Prague, Czech Republic – Leonid Kušnarenko, Prague’s Imam and head of the Czech capital’s Muslim community, was expelled and removed from duty after calling, in a video posted on Facebook, Muslims to arm themselves. He also offered to help anyone in need to acquire firearms licence and property.
His call came days after the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 dead, and many more injured, in two mosques at the hands of a self-proclaimed white supremacist – an attacked described as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. A complete ban on military semi-automatic and assault rifles was passed by New Zealand less than a week after the terrorist attack.
The Ukrainian-born imam later argued that “it was a question of prevention. I said it to prevent fools from going to a mosque and doing bad things”.
The Czech Republic’s Muslim community was quick to distance itself from the call, and voted on Monday to expel Kušnarenko and relieve him from his duties. They argued his statement expressed his own personal views alone and not that of the Czech Muslim community, which, despite its relatively small size and largely peaceful nature, has faced growing anti-Islamic and xenophobic sentiments in the past few years.
Leonid Kušnarenko said he would not appeal the decision.
Last month, the former head of Prague’s Muslim community Vladimír Šanka was cleared by the Supreme Court of promoting a hate movement, in connection with the publication of a radical Islamic book.
Late last year, another former Prague Imam Samer Shehadeh was taken into custody by Czech police, after being captured in Jordan, on suspicion of promotion and financing terrorist activities in the Czech Republic.
According to the most recent estimates, there are currently approximately 20.000 Muslims living in the Czech Republic, accounting for less than 0.5% of the total Czech population.