Racialization of Muslims Among the Pundit Corps in Hungary: Vintage Anti-Semitism Recycled, Made Respectable

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 20:30
Oral Presentation
Zoltan LAKATOS, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest, Hungary
Racism qua essentialism―the tendency to ascribe "essences" to groups and make sense of socio-economic outcomes on that basis―is a staple of dominant ideologies. Feeding off this disposition, post-9/11 political commentary in the West has come to accommodate more explicit streaks of cultural racism. The current refugee crisis in Europe is seeing a ratcheting up of this discourse―sometimes with a scholarly veneer, in part thanks to the pundit class's (re)discovery of Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" thesis.
This study compares two subclasses of racialized discourse in Hungary: On the one hand, the racist rhetoric accompanying late-19th century Jewish migration from the Russian Empire to Hungary, and on the other, anti-Muslim pundit commentary on the current European migrant crisis. The latter is formulated in terms that are not only reminiscent of, but in effect, recycle the building blocks of the former. Like Jews in the anti-Semitic press of pre-World War I Hungary, migrants fleeing the conflict-torn regions in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, as well as Muslim Europeans, are portrayed as driven by culturally ingrained penchants―for violence, sexual predation, world domination, etc.―at odds with "European civilization". Increasingly, prominent intellectuals, some of whose public persona includes a professed opposition to racism join this chorus. As a result, while anti-Semitism, which made a comeback in Hungarian public discourse following the transition to democracy in the early 1990s is still condemned across most of the ideological spectrum, the nascent anti-Muslim racism is not confined to the fringes. Complicating matters further, a variant of the latter is being branded as not only compatible with but a requirement for combating anti-Semitism.
Highlighting trends in anti-Muslim punditry, the discussion includes results from a recent survey of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim attitudes in Hungary with an emphasis on cross-fertilization, strategies of accommodation, and framing.