Hungarians oppose immigration, want to preserve European Christian culture – and we have our reasons

We were called unorthodox. We were accused of being far-right. Then we became the dangerous, new populism before becoming the illiberal populists. Now, they’ve got a new one: it’s anti-Muslim populism in Hungary.

That’s according to a new report entitled, “Anti-Muslim populism in Hungary: From the margins to the mainstream,” published by the Washington think tank, Brookings Institution, and authored by three people from Political Capital Institute in Budapest.

It’s long, so I’ll give you a short summary: Hungary was a successful democracy, but under Prime Minister Orbán it has become an authoritarian state, the authors say. And it’s becoming more xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim. Because Orbán. Oh, and the far-right.

Here’s what you need to know about Political Capital. The so-called think tank was founded by figures closely associated with political parties (including the liberal Free Democrats) that declined so dramatically in their popularity that they fell out of parliament in 2010. The institute and its people have a political agenda, which is fine but let’s not pretend that they’re objective. They see things through a particular, liberal lens. And it’s a perspective that Hungarian voters have rejected again and again in every election and referendum since 2010.

The report includes a number of gems that betray that bias, but I’ll get to that in a second.

In attempting to paint their fellow Hungarians as anti-Muslim bigots, these Hungarian authors completely downplay Hungarian history and the dramatic effect that the migration crisis has had. In 2015, nearly half a million migrants – many of them from predominantly Muslim regions – entered Hungary illegally. The Political Capital report refers to them as “an unprecedented number of asylum-seekers,” but they utterly refused to cooperate with the immigration and asylum process and demanded to be allowed to travel – illegally – further west. Prime Minister Orbán rightly called it an invasion.

Hungarians watched in horror the images from the so-called Battle of Röszke, where a violent mob of (mostly male) illegal migrants attacked Hungarian border guards, demanding to be allowed to cross illegally into Schengen Europe and breaking through the border reinforcements.

If Hungarians have become strongly opposed to immigration and staunchly in favor of preserving Europe’s Christian culture, we have reasons.

And there are a number of places where the authors show their bias. For example:

“Media freedom and pluralism has practically been eliminated,” they claim, because the government’s media empire “reaches a considerably wider segment of the audience than independent or opposition supported outlets with only one exception, among online portals.” How can they say that with a straight face?

The biggest audience share on television by far, as I’ve noted before, belongs to RTL Klub – and 71 percent of Hungarians get their info from television. RTL Klub is clearly not government propaganda. At least four out of the top five TV programs belong to RTL Klub.

Some 35 percent of Hungarians get their news and information from the Internet. Who has the biggest online audience? Index.hu, a news platform staunchly critical of the Orbán Government that is also the most popular Hungarian site on the Internet. Among the top 100 Hungarian websites, according to the DKT council that measures audience share, media that could be considered sympathetic to the government garner approximately 1.7 million pageviews daily. Online, liberal media critical of the government pull in 3.5 million per day – more than double.

And there’s this: The authors claim that since 2010, Hungary has become an authoritarian state “where democratic institutions exist in theory, but the rule of law and civil liberties are severely limited in practice.” Seriously? Show me where the rule of law and civil liberties are severely limited – or even limited – in Hungary.

These analysts represent a side of Hungarian society and politics that failed, and they were shown the door by Hungarian voters, not just once but at every election since 2010. That’s in no small part because they got on the wrong side of vital issues like national identity and sovereignty and immigration.

Photo credit: pecsma.hu