Bulgarian Imams Are Left Without Pay
Since March, funding for Bulgaria’s Islamic schools, previously provided by the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, has been blocked, forcing the Bulgarian Grand Mufti’s office to freeze the salaries of hundreds of imams, Grand Mufti spokesperson Jelal Faik told BIRN on Thursday.
BIRN approached the governmental press service with questions regarding the current state of the funding for the Bulgarian Muslim denomination, but they had provided no reply by the time of publication.
Faik said that in order to provide funds for the three Islamic high schools and one High Institute it runs in Bulgaria, it had to cut the pay for its clerics, affecting around 600 imams, 32 of whom have already left.Since 1998 Bulgarian Islamic schools, run by the mufti’s office, have been funded by Turkey according to a protocol signed between the Turkish Diyanet and the religious affairs directorate at the Bulgarian Council of the Ministers. According to the mufti’s office, it used to receive around 2 million leva (1 million euros) per year to cover the expenses for its educational activities.
But in April, after a significant delay in receiving the cash, the mufti’s office was told by the Diyanet that the funding protocol had been unilaterally cancelled by the Bulgarian interim cabinet in March, amid growing tensions between the two countries over Turkey’s blatant interference in Bulgaria’s snap parliamentary vote on March 26.
The topic of Turkey’s meddling in Bulgaria’s internal affairs assumed centre stage in the Bulgarian election with a number of Turkish diplomats expelled or banned from entering Bulgaria after accusations of attempted voter influence
Since then, the agreement had not been renewed, leaving the Grand Mufti’s office without funds for its essential activities.In June, prime minister Boyko Borissov announced that the MPs would start working on amendments to the law on religious denominations that would ban foreign funding, while providing extra state funding for national religions, increasing state control over the activities of the denominations.
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