Ljubljana – The Freedom Movement party has condemned in the strongest terms a tweet by Žan Mahnič, the state secretary for national security at the prime minister’s office, which labelled one of their candidates, Faila Pašić, a “radical Islamist” and accused the party of opening doors to Islamisation and sharisation of Slovenia.
Responding to the tweet that was posted on Sunday, Tereza Novak, another Freedom Movement candidate that will stand in the 24 April general election, said that this was an act of “inciting religious intolerance and spreading lies and hatred”. It was also an attack on a woman of whom Slovenia can be proud, she told the press on Monday.
Pašić, a well-known humanitarian and human rights advocate, said that the tweet “humiliated, degraded and dehumanised” her. “It’s an act I condemn and, after all, have been fighting against through my activism” and projects that have brought Slovenia international recognition, she said. Muslims are part of Slovenian society and strive to be so, she noted.
In his tweet, Mahnič also wrote that the Freedom Movement would bring “massive imports of Arabs” to Slovenia. Both Pašić and the party are considering to press charges against him for defamation and incitement to hatred. Their legal representative, Nataša Pirc Musar, said that the tweet constituted several offences.
Posted by a senior member of the ruling Democrats (SDS), the tweet “shows all the elements of the discourse of extreme political groups, which should have no place in Slovenian and European society”, said Novak. Moreover, the fact that Mahnič is state secretary for national security is “certainly not a mitigating circumstance”, added Pirc Musar.
Pašić finds it important to respond to such actions to tackle hate speech and raise awareness about the mechanisms that can be used in this fight. The least Mahnič could do is to apologise and delete the tweet, but “after decades of extremely negative comments about my work, my religious beliefs, my personal circumstances”, her tolerance threshold has become lower, she added.
Responding to this, Mahnič told the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija as well as commercial broadcasters POP TV and KANAL A that his tweet should be understood solely in the context of ensuring national security, an effort for which he is responsible, and of informing the public.
He said Pašić had been a subject of a discussion by the parliamentary Commission for the Supervision of Intelligence and Security Services in 2014-2018 in connection with radical Islam and links with foreign countries, including Iran.
Mahnič is not afraid of criminal complaints, citing freedom of speech. He also stressed he had not intended to offend anyone. If anyone does feel offended, he apologises to them, he added.