The Chief Mufti, spiritual leader of Bulgaria’s Muslims, has condemned the hacking attack on the website of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church purportedly carried out by a Turkish group in revenge for a February attack on a Plovdiv mosque by an anti-Islamic mob.
On May 15, the site of the Holy Synod, the church’s governing body, was hacked with a message condemning the church’s “silence” on the February 14 vandalism of the Dzhumaya mosque in Plovdiv and threatening further attacks.
In the February attack on the 15th century mosque, a landmark in central Plovdiv and actively used by the Muslim community, a mob of protesters who had gathered to demonstrate against the Chief Mufti’s court claims for the ownership of a number of properties threw objects of the building and there was an attempt at arson. Four people later were fined or suspended jail sentences over the incident.
The Chief Mufti’s office said that it condemned attacks to drive a wedge between Muslims and the Holy Synod. “Moreover, Islam and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church have traditionally good relations,” the general secretary of the Chief Mufti’s office, Ahmed Akhmedov, said.
The Holy Synod said that Patriarch Neofit recently had a meeting with the Turkish ambassador, who had said that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had nothing to do with the vandalisation of the mosque.
“The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has always been the guarantor of ethnic peace in the country. This will continue . In no way can we support any acts of vandalism on the part of individuals and organisations that aim to disrupt this peace,” Alexandra Milanova, public relations director of the Holy Synod, said.
Several hours were required to restore the contents of the website of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Next week there will be a meeting between the Grand Mufti and Patriarch Neofit, which will identify additional measures to further improve interaction between the two faiths.
Gavril, the Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan of Lovech, said that Patriarch Neofit had condemned the attack on the mosque, as had Plovdiv Metropolitan Nikolai.
“What more can the church do?” Gavril said. He said that the perpetrators of the attack on the mosque were people who did not usually attend church.
Speaking to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television, national security expert Slavcho Velkov said that the hacking attack had elements of cyber-terrorism because of the threat to national security. Security agencies should take up the matter, he said.
Velkov said that those who carried out the hacking attack were not professionals and he doubted that all of them were from the ethnic Turkish minority. He said that there might be a connection with the upcoming European Parliament elections in Bulgaria on May 25 and the complicated political situation in Turkey.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)