Dear Mr. Christopher Adam,
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for offering me a space to respond to your piece in the Hungarian Free Press. I was delighted to read your review of my article about the global phenomenon of religious persecution. I am especially happy that your comments fueled a constructive dialogue on the Mandiner blog, with the participation of Mr. David Schwezoff, former director of the Jewish Community of Budapest, whom I am proud to call an old friend of mine.
Let me please start with a prompt observation. Labeling any Hungarian political force as “conservative,” “socialist,” or “far-right” could be extremely misleading for Western readers in general and Canadians in particular. As you surely know, from an Eastern European and Hungarian perspective, such political definitions and categories have a very different meaning compared to their Western counterparts, as result of the process of cultural adaptation, an evolution in discourse, and historical particularities. The same is true for the label of “anti-Semitism,” which in Hungarian public discourse is often associated with any criticism of the politics of Israel.
Regardless of any local characteristics, I strongly refuse labeling the weekly political magazine Demokrata, where I have published many of my articles, as a “far-right” news outlet.
As you also correctly noted, Demokrata maintains close ties with Hungary’s governing center-right FIDESZ party, that integrates a wide spectrum of the Hungarian right. “Far-right” is a definition that should not be applied to FIDESZ, in a Hungarian perspective this title would more appropriately describe Jobbik.
During the years Mr. Andras Bencsik, editor-in-chief and owner of Demokrata, drew a clear line between his magazine and Jobbik, while providing a relatively free space for authors and columnists of the widest scale of the Hungarian right, from Christian conservatives to classical liberals like myself to express their ideas. Because of such approach, in Demokrata you can often read articles expressing conflicting views on certain issues. There are articles and opinions I personally do not agree with, and I am sure that other authors agree even less with some of my approaches. However, I am grateful to Mr. Bencsik that he never censored any of my articles, even though he does not share my views on certain issues.
Unfortunately, in Hungarian public culture such an approach to editing can be considered extremely rare. Of course, you were perfectly right when assuming that Demokrata would not tolerate any piece expressing strong criticism against FIDESZ. However, for me, writing mainly on Middle-Eastern issues, this was never a problem. Please also take into consideration that due to the cultural characteristics of Hungarian public life and the evolution of Hungarian press, none of the Hungarian media could be regarded as neutral in the sense of BBC code of ethics, and only very few dare to express criticism of allied political parties. I honestly believe that it is neither political parties, nor ideas, but political culture that primarily defines the politics of a country. Therefore, in my view, none of the Hungarian political parties or news outlets have the right to claim any sort of moral superiority over the others.
As for my article on religious persecution, when writing the piece, my intention was to provide a global perspective on the issue. As the limit was 9000 characters, I did not intend to include Hungary at all. I am happy that in his response Mr. Schwezoff – who has a much deeper insight into the issue than I do – explained how Hungarian legislation provides more freedom to Jews and Muslims than the legislations of many Western countries.
I wish you success and perseverance in your work, which is a truly great contribution for English-speakers who aim to understand Hungary.