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Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.

Xenophobic Rhetoric

Xenophobic Rhetoric The leader of the radical nationalist party "Jobbik" Gabor Vona.

During 2015, Hungarian sentiments were dictated by the refugee crisis. This topic has been actively used by the Government, the ruling Fidesz party and the far-right Jobbik party, in order to benefit from the xenophobic and anti-immigrant attitudes. As a result, statements by leading government officials and politicians prompted political discourse in a more xenophobic and radical direction.

The initiator of radicalisation in January 2015 was Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his right-wing populist party Fides. When mentioning asylum seekers in Hungary, government officials and politicians of Fidesz used the terms "economic immigrants" and "illegal immigrants" intentionally and consistently, suggesting that all migrants left their homeland for economic reasons and they only pretend to be refugees. They did not make any distinction between people coming from the war zone and having a prospect of refugee status and people who do not originate from crisis areas and whose chances of obtaining refugee status were rather low.

Thus, the government was guided by political motives, forming an image in the society of a "common enemy" against which the government is taking decisive action to protect the nation. In order to dominate the public debate, the government has done everything possible to split the political spectrum into two camps: those who supposedly serves the national interests, and therefore opposes immigration and refugees, and those who support the migration and, consequently, are "betraying Hungarian interests".

The anti-immigration policy of the government and the ruling Fides Party was launched by Prime Minister Orban in January 2015, when he took part in the procession dedicated to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. On this day, he told the Hungarian news agency (MTI) that immigration is a bad thing for Europe, as it brings only trouble and danger to the peoples inhabiting it. "We [the Hungarians]," he said, "do not want to see a significant minority with different cultural characteristics among us. We want to preserve Hungary as Hungary. "

Just the next day, Antal Rohan, leader of Fidesz parliamentary faction, made anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant statements about how Muslim communities are changing the internal order of the Christian countries of Western Europe and that it is not in Hungary's interest to accept economic migrants with traditions that are completely different to Hungarian.

On the initiative of Fidesz, Hungarian parliament held a debate on February 20 to discuss the refugee crisis. During the discussion titled "Hungary does not need economic immigrants," Fidesz MPs took advantage of the sharp rise in anti-immigrant sentiments, including the most popular and widespread prejudices against refugees: they used crude terms to describe refugees and demonise them. In the views of Fidesz legislators, immigrants are pretending to be refugees, massively abuse international law, spread diseases, commit arson, commit thefts and violent crimes.

After a sharp rhetoric, the government turned to action and launched the so-called "National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism" in April 2015. According to the government, the "consultation", which consisted of a questionnaire with twelve questions sent by mail to every citizen over the age of 18 (more than 8 million questionnaires were sent), was aimed at preparing stricter immigration regulations. In the preface to the questionnaire signed by V.Orban, asylum-seekers were again described as "economic migrants". It was argued that "economic migrants cross the border illegally, pretending that they are refugees, while in fact they are looking for social benefits and jobs."

According to the prime minister, a growing number of "economic migrants" creates a new type of threat for Hungary. "Since Brussels failed in dealing with immigration," it was written in the appeal, "Hungary must follow its own path. [...] We do not need economic migrants that threaten the jobs and livelihoods of the Hungarian people." After this prejudicial introduction, citizens were asked to answer questions and return the questionnaire to the government. In fact, these consultations that were presented as a survey or a scientific poll, were essentially means of undisguised voter pressure. For example, question 3 of the questionnaire said: "According to some information, immigration, which Brussels is failing to handle, is connected with growth of terrorism. Do you agree with this opinion? "; Question 12: "Do you agree with the Hungarian government that instead of supporting immigrants, it is necessary to support Hungarian families with children?"

The consultations were criticized both domestically (for example, by opposition parties and NGOs) and internationally (for example, by the European Commission, various members of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, UNHCR). During the plenary discussion on the situation in Hungary in the European Parliament on May 19, the first vice-president of the European Commission Franz Timmermancz said that "public consultations based on biased even misleading questions on prejudices about immigrants cannot be considered as fair and objective basis for the development of a sound policy. Framing immigration in the context of terrorism, portraying migrants as a threat to jobs and people's livelihood is malicious and simply wrong. It will only encourage misconceptions and prejudices".

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Muižnieks, stated that the content of the questionnaire was "unacceptable" and was aimed at supporting "intolerance against migrants". He called on the government to adopt a "more humane approach to migration issues that fits with the principles of human rights".

On May 8, the UNHCR Regional Representative for Central Europe, Montserrat F. Ville, spoke against the growth of xenophobia in Hungary and expressed concern about the wording of the questionnaire, stating that “questions deliberately put refugees and asylum-seekers on the same board as the so-called economic migrants and mistakenly blame refugees for alleged threats to Hungary and Europe.” In general, the anti-immigration campaign of the government in 2015 used populist and xenophobic rhetoric, which resembles messages of extreme right-wing politicians in other European countries. The Hungarian government linked migration with terrorism, crime and unemployment. Government officials accused migrants of spreading diseases, committing crimes, stealing jobs from Hungarians. A very good example was presented by Laslo Pósán, a Fidesz MP, who said during a press conference in April that political correctness is only suitable for suppressing real problems and for listing crimes committed by refugees in the Debrecen refugee camp. He posed a rhetorical question: who would be happy if his / her child was surrounded by "six black Africans of menacing appearance and behaviour" while traveling home on the bus?

The next act of anti-immigration campaign of the government was an advertising campaign, launched in June. Billboards appeared all over the country and contain three types of messages:

  1. "If you come to Hungary, you must respect our culture."
  2. "If you come to Hungary, you must respect our laws."
  3. "If you come to Hungary, you cannot take Hungarian jobs."

Despite the fact that government officials insisted that the campaign was aimed at migrants and traffickers, billboards appeared only in Hungarian and only in Hungary. This fact leads to the obvious conclusion that this advertising campaign pursued purely domestic policy goals. Public media, which in many cases were influenced by the government, reported the refugee crisis in a biased and one-dimensional manner that fomented hatred and xenophobic sentiments. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (WCC) objected to this practice in a letter addressed to the chairmen of the state media in June 2015. According to the HCC, the state mass media refer to refugees as scapegoats and present them as disgusting and terrible people who harm Hungary.

Government officials often used the topic of Roma integration as an excuse for why Hungary is not able to accept any "economic migrants". A striking example was the comment of the Minister of Justice Laslo Trócsányi, who, during a discussion of the European Union's migration quota system, said in an Inforádió interview in May 2015 that Hungary cannot accept any more "economic migrants", since the integration of 800,000 Roma already creates a huge burden for the country.

Bela Lakatos, a member of the Fides Party and leader of the Roma community, called Trócsányi’s comment unacceptable. In his opinion, his statement incites anti-Roma sentiments, suggesting that due to the large amount of money spent on Roma integration, the country is not in a position to finance other social programs. Opposition parties, except Jobbik, called on the Minister of Justice to resign. In response, the minister said that he "immediately rejects" outrageous" and "groundless" accusations against him. Trotsani said that caring for the Roma population in Hungary is a priority and "moral duty”. He added that he was proud of the fact that Hungary has adopted the European strategy for the Roma integration during its EU presidency.

Xenophobic rhetoric against the LGBT community was also reported on the part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In May 2015, answering a question on why the Hungarian government made no statements on the International Day on combatting homophobia, he said: "Hungary is a serious country. It is principally based on traditional values. Hungary is a tolerant country. Tolerance, however, does not mean that we will apply the same laws to people whose way of life is different from our own. We make a clear distinction between them and us.”

Another major incident occurred in connection with the annual LGBT parade called Budapest Pride. A month before this event, mayor of Budapest Stván Tarlós and mayor of the 8th district of Budapest Máté Kocsis (both members of the ruling Fidesz party) made negative comments about this parade. According to Kocsis, this event should not be held in the zone of the world cultural heritage, instead it should take place in the parking lot of a wholesale market, for example. A week later, Mr. Tarlós said that "he does not understand why the parade is a good thing,” and that he is afraid that this event is not worthy of the historical site that is Andrassy Avenue, where it was held. He added that he found the whole phenomenon in general “unnatural” and “disgusting”.

The government’s rhetoric regarding asylum-seekers in 2017 followed exactly the same pattern as in 2015 and 2016. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán launched a harsh and massive anti-immigration campaign back in January 2015, right after the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Since then, migration has become the central topic for the Hungarian government that has been doing everything to keep the issue on the top of the political agenda. 2017 clearly showed that the government held onto this and to only this topic in the campaign for the national elections to be held in 2018. However, in 2017 the government had to solve the same problem which it successfully did in 2016: to talk about migrants in a country where there are practically no migrants.

The rhetoric of the government and members of the ruling party also has not changed much. The topic of migration, as already mentioned, has been framed in the context of security where migrants pose a security threat not only to the individual citizens but to the Hungarian state and nation, the European culture, Christianity and the whole Western world order. Another important element has been national sovereignty, meaning that the Hungarian government has to and does protect the Hungarian people from forced migration allegedly imposed by the European Union and behind it the mastermind, George Soros. As the campaign went on in full swing throughout the whole year, it is impossible to list all its instances. However, here are some illustrative examples.

In January 2017, PM Viktor Orbán delivered a speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the so-called “border hunters” and this speech illustrates very well the aforementioned elements of the government’s rhetoric concerning immigration. The Prime Minister started his speech by saying: “[y]ou today swore to defend the borders of Hungary, the security of Hungarian homes. With this act, you also defend Europe […].” He warned his audience that “terror attacks, riots, violence, crime, ethnic and cultural clashes are all warnings for us that those who come do not want to live our lives. They want to continue living their own lives, just on a European standard of living […].” Then he continued: “Nowhere do human rights prescribes national suicide. Moreover, since there are terrorists among the illegal migrants, innocent people have died in many European countries, paying for the weaknesses of their leaders. [...] The truth is, that illegal and unlimited migration threatens the safety of our everyday life, economy and culture at the same time.”

In February, in his address to the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Viktor Orbán said that he “find[s] it important to preserve the ethnic homogeneity [of Hungary].” Then he continued: “By now one can say such things. A few years ago one could be executed for such sentences, but today one can say it because life confirmed that too much mixing brings trouble.” Orbán also said that he is convinced that if “we manage to uphold the [country’s] ethnic homogeneity and its cultural uniformity, then Hungary will be upgraded as a place. Hungary will be the kind of place that will be able to show other, more developed countries what they lost.” In May, in connection to the Manchester terror attack, Bence Tuzson, undersecretary in charge of government communications in the prime minister’s office gave an interview to the state-run radio. He emphasised that there is “close connection between immigration and terrorism.” In October, Fidesz MEP and European People’s Party Deputy Chairman József Szájer compared refugees to zombies from Game of Thrones when he held a town hall forum in Eger He said the following: “[A]llow me to refer to ‘Game of Thrones’. The last season is about the conquest of the Army of the Dead, which seeks to overrun the world. This, of course, is a silly story, but the issue here is whether those who are in trouble and who have been fighting with each other can unite against the greater threat.”

In connection with the anti-immigration campaign, the main target of governmental hate speech was George Soros, the Hungarian-American billionaire. As in 2016, the government portrayed Mr. Soros as a machinator and conspirator, part of the “background power”, and has been accusing him of supporting, financing and organising migration to Europe in order to spread his utopic vision of a world free of all kinds of borders and sovereignty, and to destroy nation states so that the interests of global businesses would triumph over those of nations and people. In October, KDNP MP András Aradszki in his speech in Parliament went as far as comparing Soros to Satan. He, among others, said the following: “We see the great European attacks against families, in which Soros and his comrades want to destroy the independence and values of nation states to water down the Christian spirit of Europe with the forced settlement of tens of millions of migrants. But the fight against Satan is a Christian duty. Yes, I speak of an attack by Satan, who is also the angel of denial, because they are denying what they are preparing to do – even when it is completely obvious. They frantically try to prove that there is no quota, there is no compulsory settlement, and the Soros Plan does not exist.” In December, Csepel deputy mayor Attila Ábel compared Soros to Hitler and Stalin on Facebook by saying that “Adolf Hitler, Stalin and Soros share a very strong trait: they all imposed, impose their system on others without asking them.” When a commenter found this comparison too extreme, he replied: “Stalin killed many more people. Doesn’t that count? It’s possible that Soros easily has as many victims. The world is not addressing what it should be [addressing]. Africa and Asia’s problems cannot be resolved in Europe.”

Representatives of the Hungarian government made numerous humiliating comments about the Roma in 2017. At an event of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK), Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the implementation of the basic wage is an “unimaginable” programme in Hungary because “Hungary’s ethnic composition is complicated. Thus it is not an easy question.” Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén later said that he could name a group of people who have never paid a single dime in taxes, but it would be absurd to say they should not have the right to vote. Zoltán Balog told the European regional committee of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that many Roma cannot “meet the ‘threshold’ to access the [healthcare] provision system because of their different lifestyles” which means that the Roma must be given a “sociocultural background” that “pushes them over the obstacles.” These statements show that despite rhetorical support for the equality of the Roma, the Orbán government considers the group a problem rather than a resource.

In September 2017, PM Orbán talked about “Islamic world offence” in the National Assembly. The Hungarian Muslim Defence League made an official statement condemning what the prime minister had said.

In October, as we already mentioned, a protest of some activists of the Hungarian Generation Identity took place. They placed an eight-meter-long banner on the top of the Buda Tunnel, reading “Islamisation kills.” According to the chairman of the movement, “Islamisation starts with a single mosque.” In October, Deputy Prime Minister and Chair of the Christian Democratic Party (KDNP) Zsolt Semjén held a town hall forum on the National Consultation and the so-called Soros Plan in Zalaegerszeg, a city in Western Hungary. After the usual mantra on migration, George Soros and the EU, he also talked about Islam, saying that “[w]here Islam appears, Sharia must be introduced even among non-Muslims.” “He recalled an occasion when a ‘[Budapest] Pride man’ attacked him, namely how could the government oppose immigration when multiculturalism is great. Semjén claimed that he answered, ‘just try to hold a Pride there, you will be the first to be beheaded, we Christians will be at the end of the queue.’” He also gave an interview to Magyar Nemzet, a conservative Hungarian daily after the forum. He said the following: “If we want to protect women from rape and a woman to be able to live as a woman, wear a miniskirt, go without a headscarf and live freely as a women, then the most important thing is to stop migration don’t let it be that because of Islam we should live in the shadow of Sharia and its threat”

In November 2017, Fidesz politician and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Gergely Gulyás told in a television program on the far-right Echo TV, that “there will be no mosques in Hungary.” He made this statement after the host of the program, Zsolt Bayer, a well-known hate-filled racist journalist, said that “troubles are coming with mosques”. Gulyás added: “We have to make it clear that in the current situation this [having mosques] would have negative consequences on our security. We are sorry for those who are the losers of this, but we cannot change our mind, because it is not just the question of the freedom of religion, but the question of the security of a whole country.”

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