A town council on the Serb-Hungarian border takes care of Muslims and gays

At the end of November a bizarre news item appeared: the council of Ásotthalom, a village of 4,000 inhabitants adjacent to the Serb-Hungarian border, passed a series of ordinances that forbade building mosques, wearing the burka, all activities of muezzins and, for good measure, the “propagation of gay marriage” and any publicity given to “opinions about the family different from the definition in the constitution.” Just to remind readers, the so-called “Fundamental law”–that is, the new Fidesz constitution–states that “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation.”

The mayor of Ásotthalom is the infamous László Toroczkai, who ten years ago led the assault against the headquarters of MTV, Hungary’s public television station. He even has a brief English-language Wikipedia entry in which he is described as “the founder of the far-right 64 Counties Youth Movement (HVIM).” He is, as the name of his organization demonstrates, a Hungarian irredentist, who as a result of his activities in the neighboring countries has been banned from Slovakia, Romania, and Serbia. I wrote several times about Toroczkai and his involvement in a host of far-right, neo-Nazi organizations. His affiliations and activities were obviously not viewed as a political liability in the village, however. He was elected mayor of Ásotthalom in a by-election in 2013.

Once the liberal media recovered from the shock that this man could become a mayor with over 70% of the votes, his name pretty much disappeared from the national press. But then came Toroczkai’s chance for renewed fame/infamy: the arrival of the refugees, whose escape route went through Ásotthalom. Toroczkai was in his element, organizing civic groups that were supposed to help the police and later the military in guarding the fence. I suspect that some of the atrocities against the refugees were actually committed by Toroczkai and his men.

The immediate reaction of the liberal media to Toroczkai’s ban was hilarity. A local ordinance against mosques and gays? One doesn’t have to be a legal expert to know that Ásotthalom’s ordinance is unconstitutional. Article VII of the constitution states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Moreover, “this right shall include the freedom to choose or change one’s religion or other belief, and the freedom of everyone to manifest, abstain from manifesting, practice or teach his or her religion or other belief through religious acts, rites, or otherwise, either individually or jointly with others, either in public or in private life.” It seems that of the six members of the village council two had the good sense to abstain while one had a valid reason to be absent. Thus only three council members voted for the resolution.

The locals learned about the decision from the papers and television and eventually came to the conclusion that these steps had been taken only as preventive measures in case the European Union forces Ásotthalom to accept Muslim migrants. As for the mosques, on TV they can see all those mosques in western cities; it is perhaps a good idea to spell out that no mosque will ever be built in their village. After all, as Toroczkai told Olga Kálmán on ATV the other day, “practically next door there is a mosque already.” It turned out that he was talking about Subotica in Serbia where there has been a mosque since 2007 to serve a community of 22 Muslims, all Serbian nationals.

Interestingly enough, there might actually be two Muslims living in Ásotthalom. One is a man from Kuwait who is married to a Hungarian Christian. After living in Kuwait for a while, they returned to Hungary 16 years ago. When asked, Toroczkai claimed that the ordinance is not directed against this man and his four children, who are Christians. He seemed to be more worried about a shadowy young woman no one really knows who apparently studied abroad and converted to Islam as the result of a romance with an Algerian man.

This incident created quite a headache for Gábor Vona, chairman of Jobbik, who in a surprise move had recently asked Toroczkai to be one of his deputies. Toroczkai’s appointment followed the removal of Előd Novák, a far-right member of the Jobbik leadership who became an unwelcome burden with his radicalism and anti-Semitism. Vona has been trying to transform Jobbik into a right-of-center party that can be seriously considered to lead the country either alone or in a coalition. What no one could understand is why Vona thought that Toroczkai was less of an extremist than Novák. They are cut from the same cloth. When Novák learned about Toroczkai’s ordinance, he wrote on his Facebook page: “Hats off!” But otherwise, the Jobbik leadership didn’t appreciate Toroczkai’s move, about which he hadn’t notified his party. As Toroczkai complained, he had expected severe criticism from Muslims and gays but what surprised him was that “the most vehement attacks came from my own camp, the so-called national (radical) side.”

Gábor Vona, soon after the news of Ásotthalom’s ordinance reached the national media, paid a visit to the border town and had a long conversation with Toroczkai, which apparently led nowhere. Vona told N1 TV, an internet television station with ties to Jobbik, that he considers “the ordinance stigmatizing Muslims and gays irresponsible and unnecessary. Jobbik will guarantee freedom of religion to everyone” once in power.

László Toroczkai and Gábor Vona in Ásotthalom

Meanwhile, two gay organizations, Budapest Pride and the Hungarian LGBT Association, began organizing a trip to Ásotthalom for this afternoon to test Toroczkai’s ordinance. Toroczkai considered the demonstration a “provocation.” The homophobic elements of Toroczkai were considering a counter-demonstration, but the mayor wisely decided against it. He was, however, well prepared. He asked the Szeged police force to be on hand for the occasion and had one of the town employees standing by with a video camera. Toroczkai promised a careful examination of the video to ascertain whether anyone in the group of about a dozen men and women had “propagated gay marriage,” for example. There is the possibility that Toroczkai will consider the poster with the message “egy papa meg egy papa plusz egy gyerek” (one daddy and one daddy plus one child) a violation of the ordinance. If so, Toroczkai wants to fine the owner of the poster 150,000 forints. That’s unlikely ever to happen.

A few locals gathered to look at the spectacle. A yellow van normally used to take workers to the fields came by three times, and its passengers yelled through the open windows “filthy faggots.” One has the feeling that the locals are more preoccupied with gays than with Muslims. Interestingly enough, although the people of Ásotthalom encountered several thousand migrants last year, fewer people voted on the day of the referendum in the village than in the region as a whole.

♦ ♦ ♦

Finally, here is something that might cheer you up. You may recall that in my post on the PISA results I quoted Árpád W. Tóta, who said in his opinion piece that Orbán had managed to create “a school system for sheep.” That reminded Henk, who lives in Hungary and learned Hungarian very well, of a poem by Sándor Weöres (1913-1989) from his volume of poetry for children titled Bóbita (Tuft). Henk translated it into English. I’m very pleased to share his translation with the readers of Hungarian Spectrum.

A birka-iskola

Egyszer volt egy nagy csoda,
Neve: birka-iskola.
Ki nem szólt, csak bégetett,
Az kapott dicséretet.

Ki oda se ballagott,
Még jutalmat is kapott,
Így hát egy se ment oda,
Meg is szűnt az iskola.

The School for Sheep

Once there was a marvel great;
it was called: a school for sheep.
Who didn’t talk, but only bleat,
he was highly praised indeed.

Whoever refused to go,
was rewarded even more.
So, no one went to school of course,
and it had to close its doors.

December 10, 2016
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Melvin Mark Morrison
Guest

To understand the Hungarian culture U must realize they r the saddest culture in the world and selfish greedy inbred moronic idiots

Walkman
Guest
Member

The Post-Truth Era

Yes, @MMM’s rant is deplorable racism (of the kind that morphs its proponent into its own enemy) — but @Walkman’s link is to pure quackery.

petofi
Guest

Vona guarantees freedom of religion…yeah, to Jews, too, if there are any left 6 months after he comes to power–

Ferenc
Guest

Thanks for the poem, Eva and Henk!!!

Ferenc
Guest

Thanks for the full picture of Toroczkai, I had only seen the ATV interview, which completely flabbergasted me.
How is it possible that the man got over 70% of votes in mayor elections? Are there suspicions about irrigularities, any investigations done?

And for Asotthalom, if the restrictions of freedom really stay in force, I recommend continuous protests and proposals for building for example a buddhist stupa or a dogon toguna, all in natural (rainbow) colours. All done of course with as much support as possible from local people.

Ferenc
Guest

“two (of six) members of the village council had the good sense to abstain”
Why is that good sense? If you don’t want/agree with it best vote against!

pappp
Guest
This story is a total gumicsont (robber bone for dogs). It’s like the American mainstream media’s obsession with Trump’s voters and remember that Trump won (with both the Senate and the House under firm Republican control). Torockai, Vona etc, just as Trump does, knows that the Ásotthalom and Csongrád people are very poor and very frustrated. They can’t give money but they can give recognition. While the liberals and leftists don’t spend any time on those people only when they mock them and they’ve all but written rural people off as hopeless racists and “rednecks”, Vona, Torczkai and others on the right at least show that they understand those folks and at least imply that they care. Of course, even if they get to form a government (maybe with Fidesz or alone) they won’t do anything and they probably can’t, but at least they show sympathy and give recognition. The liberals and leftists had better show some sympathy for poor backward folks before the right wing takes Hungary over even more completely. Although Fidesz controls much of Hungary already there is further room for right-wing forces to control the minds, and facets of every day life. Alas, the left is… Read more »
Member

I cannot figure @PPP out. Sometimes he sounds reasonable, but then this: “Vona, Torczkai and others on the right at least show that they understand those folks and at least imply that they care… [while “alas”] the left is fine being a “loyal” (aka totally corrupt and lazy) opposition…” If this isn’t trolling for the deplorables then it is a symptom of how throroughly their outlook has penetrated the psyche of those who imagine they are opposed to them. I encourage @PPP to go out to Ásotthalom and the like and work out a strategy that wins the populace over from the deplorable side to the decent side, and then report back that strategy, so the “corrupt and lazy opposition” can use it. But don’t just propose aping Fidik demagoguery “showing sympathy and giving recognition [even though] they won’t do anything and they probably can’t.”

In the US the deporable/decent ratio seems to be about 50/50 (except in the electoral college). And the opposition has the luxury of free media and fair elections. Do you think that’s true in Hungary too?

webber
Guest

ppp hates “liberals and leftists,” that much shines through.

pappp
Guest
webber, I certainly criticize them for completely abandoning a major constituency. It’s totally self-defeating, illogical too and surely a bad policy. Basically the left-wing (its Western European version) gave up its traditional policies and became an urban, elitist phenomenon which is part of the reason why it is on the defensive in many places (meanwhile its voters are being vacuum cleaned by Le Pen, Jobbik, Wilders etc.). As long as everyone has one vote politicians cannot ignore a major part of the electorate even if such voters happen to be racist or to be precise even if racism happens to play a part in their resentment toward “liberal elites” (basically the beneficiaries of globalism). Rather, politicians need to embrace these folks “warts and all”. There is no other way. Only from this approach are politicians able to change such intolerant behavior. But as long as such voters remain poor and frustrated they will always find these scapegoats (gays, Muslims etc.). Leftists politicians need to work and not give up on them. It’s a difficult work but there’s no other way. Racism etc. are always a symptom, politicians – provided that they don’t want to participate in the populist discourse –… Read more »
pappp
Guest
Stevan, what I meant was that such an anti-gay, anti-Muslim idiocy in a small, remote village is not a real issue in the greater scheme of things. It’s unfortunate but the media should not obsess about it. The reason for this action by Toroczkai is, I repeat, was to let locals know that he, as a politician, understands the problems of the local people. He is a politician who is communicating with his voters. Of course gay marriage is not a pressing problem in Ásotthalom but the message is clear to locals: Torockai understands that ‘we’ prefer the conservative, traditional Hungarian way of life and hate modernism and globalisation. At least 65-70% of Hungarians voters can be considered rural and they are also poor. Most of them live in dead end regions forgotten by politicians – except for Fidesz and Jobbik which both have very very well organized networks in rural regions. And they talk to such voters. Meanwhile, the left wing is happy that apparently in Budapest they got ahead of Fidesz. Big deal when more than 80% of voters live outside Budapest. The Trump victory (and Brexit) was the last wake up call for leftist politicians to do… Read more »
Guest

Sigh!
Papp, you know as well as I that “anti-gay, anti-Muslim idiocy” is rampant all over Hungary and played upon by the government!

Fidesz is not interested in educating those country bumpkins – the stupider and less informed, the better.

Just today my wife got very angry after hearing a neighbour’s rant:
We Hungarians are poor and that’s the fault of the immigrants, the Jews, the gays in Budapest, the Gypsies … and so on.
She kept her mouth shut – just looked at me and said, I forgot – we have some urgent thing to do …

The dumbing down of Hungarians continues – and it seems they have no problems with it. Poor country!

pappp
Guest

It is indeed rampant, but politicians cannot give up on them leaving them for extreme right wing politicians. To be honest the left-wing’s abandonment of the poor white rural electorate reminds me of those teachers who give up roma kids just because they would require new methods and extra attention, that is harder work. But it’s much easier to talk to relatively educated middle class voters concentrated in urban centers and it’s much harder to canvass and organize uneducated people all over Hungary in 3,200 municipalities.

Guest

I beg to differ – how can you expect the small opposition (with very limited funds …) to educate the Hungarian masses when the government is doing everything to keep them dumb?

You know better than me probably the changes in education that Fidesz proposed! They don’t want to have too many intellectuals – keeping people stupid/uneducated is their decision!

It’s the government’s job to find a way to educate those Roma kids surely!

But imho it’s a conscious decision on their part to avoid schooling them – serves several purposes like always having a scapegoat available …

Observer
Guest

So we are coming to the conclusion of the Russian “narodniki” in the 19th cent: the rural population is so dumb that no progress/revolution is possible, hence they went out to educate the peasants

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