Discriminatory displays at Czech top league match highlight Europe’s rise in xenophobia

A large anti-Islam tifo displayed at a Czech Republic first league match over the weekend reflected an anti-immigrant sentiment that has been rising in recent years across Europe.

The Viktoria Plzeň ultras tifo, displayed at the match between the Plzeň team and Slavia Prague, on Friday 24 July, depicted a white man wielding an axe poised to behead another man, stereotypically portrayed as a Muslim, and was accompanied by a large banner reading ‘Europe wake up’.

In addition, the home side fans also displayed a banner supposed to imitate the Hebrew alphabet reading 'Jude Slavia' directed at their opponents. The the anti-Semitic practice of calling the opposing side 'Jew' as a form of verbal abuse of is not uncommon among a number of football fan groups in Central and Eastern Europe.

The match, which ended in a 2-1 victory for Viktoria Plzeň, was also marred by the display of a far-right banner by Slavia Prague fans, featuring a Slavic pagan version of the swastika.

The discriminatory displays were highlighted on the website hooligans.cz and came as a reminder of some of Europe's darkest sentiments against religious and ethnic minorities living in the region and a general growth of open xenophobia against immigrants.

Earlier in July, several hundred people demonstrated in Prague against the Czech Republic government's decision of voluntarily receiving refugees after rejecting mandatary quotas for the redistribution of asylum-seekers and refugees across the European Union.

Demonstrators carried banners reading 'Support for Muslim immigration is not humanism, but treason', 'Stop the Islamic State invasion of Europe' and 'Sobotka, don't take the country from our children'.

In recent years emerging groups, such as Pegida that originated in Germany (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident), have gained strength across Europe with rallies attracting tens of thousands of people calling on a halt to the perceived spread of Islam.

The incidents have evoked increased concerns about the Viktoria Plzeň v Maccabi Tel Aviv UEFA Champions League match to be played on 5 August.

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