Ethnic, Religious Controversy Flares in Bulgaria

Domestic | May 23, 2011, Monday // 14:15|  views

Bulgarians have been laying flowers at the Sofia mosque all day on Saturday to apologize for what they see as a shameful assault on praying Muslims by the nationalist party Ataka. Photo by BGNES

Radical Islam does not exist in Bulgaria, Chief Mufti, Mustafa Alish Hadzi, told the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, Monday.

The Mufti made the statement in response of accusations, coming from leader of the far-right, nationalist Ataka party, Volen Siderov, who insists radical Islam is preached in mosques in Bulgaria.

Alish Hadzhi pointed out his office would be first to oppose radicalism, adding it is unacceptable to insult people over their religion.

"We are way overpowered because we have politicians against us - they are the people who want to turn religion into politics and use it for political gains," the Mufti said.

Last Friday Ataka staged a rally in front of the Sofia's Banya Bashi mosque, protesting the fact it has loudspeakers that sound Muslim prayers in the entire area around. The rally escalated to a fight with injured and detained people. Siderov claims those at the mosque are Islamic extremists and terrorists.

Earlier Monday, the Ataka member of the Parliament, Desislav Chukolov, said in an interview for the Bulgarian National Television, BNT, the nationalists will hold a press conference soon to present proof that Banya Bashi is a cell of extremist Islam, spreading radical religious literature.

Chukolov insists the authorities are fully aware of the above, but have no desire to seek a solution and the smearing campaign against Ataka is a pre-election trick.

Ataka is also collecting signatures across the country to strip the leader of the ethnic Turkish party, Movement for Rights and Freedom, DPS, Ahmed Dogan, from Parliamentary immunity.

Political expert, Ognyan Minchev, called Ataka's actions in front of the mosque "filth," stressing violence cannot be excused by claims of extremism.

Also on Monday, the Deputy Chair of the DPS Parliamentary Group, Yunal Lyutvi, told the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, DPS was going to inform all European institutions about the nationalists' actions and declared Siderov detrimental for Bulgaria.

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Tags: extremist, Islam, radical, Mustafa Alish Hadzhi, Chief Mufti, Yunal Lyutvi, EU, DPS, Siderov, Volen, nationalists, sofia, banya bashi mosque, friday prayer, muslims, Ataka, Desislav Chukolov


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