he police had been patient under the broiling sun. But when the make-believe Haj worshippers draped a black cloth over a mocked up Kaaba, Islam’s holiest symbol, their patience finally snapped.
They moved swiftly to stop the deeply offensive portrayal of the pilgrimage to Mecca after the watching local officials ruled that it broke statutes against defaming religion.
The contentious scenes were the climax of an anti-Islam demonstration provocatively staged outside Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Prague, the Czech capital, 10 days ago. It was the latest in a series of stunts by a fringe far-right group designed to cause the maximum shock.
Political leaders in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland have all rigidly opposed a quota system proposed by the European Union to disperse refugees among members, as advocated by Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the European Commission, the EU’s ruling executive.
Robert Fico, Slovakia’s Left-wing populist prime minister, declared this year that Islam “has no place in Slovakia”, adding that Muslim migrants would “change the face of the country”. True to that belief, Slovakia has so far offered refuge to only around 50 Christian migrants from Iraq.
“With the exception of Hungary, none of these countries has any direct experience of the refugee flow,” he said. “You can see the same trend in the former East Germany. There are far fewer refugees there than in the west, yet it’s the number one issue there.