Slovakia Christian asylum seekers: Syrian refugees wait for a train to take them to the northern city of Thessaloniki, in Athens, Greece, August 20, 2015. / Alkis Konstantinidis, NewsweekI assume most of my readers are aware that Europe is in the throes of a migrant crisis worse than any since World War II. The European Union has been working over the summer on a plan to take some of the pressure off Greece and Italy, which are the main entry-points for Middle Eastern refugees (WebCite cached article). It’s been bandied about by member states, many of which have balked at it and tried to evade having to participate. They’ve raised all sorts of objections, some valid, some not.

Little Slovakia, deep in the heart of eastern-central Europe, decided to take a religious tactic in its effort to avoid having to accept any of the 40,000 refugees who’re covered by the EU plan. As Newsweek explains, based on a Wall Street Journal report, Slovakia will accept only Christian refugees (cached):

Only Christian asylum seekers will be allowed to settle in Slovakia, according to a spokesperson for the country’s Interior Ministry, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, who has said that Muslim asylum seekers would not feel at home in Slovakia due to a lack of mosques.

The central European country is due to receive 200 migrants and asylum seekers who are currently living in temporary camps in Turkey, Italy and Greece under an EU relocation scheme that will eventually see 40,000 asylum seekers settled across Europe, in an effort to ease the burden on Italy and Greece. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that in July this year 50,242 people, mostly fleeing the civil war in Syria, arrived in Greece compared to 43,500 for the whole of last year.

Slovakia’s Interior Ministry spokesman, Ivan Metik, told the BBC: “We could take 800 Muslims but we don’t have any mosques in Slovakia so how can Muslims be integrated if they are not going to like it here?

Metik makes it sound as though there are no Muslims in Slovakia at all. While it’s true that Slovakia is majority Christian by a large margin (with the single largest denomination, Roman Catholic, alone comprising over 60% of the population), it’s not true there are no Muslims there. This Slovak Spectator story, for example, mentions the small but intrepid Muslim minority there (cached). It explains the reason there are no mosques in that country … because they were forbidden to build one by the government. That makes the assertion that Muslims wouldn’t feel “comfortable” in Slovakia due to a lack of mosques, something of a self-fulfilling prophecy; the people using it as an excuse to keep Muslims out, are the very same people responsible for there being no mosques there the first place!

Furthermore, the idea that Middle Eastern Christians will automatically integrate into Slovak society without any problems, ignores the cultural and linguistic differences that will remain. Not to mention that most Middle Eastern Christians belong to denominations that don’t have much, if any, presence already in Slovakia. In other words … the hurdles to societal integration will be nearly as high for Christian migrants as they would be for Muslims.

I understand Slovakia’s reluctance to accept migrants. Other countries have simply refused to take in any migrants at all and have managed to opt out of the EU plan entirely. This religious objection is just Slovakia’s way of limiting its participation in the plan. But the excuse that Muslims wouldn’t feel comfortable in Slovakia due to a lack of mosques, so that only Christian migrants are welcome, smacks of Christianism. It also smacks of nativism, and perhaps a few other “isms” that aren’t very flattering.

Update: It’s not just Slovakia that won’t take in any Muslims. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban also said Muslims aren’t welcome in his country (cached):

Speaking outside the European Union headquarters in Brussels, he said: “I think we have a right to decide we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country,” al-Jazeera reported.

“We can’t guarantee that you will be accepted,” Orban went on to say, while defending the decision to build a fence along its Serbian border.…

“We Hungarians are full of fear,” Orban said.

A large contingent of migrants who’d entered Hungary and who’d been halted in Budapest have, in the last couple days, moved on to Germany and Austria. So they’re now out of Orbal’s hair. But others are sure to stream in.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

Photo credit: Alkis Konstantinidis, Newsweek.

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