The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association has published a REPORT – part of its ‘Brown Book’ monitoring activity – on incidents targeting Muslims in Poland in 2017-2018. The association calls for the condemnation of xenophobic violence and for solidarity with those who experience it.
Former Gdansk mayor the late Pawel Adamowicz was viciously criticized for his efforts to support refugees and to create a migration policy based on respect for diversity. Two weeks before his death, the public prosecutor discontinued proceedings regarding ‘death certificates’ that the ultra-nationalist All-Polish Youth addressed to Adamowicz and ten other city mayors for signing a declaration of cooperation aimed at the integration of migrants in Polish cities. On 20 January, Muslims joined in prayer at the ecumenical funeral mass to mourn the assassination of the Gdansk mayor.
Examples of events documented in the ‘Brown Book’ include, amongst many others, the following incidents:
A group of men assaulted a Pakistani citizen. According to the victim, ‘They shouted, <Osama, Osama!>. Then they asked if I was a Muslim.’ As a result of the incident he had a broken nose, broken teeth, as well as head and chest injuries. (Ozorkow, 3 January 2017)
Two unidentified individuals beat up a student from Saudi Arabia. The attacked man received several fist blows to his face. (Zakopane, 8 January 2017)
Three men attacked Pakistani workers of a restaurant. They shouted abusive words, like ‘dirtbags’ and ‘terrorists’. Moreover, one of the assailants forced his way behind the counter, hit one of the Pakistanis and pushed him onto a hot grill. The two remaining perpetrators beat up the owner of the facility as well as another employee. (Swidwin, 8 April 2017)
Four men took part in an assault on a kebab shop. They verbally abused one of the employees, a Bangladeshi citizen, with words including ‘you turban’ and ‘you nigger’ and spat on him. The perpetrators also threw chairs at the remaining employees and demolished the interior of the shop. (Lodz, 17 April 2017)
An unidentified man spat at a girl who wore a hijab. The teenage victim was participating in an educational excursion for young people from Germany. (Lublin, 21 June 2017)
A man and an accompanying woman assaulted a Chechen woman dressed in traditional Muslim garb. The assailant shouted at her, ‘You fucking Muslim!’, ‘To the gas chamber!’ and ‘Fuck off from here!’ He pushed her down to the ground and kicked her head and the rest of her body. (Warsaw, 7 September 2017)
‘Unknown perpetrators’ devastated a mosque. Surveillance cameras recorded two masked men breaking a few dozen window panes in the building by throwing stones and lumps of concrete. (Warsaw, 27 November 2017)
An unidentified man attacked a student from Saudi Arabia; he punched him in the face and shouted: ‘If you are to explode, do it where you came from!’ (Lodz, 8 January 2018)
In a kebab shop an assailant aimed a firearm at three Moroccan citizens and shouted that they are to ‘get the fuck out of Poland’ and that ‘Poland is for Poles’. (Gniezno, 12 February 2018)
An owner of a similar shop, an Egyptian national, was beaten by three men with a metal stick. (Warsaw, 13 May 2018)
Another Egyptian victim, belonging to the Coptic Catholic Church, made the following statement: ‘They were very aggressive. They said I was an Islamist and an Arab. When I showed them the cross I was wearing and said I was a Christian, one of the men spat on [my cross] and attacked me with his fists.’ (Krasnystaw, 31 August 2018)
In a bus two Turkish passengers were attacked by five apparent fans of football club Legia Warsaw. One of the victims, a dual citizen of Turkey and Poland, said, ‘They began to call us names, <Dirtbags, get the fuck out of here>. They were getting more and more aggressive. They sang a racist song (…) One of them severely head-butted me in the face.’ (Warsaw, 15 December 2018)
At a railway station, a group of a dozen or so men attacked three Arab students. The assailants hit one of them on the back of the head and pushed him down to the ground, forced the second onto the tracks just before the departure of the train, and beat the third until he lost consciousness. (Katowice, 22 December 2018)
– ‘This carefree show of hatred towards Muslims or people perceived as Muslims often stems from the rhetoric used by politicians, celebrities and other public figures in the media. They use negative stereotypes and derogatory expressions and this, in an unavoidable manner, facilitates xenophobic attitudes towards representatives of various minorities’, said Dr Anna Tatar, the author of the report.
The ‘Brown Book’ gathers examples of such public rhetoric which contains prejudice against Muslims or direct calls for violence towards them. The monitoring activity noted words by the regional curator of education Barbara Nowak when she told the King Jan Sobieski Secondary School students, ‘The patron of your school was a wonderful king who managed to save the whole of Europe from Islam. You must follow his example’ (Krakow, 11 September 2018). In turn, Wojciech Cejrowski (right-wing author and commentator) posted an appeal on Twitter (19 October) to send in photographs of Muslims living in Poland. In response, Internet users began, without asking for permission, to take photographs of women with hijabs and Arab men and to publish them with derogatory commentaries: e.g. ‘Muslim savages’; ‘more and more of them can be seen in Poland, they should be chased away while it’s still possible because the plague spreads quickly’.
For many years, xenophobic commentaries can be heard in broadcasts aired by the nationalist Catholic radio station, Radio Maryja. The ‘Brown Book’ for 2018 contains, amongst others, the words uttered by Tadeusz Rydzyk, director of the Torun-based station, who in a programme on the subject of ‘mixed marriages’ said, ‘I look, for instance, at Polish women who see some man and they like him because he has a darker skin… and then with this Arab, it’s like <go join the harem, go there>. So, it’s like that, this is dramatic’. (11 December). This statement failed to trigger any response from the National Broadcasting Council or from Church authorities.
In 2018, following an intervention by the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association, the Allegro online e-commerce platform removed T-shirts showing slogans and symbols derogatory to the Muslim faith such as ‘Stop Islam’ and a drawing of a mosque crossed out.
In Poland there are, according to various estimates, between 15 and 25 thousand Muslims which accounts for less than 0.1% of the total population.
‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent anti-racist organization, founded by the late Marcin Kornak (1968-2014) to monitor incidents of a xenophobic nature. It also conducts educational campaigns such as ‘Music Against Racism’ and ‘Let’s Kick Racism out of Stadiums’.
The ‘Brown Book’ is a monitoring activity, carried out by ‘NEVER AGAIN’, of racist, xenophobic and antisemitic incidents since the mid-1990s.
‘NEVER AGAIN’s ‘Brown Book’ documentation of selected Islamophobic incidents from 2017 and 2018: READ PDF