Most Czechs afraid of Islam - press

Prague, Czech Republic - Some three-quarters of Czechs have a negative attitude to Islam, while 60 percent are afraid of it, according to a poll conducted by the polling agency STEM, published by the daily Hospodarske noviny (HN).

The fears may have been enhanced by the recent information that there was a threat of terrorist attack in the Czech Republic.

Besides, the Czechs have poor knowledge about the religion. Some 11 percent are of the view that Buddha or Abraham respectively are the founders of Islam.

Some 55 percent agree with the view that there is a threat of a war of Western and Muslim civilisations. Almost one half of those polled are afraid of immediate terrorist attack in the Czech Republic.

However, Czech intelligence services do not consider Czech Muslims immediate security risk. "The Muslims who have been living here for a long time respect our laws and do not seek any clashes, confrontation or violence," spokesman for the BIS counter-intelligence Jan Subert told the paper.

According to the poll, 29 percent of Czechs consider Islam a sect and three-quarters of them would like to ban the building of mosques here. There are three of them in the Czech Republic, namely in Prague, Brno and Teplice, North Bohemia. However, in the latter, Muslims have only one leased storey in a house. Both in Brno and Teplice, local authorities had voiced reservations about the construction of a building with a minaret, the daily says.

There are some 400 Czechs professing Islam, while the total number of Muslims living in the Czech Republic is put at 10,000-20,000, HN writes.

"The number includes some Muslims who originate from a Muslim country, but do not know much about Islam. There are some 2,000 of those regularly practicising the religion," Vladimir Sanka, director of the Islamic Foundation in Prague, told HN.

The daily Pravo writes today that the Centre of Islamic Communities has asked for the permit to teach Islam at schools, to establish religious schools and to hold Islamic weddings.

However, it does not fulfil two legal conditions: it has not been registered for over ten years and it cannot submit 10,000 signatures of those for whom it would ensure the religious rituals as required by law.

The exception is to be granted by the government, but the Interior and Justice Ministries have opposed the proposal. Secret services, too, are against it, Pravo writes.

The Justice Ministry is afraid of radicalisation of Islam and Education and Defence Ministries have also voiced negative positions, Pravo writes.

The Muslims argue that they obtained the first permit for activities in present-day Czech Republic as early as 1912 and that they respect Czech laws and condemn terrorism, it adds.