Bulgaria under the Threat of 'Extreme' Insanity
Recently, the leader of the Bulgarian far-right, nationalist Ataka party, Volen Siderov, made a serious attempt to deprive Bulgarians of one of their long-standing, and few-left, undeniable sources of pride - ethnic and religious tolerance.
In the span of several days, Siderov managed to trigger a scandal at a Sofia restaurant, barging at US Ambassador, James Warlick; to mar the first ever commemoration of the canonized Batak martyrs, massacred by Ottoman forces; to, by all witness accounts, stir a bloody clash with Muslims in front of a Sofia mosque, and to physically attack an ethnic Turkish politician on air, during a live radio talk show.
Many democratic Bulgarians are outraged by the Nationalists' behavior, calling for striping him from his parliamentary immunity and for an investigation to be followed by legal charges.
Many are equally outraged by the fact Ataka supporters were issued a permit by the Sofia City Hall to hold a protest rally in the vicinity of a mosque during Friday prayer. Mayor Fandakova, from the ruling GERB party, says the permit listed as location the nearby Central Bathhouse, but Siderov did not arrive in Bulgarian politics the day before. No one, who knows even a tiny bit about him, would believe he would hold a peaceful rally meters away from praying Muslims.
Bulgarians, anxious about ethnic peace, have also been wanting to hear more condemning words, coming from the country's leader, Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, who attributed the conflicts to just election campaigning. But for the last two years Siderov was GERB's strongest ally, securing their parliamentary majority – making a pact with extremists, even though unwritten and unsealed, gives you little room to wiggle in such situations.
Setting aside the issue if Muslims, or any other religious group, should take an entire sidewalk in downtown Sofia, attempts to downplay Siderov's behavior as actions of an insane man are precarious.
True, our Nationalist leader often appears deranged, under the influence, and is notorious for having trouble with anger management, but he knows full well what he is doing. Elections are on the horizon, and to top it all, around the same time when Ataka's circus arrived to town, Siderov's former friend and now biggest foe – Valeri Simeonov, owner of Skat TV, founded his own nationalist party.
Dismissing the people, who took part in the mosque clash as "scum" not worth discussing, is even more dangerous – there is something very, very scary about a crowd of individuals, looking for things to smash, led by a mad man with a goal.
Tolerant Bulgaria on the path of Democracy must not only discuss them, but act and keep acting.
A colleague (Momchil Indjov, 24 Hours daily) reminded me about a very appropriate quote from Pastor Martin Niem?ller about the Nazis, by posting it in the aftermath on his Facebook wall:
"First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."
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