Muslim Leaders Denounce Police Over Raids in Czech Capital
Muslim leaders in the Czech Republic on Monday accused the police of abusing their power after armed officers raided Islamic institutions in Prague over the weekend, detaining 20 people during Friday Prayer at a mosque and a community center, and arresting the publisher of a book that law enforcement officials say incites xenophobia and violence.
A spokesman for the Czech police, Pavel Hantak, declined to identify the publisher or the book. He told the Czech news media that he did not want to help promote a book that disseminated racism, anti-Semitism and violence against what it called “inferior races.”
The police said the publisher was a 55-year-old Czech citizen who had the book translated into Czech. He has been charged with promoting hate speech, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Muneeb Hassan Alrawi, the head of the Association of Czech Muslim Religious Communities, said in an interview on Monday that law enforcement officials had indicated that the book behind the raids was “The Fundamentals of Tawheed” by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, a Jamaican-born imam, who has been banned from entering Australia and Britain and expelled from Germany because of what his critics call extremist views.
Mr. Alrawi said that several copies of the book had been confiscated by the police during a raid Friday at the headquarters of the Islamic Foundation, a community center in Prague, the Czech capital.
Lukas Lhotan, a former convert to Islam who has since become an outspoken critic of the religion, said Monday that he had filed a criminal complaint against the book this month on the grounds that it preached dangerous radicalism. Mr. Lhotan said the book advised Muslims to form Muslim governments wherever they are, and called Jews the enemies of Islam.
Mr. Philips had previously argued that there was no such thing as rape in marriage under Shariah, the legal code of Islam based on the Quran, and he has also come under criticism in Britain for seeming to condone suicide bombers.
On Monday, he vehemently defended the book, saying that millions of copies had been published in Muslim communities around the world. He said that the book was a commentary on Islamic theology and that there was “no place for racism” in the book. Any action against the book, he said, could “constitute an attack on Islam itself.”
Mr. Alrawi, who represents Muslim organizations in the Czech Republic, said the Czech edition of “The Fundamentals of Tawheed,” which was first published in 2012, had been overseen by a small group of people and had not been sufficiently vetted. “We made a mistake of not having thoroughly overseen the publication of the book,” he said. “We were not aware that some of its passages could be in breach of Czech law. Our association certainly does not hold any extremist views.”
Local Muslim groups complained that the raids, at the headquarters of the Islamic Foundation in central Prague and at a mosque on the city’s outskirts, had taken place during Friday Prayer. Wahono Yulianto, an Indonesian diplomat who was present during the raid at the mosque, said Monday that the Indonesian Embassy in Prague had lodged an official complaint with the Czech Foreign Ministry after he was detained by the police for 90 minutes.
“We had no idea why the police came,” he said. “They made us put up our hands and told us to lie on the floor. They walked in the prayer room with their shoes on and were shouting.”
Zdenek Vojtisek, an expert on religious extremism at Charles University in Prague, said that the roughly 10,000 Muslims in the Czech Republic were fragmented and that there was no evidence that the community had become radicalized in recent years.
Other analysts said the raids could help fuel anti-immigrant sentiment in the country at a time when the far right is gaining ground.