The Chief Mufti of Bulgaria, spiritual leader of the country’s Muslim minority, said on March 28 that his office would do everything in its power to work with the Muslim community to not allow “radically-minded elements” to gain a foothold in the country.
Chief Mufti Mustafa Hadji, speaking at a conference entitled “the Muslim religion, 2016-2021” said that the spread of such elements was harmful both to Muslims and to society.
“We as Muslims are obliged to show the real face of Islam, and that is that we, as Muslims, followers of this religion, do not wish ill to anyone,” Hadji said.
Hadji, recently re-elected as Chief Mufti, said that other countries could benefit from the Bulgarian experience when it comes to peace and understanding among religions.
At the conference, Hadji was asked by reporters about reported plans for a second mosque in Sofia. He said that the issue had been raised a long time ago and there was no sense on commenting on it time and again.
In Sofia, Muslims had only the Banya Bashi Mosque, which was insufficient to the needs of the community and every Friday most worshippers had to say their prayers on the pavements outside, which was extremely inconvenient and unpleasant, Hadji said.
Finding far-sighted politicians to solve this would benefit everyone, he said. The number of mosques should be determined by a proportion to the number of Muslims, the Chief Mufti said.
After the terrorist attacks in Belgium’s capital Brussels on March 22, the office of the Chief Mufti of Bulgaria was among the first in the country to issue an official statement condemning the attacks.
The statement offered condolences to the entire Belgian people and the bereaved families, as well as its wishes for strong patience to the families of those who were killed.
The Chief Mufti’s office said that it strongly condemns terrorist acts causing incurable wounds to human civilisation, acutely compromising the world balance and the striving to peaceful co-existence.
“Unacceptable and deeply reproachful are the acts of violence towards humanity, regardless of the religious, ethnic and geographical differences. The infringement of the rights of innocent people turning them into helpless targets of death is inconceivable,” the statement said.
“The unprecedented violation of the supreme virtues of Islam and its disparaging to a mean for achieving mercantile interests strongly distresses us. The Islamic religion does not preach violence in any form and it condemns the destruction of human life no matter what is the reason for such an act,” the Chief Mufti’s office said.
“The deeply desecrating the Islamic religion acts of self-proclaimed pseudo-defenders of religion which we are witnessing cannot be identified with the commandments of our Holy religion because they are fundamentally different. These xenophobic acts of violence, caused by infantile lust for power, lined with deep lack of knowledge of the high moral Islamic values and obvious ignorance are a serious threat to the world peace,” the statement said.
In Bulgaria in March 2014, a lengthy trial of a group of Muslims charged with attempting to spread “an anti-democratic ideology” – a crime under Bulgaria’s Penal Code – ended in a jail sentence for one accused, suspended sentences for two others, while 10 others were fined.
In February 2016, the district court in the Bulgarian town of Pazardjik held the first hearing of a case in which 14 people are accused of promoting religious hatred and warmongering. One of the 14 people on trial was Ahmed Musa Ahmed, who was convicted in the earlier “radical Islam” trial and was handed a heavier sentence by the Plovdiv appellate court on July 1 2015.
Ahmed and his co-defendants in the current trial were arrested in November 2014, following raids by the State Agency for National Security, police, gendamerie and prosecutors, which included searches at 40 different addresses. The accused deny wrongdoing.
In Bulgaria’s 2011 census, the country’s most recent, about 577 000 people – or about eight per cent – of the population of 7.1 million declared themselves to be Muslims.