Muslims Say Bulgaria Plagued with Islamophobia, Vow to Defend Themselves

Society | June 13, 2011, Monday // 17:18
Bulgaria: Muslims Say Bulgaria Plagued with Islamophobia, Vow to Defend Themselves Bulgarian Muslims are pictured praying at the Sofia Mosque at the end of May 2011. Photo by BGNES

Part of the Bulgarian society is plagued with islamophobia, the Bulgarian Chief Mufti's Office has declared in a special statement urging the Bulgarian Muslims to take measures to defend themselves against attacks.

Monday's statement of the Chief Mufti's Office comes a day after on Sunday the warden of the main mosque in downtown Sofia suffered a brutal assault at the hands of unidentified attackers just minutes before the start of the morning prayer on Sunday.

In it, the Chief Mufti's Office refers to the incident of May 20, 2011, when extremists from the nationalist and far-right party Ataka assaulted praying Muslims outside the Sofiay Mosque Banya Bashi when an Ataka rally against the loudspeakers of the mosque got out of hand.

The Chief Mufti's Office, however, complains that numerous similar incidents have followed ever since, and that the Bulgarian state institutions have failed to protect the Muslims in Bulgaria and their temples.

"After this next case of violence against a Muslim and the desecration of a mosque, the Bulgarian Muslims community has received a clear message that the state is either unable to protect us, or doesn't want to do that, which leaves us in a very hard situation as citizens of the EU who were still hoping that there are sufficiently good democratic mechanisms for preventing repressions against us," reads the statement of the religious leadership of the Bulgarian Muslims.

"Unfortunately, our hope turned out to be illusionary, our expectations were not met, and we are now aware that we have to provide for our own security and rights. Nnumerous cases, some of them rather shocking, in the recent years lead us to assume that Muslims are unwanted in this country, and that pressure against us will continue... [They] show that part of the Bulgarian society is hostile and aggressive against Islam, Islamic values, and the Muslim community," the Chief Mufti's Office says stressing that the above-described incidents should not be treated as hooliganism or criminal acts "but as a common strategy and intolerance against the Muslims, which could probably lead to more large-scale operations."

"This kind of islamophobia and pressure expressed as threats, insults, restricting religious rights, and physical violence should be treated as an attempt to instigate inter-religious conflicts, a civil war, and a threat to the national security," the Chief Mufti's Office declares.

The statement further explains that even though after the attack on the Banya Bashi mosque on May 20, 2011, the Bulgarian Muslims "received the support of the politicians, the intelligentsia, and part of the society", similar incidents have continued to occur.

The Chief Mufti's Office says that on May 30, 2011, it alerted Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov about several more cases of physical assaults on praying Muslims but that it did not see any reaction from human rights organizations, the government, the civil society, the political parties.

"Why? Probably because we are now used to such incidents and because some circles acquiesce to the violence against us?.. The National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria adopted a declaration stating that the Muslims do not need to defend themselves because the authorities can do that. It turns out that this is not really true, and it is an attempt to put out the problem, to win time, and to blunt our feelings," says the office of the Bulgarian Chief Mufti.

It further calls upon the Muslims in the country to organize day and night guards as volunteers "in order to protect what the state fails to protect – the honor and dignity of Islam and Muslims."

"These steps are the beginning of a self-protection campaign. We are going to inform you of your next steps depending on the development of the problems and the desires of the community. In conclusion, we turn to our state leaders, institutions, and authorities, to all evil-minded people, to all Islamophobes, to all attackers – do you think that we love Bulgaria less than you?", concludes the Chief Mufti's Office.

The Muslim community in Bulgaria can be perceived as rather diverse as it consists of indigenous Muslims - ethnic Bulgarian Muslims (also known as Pomaks) and ethnic Turks – as well as immigrants from the Arab countries and Iran.

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Tags: Bulgarian Muslims, muslims, Chief Mufti, Chief Mufti's Office, Islam, Islamophobia, Ataka, far-right, nationalists, Sofia Mosque, Banya Bashi

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