Fact checking Viktor Orbán’s latest speech

I know that some readers found Viktor Orbán’s speech more worthy of analysis than I did. To me, it was just more of the same. I did, however, decide to do some fact checking. Orbán’s assertions about the dangers immigrants pose to European civilization might be technically correct (and, yes, those immigrants include East Europeans, not just people from “alien” cultures), but he conveniently left out details and background information that give us a fuller understanding of the issues.

Image and icons by Amy Crone / Voice of San Diego

Image and icons by Amy Crone / Voice of San Diego

Converting Catholic churches in France into mosques

A good example of this kind of distortion is Orbán’s claim that the situation is already so bad in Europe that Muslims “openly proposed that the French state should hand them Christian churches because they would gladly convert them to mosques.” The implication is that the number of Muslims is so high that they are overtaking France’s Christian population. Well, the story sounds a little different once one takes a look at the media coverage of the case. Dalil Boubakeur, a French Muslim leader, called for “the country’s abandoned Catholic Churches to be turned into mosques.” The French Catholic Church in the last decade closed 60 churches for lack of worshippers. Although 64% of the population describe themselves as Catholic, only about 4.5% (1.9 million) of them regularly attend services. There is a shortage of mosques, and Muslims often have to worship on the streets when the time comes for their prayers. Christian leaders earlier supported Boubakeur’s call for more places of worship. The head of the French Catholic Church only a few months ago told the media that “Muslims should, like Christians and Jews, be able to practice their religion.” There is nothing strange in that. Not too far from where I live a former Hungarian Catholic church is now a day care center and a Presbyterian church was converted into a synagogue.

Immigrant crime in Italy and the Scandinavian countries

To show how dangerous the immigrant population is, Viktor Orbán gave the example of Italy, where, according to him, one-quarter of the crimes that occurred in 2012 were committed by foreigners.

Italy is not the best example to illustrate the alleged gravity of the situation. In fact, it is something of an aberration in Europe, as can be seen from the fact that Italian prisons are extremely overcrowded. Officially prison facilities could house 45,000 men and women, but today 67,000 inmates are crowded into these buildings. A case related to overcrowding reached the European Court of Human Rights, which ordered the government to pay €100,000 to seven inmates who brought the test case. In Italy many people are being jailed for minor crimes. Sixty percent of the inmates are sentenced for less than three years. Thirty-eight percent of all inmates are drug offenders (14% in Germany and France and 15% in England and Wales). The Italian situation is also peculiar due to the inordinate number (42%) of pre-trial detainees (versus a European average of 28.5%). It is true that a large number of the prisoners are foreigners, but these people don’t come exclusively from Africa or the Middle East. A lot of Romanians and Bulgarians entered Italy in the last few years. Currently, there are about 150,000 Gypsies in Italy, largely from Romania, and their relations with the Italians are not free of friction.

Since Orbán also talked about the criminal behavior of foreigners in Sweden, I highly recommend a study published recently on “Immigrants in Norway, Sweden and Denmark” by the Norwegian Bureau of Statistics. After reading this excellent article, one realizes the absurdity of the picture Viktor Orbán paints of Africans raping blonde Swedish girls right and left.

Swedish law doesn’t allow the publication of detailed lists of inmates by nationality, but we know that the percentage of foreigners in the prison population is high in both Norway and Sweden: around 32-33%. And Norway’s detailed statistics about foreign nationals in prison are available. First of all, we are talking about very small numbers. In Norway there are only 3,842 inmates altogether, out of whom the highest number of foreigners (155) are from Poland. Lithuania and Romania follow, with 131 and 128  There are 56 Somalis;  47 each from Sweden, Iraq, and Albania; and 22 each from Denmark and Germany. From the data given in “Immigrants in Norway, Sweden and Denmark,” the ethnic backgrounds of Swedish prisoners are most likely very similar to the Norwegian ones. Both countries suggested at one point that perhaps these inmates could serve their jail terms in their countries of origin. Therefore, I suspect that the vast majority of inmates in both of these countries are not from war-torn parts of the Middle East or Africa.

Definition of rape in Sweden

Comparative criminal statistics are full of pitfalls due to the divergence among judicial systems, laws, levels of law enforcement, and a willingness to report crimes, especially when it comes to rape.

I think I should quote verbatim the passage in which Viktor Orbán brought up the high number of rape cases in Sweden.

And finally we should say a few words about something one should be bashfully silent about on account of political correctness. According to western police statistics, where large numbers of illegal migrants live the rate of criminality drastically rises, and proportionally with it the security of the citizens decreases. I will give you a few thought-provoking examples. According to the statistics of the UN–not the Hungarian government’s, but the United Nations’s–as far as rape cases are concerned, Sweden is in second place right after the South-African Lesotho.

Indeed, a frequently cited source when comparing Swedish rape statistics internationally is the regularly published report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, based on official statistics provided by each member state. The Office itself calls for caution when dealing with these comparative statistics. In Sweden’s case there is a broader definition of what constitutes rape than in most countries, but the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention claims that discrepancies in definitions of rape between Sweden and other countries can be mitigated by the results of yearly surveys conducted by Statistics Sweden. Here are some of the questions from the surveys: “Were you threatened last year in such a way that you were frightened?” “Are you anxious about crime in society?””What is the extent of your confidence in the way the police carry out their work?” According to criminologists, these surveys are better indicators of the level of criminal activities in a given country than the police reports submitted by the member countries to the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime. On the basis of these surveys coming from ten different European countries, it can be safely said that “Sweden does not top the list.” In fact, it stands “around the average mark, which is also the case for assaults and threats, despite the fact that compared to other countries, we have many such crimes reported.”

It is almost certain that Sweden’s broader definition of rape is responsible for the high numbers reported to the United Nations. Rape cases have been on the rise since 2005, when Sweden reformed its sex crime legislation. In addition, the Swedish police have improved the handling of rape cases in an effort to decrease the number of unreported cases. Sweden’s statistics simply cannot be compared to those of Lesotho. In fact, a European Union survey on sexual violence against women, published by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention in 2014, placed Sweden below Denmark and Finland.

I might add that according to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, in 2013 70,326 men and women were found guilty of crimes. By the fall of 2014, 18,439 people were behind bars. Italy with a population of 60 million has 67,000 inmates, while Hungary with 10 million has almost 20,000. It looks as if Hungary does not need immigrants to compete with Italy when it comes to crime and punishment. So much for Viktor Orbán’s attempt to causally link immigration and crime.

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Member
Perhaps people in the Caribbean Islands, Central America and South America could have written similar anti-immigration opinions as the viktor and others, soon after Columbus discovered them, rejecting different cultures of the immigrants from Spain, Portugal, other European nations. Once the conquistadors (Castilian migrants) began to arrive by the tens of thousands, under the leadership of naturalized** Castilians, the native Indian cultures and religions were destroyed. Millions were killed, not so much with weapons, but with the diseases the “cultured Europeans” brought with them. These tens of thousands of migrants destroyed the civilizations in the Americas They were commandeered among others by the Greek Ioannis Fokás (Juan de Fuca, the Straight between Vancouver Island and Washington State was named after him) Germans, like Nicolaus Federmann (Nicolás de Federmán), Georg von Speyer (Jorge de la Espira), Eusebius Franz Kühn (Eusebio Francisco Kino) Venetian Sebastian Cabot, the Czech Jesuit Wenceslaus Linck (Wenceslas Linck), Croatian Jesuit Ferdinand Konščak, (Fernando Consag), or even Amerigo Vespucci, and real Castilians like, Hernán Cortes and Francisco Pizarro. And all these migrants had a different religion too, which they forced upon the Indians with fire and iron. And this is only one such incident in the tens of… Read more »
Lutra lutra
Guest

Does Orbán’s latest tirade qualify under the Criminal Code as hate speech? It would take a brave prosecutor to launch a procedure but still…

Member

Never mind the Criminal Code. It’s how it’s interpreted. As shown a couple of years ago, in connection with one of Zsolt Bayer’s hate tirades (“Gypsies are animals and don’t deserve to live”), Hungarian courts will not take action unless the danger of violence is concrete and imminent ( http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130110_Elutasitotta_az_ugyeszseg_a_Byer_Zsolt_el ).

Lutra lutra
Guest

True, but considering the ugly scenes in Szeged and elsewhere that have already taken place then I think you can make a better case for “clear and present danger” than over Bayer’s typical rants.

LwiiH
Guest

Italy is by far a model for anything legal. It is well known that you don’t want to have any involvement with Italy’s legal system if you are visiting. The Amanda Knox case maybe an extreme example of things gone wrong but there are plenty of other cases where one can see prejudice against foreigners in the system.

Guest
Re: “Unless the immigrants will be treated humanely, fairly and they will be encouraged to learn assimilate and Europeans learn and accept part of their culture, a disaster is in the making now. A clash of civilizations and cultures” I’d think this is of much import in the future of Europe for the next few decades and centuries. Fact is the Catholic Church and Christianity in general appears to have seen their best days behind them on the continent. Growth for Christianity is now to be in Latin America. Fact is Islam is now one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Fact is we are in a new ‘secular’ age of belief and ‘militant’ atheism is on the rise. In terms of my religious upbringing this is a great change. And this is now the world Orban in ‘Christian’ Hungary is trying to deal with it. His strategy is poor, awkward and oblique. Time for him to call an ‘Edict’ of Budapest involving both clerics and the secular areas of society to discuss the role of Christianity, the social contract with refugees, the rise of Islam and the extent of their combined future effects on the country. Things… Read more »
MusicLover
Guest

Rikard, what do you mean by “militant atheism”? I’ve never understood why assertions based on personal faith are somehow ring fenced from scrutiny which is what I suspect you are hinting at. But perhaps I misunderstand you.

Guest

Re: ‘Militant’ atheism.

From my perspective, it is the fact that some atheists are now boldly arguing the ‘no-God’ mantra where before they would not be so public and forthright in their denunciation of religious beliefs. Today some atheists do not hide their distaste for religions. All of this really comes from the rise of the secular in societies.

We are in a different theological and social climate today. Is ‘God dead’ as Nietzsche so loudly declared? Well I’m not so sure but some think the ‘entity’ is ill and needs to be dispensed with. Of course this has great consequences for cultures and societies as they move through their futures.

In any case, the religious and the secular areas of our societies are undergoing change and atheism is part of that. It will be interesting to see how future societies develop in that context especially Hungary with its avowed Christian orientation in the face of all that change.

MusicLover
Guest

RIkard, not sure which country you mean but in the UK, atheists have been perfectly forthright in what they believe for a hundred years (Bertrand Russell, JBS Haldane et al). The only thing that has changed is that they are probably in the majority now. And if there is no God (and no one has produced any remotely credible evidence that there is), why shouldn’t people regard religions with distaste, not least when you see how abysmally they treat women etc.)

Guest

And anyway religions treat other religions in ways we atheists would never dream of!
And of course different shades of the same religion are known to have treated other shades even worse, like Catholics vs Protestants …

PS and rather OT:
So maybe I was lucky to be one of the children of a “mixed marriage” (father Protestant, mother Catholic – but not really much into it obviously …)?

spectator
Guest

I am entirely sure that mixing religion with the state – any religion with any state – just plain wrong.

We are living (still?) in secular states, where the practical and ideological segments of life clearly separated. Otherwise I don’t really see significant difference between all of those religious fundamentalists all over, their effect on the everyday life of the people only varies from bad to worse, regardless of religion. No civilised way to go there, honestly!

Thanks God, I’m ateist!

Guest

Wow, .are atheists truly in the majority in the UK now? In the U.S. I know the group has made strides but I’d think they still represent a minority point of view in belief. I’d think those who are affiliated with religious denominations still represent a higher percentage of the population than atheists here. The U.S. still is a very ‘religious’ country.

As for viewing ‘religions with distaste’ I understand the point of view as a developed opinion. What I have a hard time taking in is that some atheists want to remove religion altogether as a form of inquiry from the face of the earth. For me that seems to clash head on with letting religion exist in pluralistic and democratic societies. It would appear the secular wants to wipe out the theological. Kind of undemocratic if you get the drift.

spectator
Guest

Rikard, I guess you missed some significant details in my comment.

Starting wit the first sentence, where I expressed no wish to interfere with religious freedom, which is in my opinion guarantee the democratic rights of religious people in democratic societies.
Any further rights (privileges) however will exceed the democratic framework as I see it, that’s why – in my opinion – its undesirable.

In another sentence I referred to religious fundamentalism – which isn’t any way progressive nor valuable – once again: in my opinion.

To me religion and sexual preferences belong to anyone’s private matter, – and I expect to be left out of it. However, I’ll do all in my power to ensure that each and every individual have the right and the freedom to live in peace to exercise it.

Guest

Re: “In another sentence I referred to religious fundamentalism – which isn’t any way progressive nor valuable – once again: in my opinion”

And I agree. And further I am with you in your last paragraph. I believe ultimately it appears we are both on the same page as it comes to bear on points involving unfettered freedom when it comes to personal beliefs. I hope all our efforts will perhaps in some way get the country out of its miasma. Thanks for hearing me out and my position.

Guest

@MusicLover
July 28, 2015 at 11:09 am

Not to mention widespread horrible child abuse, sexual or otherwise …….

Guest
Re: ‘..widespread child abuse etc’ I don’t deny it. In fact, I abhor it. On the other hand I’d submit religion is a valid mode of human intellectual inquiry to make sense of our existence. Where the secular is materialist the religious is philosophical and spiritual. To proscribe the latter in any way is in my opinion the way of an authoritarian mindset and I detest it. To link religion with Hungary today I find fascinating. Here we have a country that is not ‘atheistic’ (maybe it once was under the communists ) but rather professes a proud seemingly fierce ‘Christian’ tradition yet we see such moral ambivalence in its behavior. Certainly a disjunct for Christianity aims for a viable community life within a ‘family’. It strives for the ‘good’ of society. Really we don’t see that at all Orban’s Hungary. So in my opinion what we are seeing is not ‘real’ Christianity but sort of a new and hybrid Magyar Christianity for the age put together by a group of Orbanists who theologically see things much differently through their cloudy and blinkered stained glass. Unfortunately, religion gets hijacked by these sort who distort its messages. We see it now… Read more »
Guest
@Rikard July 29, 2015 at 11:54 am “Where the secular is materialist the religious is philosophical and spiritual.” I would strongly dispute that one needs to be religious to be philosophical and spiritual. Let us not confuse mindless materialism, which is an irrelevance, and secular atheism (or humanism or agnosticism), which are not. Matters of mind and heart are just as important for a secular atheist free of religious dogma, as they are for a religious person tied to one or another set of religious doctrines. But I would go further and confidently assert that philosophy and spiritual matters, love, ethics and aesthetics become incomparably more important when there is no after-life to look forward to. We are born onto this, to us most beautiful shimmering blue and emerald world suspended by gravity in an empty universe, therefore this lifetime is that which we must make the best of, and this lifetime is what we must cherish and appreciate to the full in the company of our fellow men, women and children, because there is no other. This, I would venture, is the atheist credo. No one has ever explained this more lucidly and compellingly than Bertrand Russel. The Biblical… Read more »
Guest
Mike: You must be a great boxer! You are always in the ring!..;-)… You know just for background I was born and raised Catholic in a Magyar family. Schooled at ‘St Stephen of Hungary’ in NYC wonderfully in the ‘subjects’ including ‘religion’ (atheism of course was a no-no) by Magyar Franciscans. The nuns taught me much and grounded me in those ‘basics’ that help one get on to explore the world. I owe them all much as I went on to future studies since they planted the seeds of curiosity in my mind. With all that I never will forget them. So on that score I do have a much different connection than some like yourself and others have to ‘religion’. For me it has helped me forge my way through life. We all take different paths to insights as it shows by what we eventually believe or take upon ourselves as we go through the world. ‘Where the secular is materialist the religious is philosophical and spiritual’. Was I suggesting there that only the religious can be philosophical and spiritual? There I wanted to note that the secular and religious have different orientations to intellectual inquiry. So religion speaks… Read more »
Guest

@Rikard
July 29, 2015 at 2:08 pm

I understand. Well said and cogently put.

Guest

And thanks to you and others here for helping to make sure we don’t use our heads simply as hat racks when discussing some difficult problems of our modern age….;-)…

ER1956
Guest

The Hungarian regime has lost all credibility.
Its liberal use of Catholicism is a tool to fool the worlds.
The incompetent USA and European diplomats lazily overlooked the rise of this criminal development.

Guest

@MusicLover
July 28, 2015 at 11:09 am

Hear, hear!

Religion? Medieval nonsense and hocus-pocus, and an arena for control freaks and purveyors of tales of the tooth fairy. It definitely had a positive role in the Middle Ages in rescuing the last shreds of Greco-Roman civilization from barbarism compared to which the Islamic State today is but a vicarage tea party, but today it mainly serves as a disgusting motivator for religious wars, ethnic conflicts, appalling cruelty, vicious abuse of women, horrible abuse of children, and unctious pronouncements ranging from the mealy-mouthed to the vicious. A worthy equal to pernicious secular ideologies like Communism or Fascism that between them managed to murder well over two hundred million innocent people during the past century..

LwiiH
Guest

IIRC, that is a term coined by Richard Dawkins. In fact he has a TED talk on the subject. More recently there have been a number of documentaries on the the subject of science under siege by both religious and political centres. It’s a right wing thing to want to tightly control messages and since you can’t control science, the current trend is to muzzle it. The ironic thing is that those trying to muzzling the climate have the most to lose by not allowing the science to speak. The Florida governments position on the subject is at odds with what is happening and will actually cause a lot of wealthy people to become Eco refugees. Maybe they will want to relocate to Hungary when it becomes beach front on the Adriatic.

Member

I agree with Eva that Orban’s speech is the “same old, same old”. I am so familiar with his frame of mind by now that I could write his speeches day by day. Take a spoonful of scare tactics, mix it with a good dose of nationalism, add some false information, and cook it up with some stereotype. Sell it to the misinformed, the uneducated, and the bribed. You get success.

For me every speech by Orban is like waking up in the movie of Groundhog Day. Does not worth to analyze.

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