community (MIK) said it was “shocked by the increasing xenophobia and serious Islamophobia in Hungary, which has now peaked with the decree,” Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Monday, November 28.
The new decisions, enacted last week, included a ban on mosque construction, the use of a muezzin at prayer times and the wearing of clothes such as the niqab and the burkini.
The town’s mayor, László Toroczkai, said the steps were taken to “protect the community and its traditions from any mass settlement from outside”.
Toroczkai, who is also a vice-president of the far right Jobbik party, came to prominence in 2015 when he filmed an action movie-style video at a fence on the Serbian border warning migrants not to enter Hungary. Ásotthalom has few refugees.
Set up in 1990, the MIK is the oldest group representing Hungary’s Muslim community and is estimated to have 40,000 members.
“We have requested in writing that the constitutional court examine this decree,” its statement said.
“Although we are a religious minority, our constitutional rights must be protected as we are Hungarian citizens just the same as the non-Muslim majority. We cannot ‘go home’ anywhere as this is our homeland.”
The mayor’s decision echoed a similar opinion of the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who has emerged as a standard bearer for those opposed to the “open door” policy of Germany’s Angela Merkel.
The MIK added that a letter to the PM asking for help was left unanswered.
The group said Muslims were being subjected to increasing verbal and physical attacks before the government-led referendum last month, which rejected the EU’s migrant quota plan.
“The coded message [of the campaign] was that migrants are Muslims who are either terrorists or criminals,” MIK’s chairman, Zoltán Bolek, said.