Slovakia After the Assaults in Cologne

Reading through some Facebook posts

Matúš Ritomský
11 January 2016

Following the events in Germany at New Year, Facebook is awash with triumphant cries of [the MP] Richard Sulík, [entrepreneur] Boris Kollár and others who have made the anti-refugee hysteria their political agenda. Variations on the theme of “I told you so, here it is now, you ‘sunshine people’ [goody-goodies]”, proliferate. “Last night I spent several hours at the computer trying to get the full picture”, adds Sulík in an attempt to give his righteous indignation a touch of credibility.

Well, I have also tried to find as much relevant information as possible on these incidents. And in the process I have, like Sulík, learned that there is no evidence that the asylum seekers who have arrived in Germany in the most recent waves of refugees were responsible for the incidents in Cologne and other cities. This was emphasized by the German Minister of Justice, the Minister of the Interior, and police spokesmen. Nor have anti-immigration and extreme right-wing groups come up with any evidence that the disturbances were caused by refugees who arrived as a result of Merkel’s “open arms” policy.

All we have at the moment are testimonies of witnesses that the attackers were dark-skinned and spoke with an Arabic accent. According to the police some of them belonged to gangs that have been under surveillance for some time, which means that they must have lived in Germany for a while. In other words, it’s too early to say if the incident is linked to the most recent wave of refugees.

So what exactly is it that Sulík, Kollár and others are trying to tell us? That dark-skinned people with an Arabic accent are a problem for Europe? Are we seeing a shift from an anti-immigrant rhetoric to an openly racist one? Are we no longer discussing the need to regulate and systematically manage the influx of refugees and are we instead talking about a racial and ethnic conflict, in which skin colour forms the dividing line?

Of course, the integration of migrants and cultural coexistence are not trivial issues. Experts point to questions and problems relating to the second and third generation of immigrants, and we are aware of failed integration and cultural differences. On the other hand, there is also evidence of the economic contribution made by immigrants, of instances of mixing of cultures that have been beneficial. The countries that are most advanced in terms of science and technology are multicultural – we are all familiar with the Steve Jobs story.

Sulík, Kollár and others of their ilk cannot add anything meaningful on issues of cultural coexistence, ways of integration, a dialogue between values, they have no expert opinion or deeper analysis to offer on issues that the Western world has been wrestling with for decades. They have simply jumped on the bandwagon of hysteria, in which the decisive role is played by skin colour.

Even after the events in Cologne we mustn’t regard those dozens of people, including small children, whose dead bodies have been washing up on the Mediterranean coast, as people who set out to rape women.

What has happened in Germany is bad, the police failed to do its job, the state has failed to protect its citizens from humiliation. German society is entitled to ask questions, to demand redress and answers. But primitive racism cannot provide the answer and I am convinced that in Germany it won’t. As for Slovakia, I have my doubts.

Translated by Julia Sherwood

Matúš Ritomský is a Slovak writer, columnist and artist, founder and editor of the online journal priestori.