WikiLeaks: Islamic Extremists Are Active in BulgariaDiplomacy | July 14, 2011, Thursday // 14:44| views
Bulgarian Muslims are pictured praying at the Sofia Mosque at the end of May 2011. Photo by BGNES
"Islamic extremists are active in the country with Bulgaria's government officially tolerant, but Muslim minorities and their problems being often ignored by central authorities."
This statement comes from a cable, dated October 10, 2005, sent to the US State Department by former US Ambassador to Sofia, John Beyrle, titled "Islam and Islamic Extremism in Bulgaria. It was released by the site for investigative journalism Bivol.bg, partner of the whistle-blowing site Wikilekas.
"Moderate central Islamic institutions are nearly bankrupt and cannot afford to pay salaries to imams or fund moderate religious education. Islamic institutions at every level are financially dependent on loosely-monitored foreign Islamic foundations, some of which promote Islamic extremism. Extremist activity in Bulgaria includes fundraising, logistical support to terrorist operations, and the recruitment of Bulgarian Muslims. Rampant unemployment, weak moderate Islamic institutions, and a history of discrimination enhance the vulnerability of Bulgarian Muslims to extremist exploitation," Beyrle writes in the cable.
The US diplomat's analysis describes the spread of Islam in Bulgaria among the different Muslim minorities – ethnic Turks, Roma, who have adopted the Muslim religion, and ethnic Bulgarian Muslims (also known as Pomaks).
According to the cable, the most interesting group for Islam fundamentalists, are precisely the Pomaks, who live in the Rhodope Mountains and in southwestern Bulgaria. "Pomaks have received far more money and attention from foreign Islamic groups than have Turks and Muslim Roma, in part because of their fair-skinned European appearance," Beyrle points out.
The report further reveals the US are really concerned by imported Islamic extremism in Bulgaria over the lack of financial support on the part of the Bulgarian government for the traditional Islam.
"The influence of Islamic extremists in Bulgaria will also be curtailed if the Bulgarian government can be persuaded to subsidize Islamic education, return disputed "Wakaf" properties, or otherwise lessen the financial dependence of central Islamic institutions on foreign Islamic organizations," the cable concludes.
The report informs the Bulgarian intelligence and the CIA are working in partnership to locate and monitor Islamic groups in Bulgaria such as as Al Qa'ida, Ansar-al-Islam, Hizballah, and Chechen rebels.
The cable also reveals that the US is against the expansion of Fundamental Islam in a country considered and ally and which is a NATO member, noting Bulgaria is one of the largest Muslim communities in Europe with over 900 000 Muslims, who are 135 of its population.
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