November 6, 2015

Stop the hate speech based on religious belief

Yesterday, on the social network Facebook, sharing of a poster with the following text was noticed:

“Protest against islamization of Kriva Palanka, Friday 6 November 2015, 1.30 PM, Solarski most.”

At the bottom of the poster, there is a picture of five Islamic sacral objects, i.e. mosques, crossed out with red pen. The Platform Against Hate Speech* condemns the speech used on the poster and holds that it is an example of hate-speech which generates hatred and intolerance on the basis of religious belief. Citizens’ reactions caused by such speech are already noticeable, both on the social networks and in the media.

The sharing of this poster comes as a reaction to the initiated construction of an Orthodox church in front of the administrative building of the Kriva Palanka Municipality. The Municipality’s major, Arsencho Aleksovski, claimed during a press-conference that he was in possession of appropriate permit, although that was being doubted by certain counselors. In his speech, the major announced that building an Orthodox church did not represent infringement of the other religious communities’ rights and feelings, emphasizing that while he is the major, only Orthodox sacral objects are going to be built. As a reaction to this debate, an initiative for gathering signatures against construction of mosque in Kriva Palanka was set off among the citizens. On the following day the aforementioned poster was published, although it clearly instigates intolerance against the citizens of Muslim faith.

We remind the public that, according to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, all citizens are equal in their freedoms and rights, regardless of gender, race, color of skin, ethnic and social background, political and religious affiliation, material and social status. At the same time, Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of performing religious rites to all religious communities in the Republic of Macedonia. Furthermore, causing or disseminating hatred, dissension or intolerance on religious basis is a criminal offense envisaged in Article 319 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia.

The Republic of Macedonia is obliged by constitutional and legal regulations to provide for unhindered observing of the rights and freedoms of all citizens living on its territory, regardless of their ethnic and religious affiliation. Therefore, we call upon the competent institutions to undertake appropriate steps and thus prevent the use of hate speech in announcing public gatherings, in order to further prevent dissemination of intolerance among religious communities, disallow the hate speech to grow into acts of hate, and in no way let the rights of all religious communities present at the territory of the Republic of Macedonia be curtailed.

* The Platform Against Hate Speech is constituted by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the “Metamorphosis” Foundation, the Macedonian Institute for Media (MIM), “Paktis” – Prilep and “Civil” MK.