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Post Controversy Surrounding New Constitution; Muslims in Hungary
Created by John Eipper on 02/08/12 2:01 AM

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Controversy Surrounding New Constitution; Muslims in Hungary (Vincent Littrell, USA, 02/08/12 2:01 am)

I have found the responses to my post of Nigel Jones (6 February) and Alain de Benoist (7 February) most interesting, though I confess they took the conversation in a direction I didn't intend. John Eipper is correct; my focus was primarily the religious aspect. A direct question I have is, what is the state of Islam in Hungary? I do have some thoughts.

Alain clearly brushes aside the subject of religion and gives nationalism its due while rightfully upholding the rights of independent Hungary to make its own constitution. (I think there are subtle complexities to the idea of national self-determination Alain doesn't touch on, having to do with the what I deem to be requirements of high moral philosophy and spirituality underpinning efforts towards national self-determination in concert with accepted human rights norms.)

What are the underlying sources of moral philosophy for the current party in power enacting these constitutional changes in Hungary? I suspect the moral foundations in question are underpinned by a myopia of vision that undermines the intent of the EU overall and might find antecedents in the toxic nationalism to be found in Hungary and other places in Eastern Europe that has contributed to traditional antipathies that provide a backdrop to ethnically oriented problematics and outright atrocity. (Some years ago I had one Budapest-born Hungarian friend who was a spiritually deep Christian adhering to a universalist and highly ecumenical branch of Christendom, yet when the issue of Romanians came up, this person couldn't contain a powerful expression of outright visceral hatred...and this was a well-educated and well-traveled person.)

Does the Hungarian constitution fall in line with the Charter of Human Rights for the European Union? (See http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2007:303:0001:0016:EN:PDF )

Regarding religion in Hungary, on the surface it may appear that the new constitution is in line with the EU Human Rights Charter Article 10, which states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes
freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance."

At a deeper level, it might be that the constitution sets up conditions for future nationalist-derived resistance to non-recognized religion in Hungary. Such constitutional exclusions of established religion could have harmful reverberations across the EU and with relations with the Muslim world, unless checked. In regards to Islam in Hungary, signs of cultural and nationalist resistance to Islam can be found, similiar to right-wing backlash to Islam in other European countries. As far as I can tell, Muslims in Hungary are far and away a minority. A 2001 figure I ran across showed there to be fewer than 6,000 Muslims in Hungary. It appears that Muslims for a number of reasons have been blocked from building a cultural center in Budapest.

If there are so few Muslims in Hungary now, and of course with continuing historical reflections of past Ottoman barbarity in what is now Hungary, as well as increasing Islamophobia overall in Europe, it makes sense from a nationalist perspective that there might be lack of knowledge, even uninformed antipathy, towards Islam in Hungary. Yesterday I was reading online about the conversion of a Hungarian woman to Islam and the unpleasant treatment meted out to her by family and friends. If cultural and nationalistic myopia get in the way of acceptance of "the other" as co-equal in ontological terms, then it is to be resisted and I applaud the EU institutions for appearing to do so, despite the flaws inherent to those institutions so well pointed out by Nigel Jones.

This post has gone on long enough. I would like to say though that I do view the EU as part of an inexorable process of necessary transcending of sovereignty. I also confess to having what some might term as a world view rooted in antinomy. An antinomial world view is one that views appearance of contradiction being rooted in a providential mystery (see Malcolm Magee's "Woodrow Wilson, Wilsonianism, and the Idealism of Faith" in the Winter 2011 issue of Faith & International Affairs for an interesting discussion of this concept of "antinomy" as it related to President Wilson's world view and foreign policy). The undemocratic nature of regional and global entities like the European Union and the United Nations doesn't in my view negate their status and ability to check the myopic particularisms of nationalistic thought and action. The lack of democratic nature to the United Nations so recently exemplified by Russia's and China's ability to reject the effort to condemn the Syrian regime doesn't negate the UN in my view. The UN is still an absolutely vital aspect to the evolving world order, despite its flaws and then need for reform. I hold a similar view to the EU.

JE comments:  Budapest was Ottoman-controlled for 140 years, through 1686.  I suspect this memory has inscribed a lasting anti-Muslim sentiment in the Hungarian capital.  (As in Spain, there must be folk legends about the Muslim "other"; perhaps George Krajcsik could share some examples.)  On the other hand, Hungary's history gives it even less justification to de-certify Islam in its constitution, given that Islam is literally one of its heritage religions.


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  • Controversy Surrounding New Constitution; Muslims in Hungary (George Krajcsik, USA 02/09/12 4:07 AM)
    My understanding of the question of "authorized" religions or sects in the Hungarian Constitution is as follows. Authorized religions receive support from government, non-authorized religions do not. Further, one of the conditions of "authorization" is having a presence in the country for at least ten years. No religion is barred, but for support it can't look to the government even though it might operate schools, hospitals, or other charitable institutions.

    I do not follow Edward Jajko's comment (7 February) about Hungarians having forgotten Cardinal Mindszenty. How?


    On my one and only visit to Santiago, Chile (November, 2005) I failed to go see the Mindszenty memorial. On the other hand, I joined a travel group to Valparaiso and saw Pablo Neruda's house. How ironic I visited an arch-communist's memorial, but failed to pay homage to a man of conscience, victim of communism, and fellow countryman. I must correct that and go to Chile, again!


    And now, in response to Vincent Littrell (8 February):


    Over the past 45 years I have visited Hungary and some of its lost territories (in its surrounding countries) every year for weeks at a time. This gave me an insight that few non-Hungarians would have. Based on these experiences I make the following observations.


    Muslims in Hungary, though few in numbers, enjoy the same religious freedom as any other religion. The new constitution does not contradict Article 10 in The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion). Still, Islam is not an "authorized" religion for a number of historical reasons, which simply means it receives no government support, but it is by no means forbidden.


    Muslims who presently live in Hungary are all recent immigrants from Turkey, Iran, or Arab countries. They are few in numbers; Hungarians who converted to Islam are practically non-existent. The Ottoman empire carrying the banner of Islam held sway over 2/3 of Hungarian territory from 1526 to 1686. Of that long reign of terror, only a handful of words adopted into Hungarian and fewer than half a dozen non-functional minarets as tourist curiosities survive to this day, plus the memory of eradication of population in the southern part of Hungary. Hungarians considered themselves a shield of Christendom and saviors of Western Culture, especially after a number of unsuccessful crusades against the Ottomans conducted shortly before the conquest of Constantinople and up to the time of the fall of Nándorfehérvár (today Belgrade) in 1521. In 1526, after the battle of Mohacs, Hungary ceased to exist as an independent nation for nearly 400 years. Between a rock and a hard place--forgive the cliche--Muslims and Germans, Hungarians survived.


    After a vicious anti-reformation movement, led by Peter Pazmany, which converted 65% of the population to Catholicism, came German and Polish troops to aid Hungarians to drive the Muslims from Hungary.


    Into the southern part of Hungary, made desolate by Ottoman conquest, poured semi-nomadic families from Wallachia and Serbia. These people would graze their sheep and cattle on mountain meadows, where they would also hide, living in tents and burrows dug into hillsides, and periodically descend to towns to rob, murder, and pillage. Most of these people were eventually assimilated and became more "Hungarian" than the Hungarian themselves. Consider, for example, Petöfi Sándor the poet whose family name was Petrovic, indicating Serbian origin.


    As to the "visceral hatred" exhibited by Vincent Littrell's Budapest-born friend, being a well-traveled, ecumenical Christian, I can only say he is to be pitied. The Treaty of Trianon (after WWI) is considered unjust by a very large percentage of Hungarians, because it awarded nearly half of Hungarian territory to Rumania. Vincent's friend's misguided emotions may be attributed to that.


    On a related issue: why should any nation give up its right to its way of life? Must every club accept anyone who wants to join?


    JE comments: I'm very grateful to George Krajcsik for this lesson in Hungarian history. Steve Torok used to treat us to the Hungarian perspective quite frequently. How much I miss Steve!  It's hard to believe that he's been gone for nearly four years.


    And yes, George: you must return to Chile soon! I plan to do just that on my next opportunity--and stay for more than three days. (And to anyone who has the chance: don't miss the Neruda house in Valparaíso: five stories, and five rooms. Whatever your politics, it's one of the most unique and charming dwellings you'll ever see.  I was struck by the transparent glass door on the bathroom.  Don't know why anyone would want that.)

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