Yesterday, a poster with the following text was shared on the Facebook social network:

“Protest against the Islamization of Kriva Palanka, Friday, November 6, 2015, 13:30h Solarski most”

Images of five Islamic religious buildings (mosques) were crossed out with red at the bottom of the poster. The Platform Against Hate Speech condemns the speech used in the poster and believes that it is hate speech inciting hate and intolerance on religious grounds. Citizens’ reactions to this speech are already being noticed on the social media.

The poster was shared as a reaction to the initiated construction of an Orthodox church in front of the building of the Kriva Palanka municipality. Mayor Arsenco Aleksovski stated at a press conference that the church has a construction license, although this is arguable according to some of the municipal councilors. In his speech, the mayor states that the construction of the Orthodox Church or any other religious buildings is not a violation of the rights and feelings of other religious communities, noting that during his term, only Orthodox religious buildings will be built. In reaction to this debate, citizens launched an initiative for collecting signatures against the construction of a mosque in Kriva Palanka. The said poster was published the next day, encouraging intolerance towards citizens of the Islamic religious confession.

According to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, citizens are equal in their freedoms and rights regardless of sex, race, skin color, national or social background, political and religious beliefs, property and social status. At the same time, Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of religious confession and freedom of religious practice and religious traditions for all religious communities in the country. Additionally, causing and spreading hatred, discord or intolerance on religious grounds is a criminal offense stipulated in Article 319 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia.

The Republic of Macedonia is bound by constitutional and legal provisions to ensure the respect for the rights and freedoms of all citizens on its territory, regardless of their ethnic and religious background. Therefore, we urge the competent authorities to take the appropriate steps for preventing the use of hate speech when it comes to the organization of public gatherings, to prevent the spreading of intolerance between the religious communities, its transformation into hate crimes and not to limit in any way the rights of all the religious communities present on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia.