“Media is making us look bad”, muslim community in Budapest

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“Orange Kebab” is a fast food next to the main street in Budapest

“I think it’s a problem that people link Islam to terrorism and that’s not fair. I’m also afraid of those people, who are bad to others,” says Habiba (name changed) who is working at “Orange Kebab” in Budapest. She is a mother of two children and has been living in Hungary for most of her life. After terrorist attack in Paris she feels that the attitude towards Muslim community has changed. 

Based on CIA World Fact book there are 49 907 people who practice Islam living in Hungary. That is 0.5% from the whole population. Most of them are located in Budapest, where you can find four mosques, according to iszlam.com.

“I know only about the Budapest mosque, I haven’t seen any others. Muslims are not involved in our politics at all. I think that most of the Muslims don’t really practice their religion as it is written in Koran. That’s why you can’t recognize them,” says Tímea Szabó, a Hungarian left wing MP.

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TÍMEA SZABÓ: “It’s very difficult to convince the population and to make sure that the human rights are being respected”

After attacks in Paris, Hungary has been putting questions about the country’s security on weekly agenda and checking whether the anti-terrorism and national security organizations are making enough effort to protect the country. The Prime Minister of Hungary recently expressed the idea that not every migrant is a terrorist, but every terrorist is a migrant.

“It’s a very dangerous rhetoric to use in public. Our party is trying to fight that, but it’s very difficult because media is mostly dominated by the government. Unfortunately, the state propaganda is working”, explains Tímea Szabó.

Paris made everyone cautious

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We went out to the streets of Budapest and met four different people who expressed their opinion about life in Hungary and the media effects on their community.

“I blame media for the bad attitude that we receive, because every day you can hear about Muslims doing this and that. Obviously people get affected and afterwards they say that they saw that on TV, so that must be true. Unfortunately, media says that terrorism is Islam. I believe that majority of Muslim people want peace and good life,” says Akhmed (name changed), who works at the kebab shop.

Akhmed hasn’t experienced direct violence in Hungary. He tells that the situation in Germany is much more serious: “Last week I was in Germany, and it was disturbing how much attention I had. It wasn’t like that before Paris attacks. Even the police was acting strange. No one has ever checked my passport so carefully, but now I was travelling through Austria to Germany and they didn’t want to let me through. The police said that I might be a refugee, and that they can’t just let me go. I had my passport with me and other documents. They wasted a lot of my time just because of this.”

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Budapest is a very international city. We meet this student from Turkey (on the left) with his Hungarian friend on the street famous for its “Kebab spots”

A Turkish student who is currently living in Budapest agrees that the attitude towards Muslims has changed: “After Paris attacks I didn’t want to turn on the Internet or watch television. I think this is a power game, but I don’t really know what it is about and who are the players.” He admits that the media is provoking people to think badly about Muslims and to connect their religion with terrorism.

Muslims are giving jobs to Hungarians

Even though people who practice Islam have experienced attacks through media. And most of them disagree that Hungarians are the ones to blame. None of our interviewees have experienced personal insult.

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ARON DEMETER from Amnesty International:Muslim community is quite invisible and it’s mostly situated in Budapest. They are doing quite well here – mostly shop owners, educated people.”

“Muslims are doing quite well here, because they’re educated. Usually they are shop owners. They have regular income, so they’re not relying on state”, Aron Demeter explains that there are very few cases when Muslim rights are being attacked, “There are no clashes between the Hungarian and the Muslim community.”

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AKHMED (name changed): “Media says that terrorism is Islam and that we are the ones to blame. I believe that majority of Muslim people want peace and good life”

Back in the Kebab shop Akhmed agrees that he can feel safe in Hungary: “Many have good business here, in Budapest. I have a friend who is a shop owner and also a Muslim. He has 40 shops in Budapest and another business, where he works together with more than 2000 Hungarian people. He’s giving jobs to Hungarian people.”

 

Report by Anna Urde (Latvia) and Violeta Mihailova (Moldova)

 

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