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Post Controversy Surrounding New Constitution; Muslims in Hungary
Created by John Eipper on 02/09/12 4:30 AM

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Controversy Surrounding New Constitution; Muslims in Hungary (George Krajcsik, USA, 02/09/12 4:30 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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