CAIRO – Hundreds of Czech Muslims staged a protest outside the Czech Interior Ministry in Prague on Friday, May 2, against the police raid on their mosques last week.
“We would like to express our indignation with the way the intervention [was carried out], for the time, the place,” Muneeb Al Rawi, chairman of the Union of Muslim Communities in the Czech Republic (ÚMO), told The Prague Post.
Al Rawi added that the action of the police's Unit for Combating Organized Crime (ÚOOZ) was carried out as “entirely inappropriate” and “utterly uneducated.”
“I would say we’re being victimized because it wasn’t necessary, because always we’re not preventing … authorities in carrying out their acts and duties,” he said.
On Friday, about 300 Muslims gathered to protest last Friday’s police mosque raid.
Listening to speeches, Muslim protesters made religious chants in a show of defiance against what was described as an “entirely inappropriate” raid by officials.
The attack occurred last week when police forces raided the Islamic center on the city’s outskirts during Friday prayers, detaining 20 people and arresting a 55-year-old publisher of a book following accusations of inciting Xenophobia and violence.
The police said the publisher was a 55-year-old Czech citizen who had “The Fundamentals of Tawheed” book translated into Czech.
The publisher faces charges of promoting hate speech, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The book is written by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, a Jamaican-born imam.
Muslims at the prayer gathering held banners with slogans such as “No to racism” and “Just for a book!” with the latter accompanied by a picture of armed riot police.
A number of police members attended the gathering, with additional officers standing outside the front of the Ministry of the Interior building.
In a statement, Al Rawi, who estimated the Czech Republic’s Muslim population to be about 20,000, also said he “fear[ed] that members of the Muslim minority in the Czech Republic might be endangered.”
Authorities should explain why the raid took place and “why it happened in this form,” Al Rawi said, adding that “all legal means” would be used to ensure the “very unpleasant case” was examined.
“We warn against the rise of extremism and anti-Muslim sentiment that such behavior may cause and we are concerned about the wave of Islamophobic comments which appeared after the police intervention,” he said.
Tarek, a 26-year-old Egyptian who has lived in the Czech Republic for two-and-a-half years, added that “Muslims respect every people.”
“I don’t care if you’re Jewish or Christian, our prophet tells us to respect the other religions. That’s it. Everybody here is in peace,” he told The Prague Post.
He also described the police actions during the recent raid as “unbelievable.”
“The Muslims here are afraid to do anything. You can imagine, we have a mosque here that’s smaller than a flat,” he said.
The Czech Republic, which has a population of more than 10 million people, is home to around 15,000 Muslims.
In 2004, Prague acknowledged Islam as an official religion, giving Muslims rights on equal footing to Christians and Jews.
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