There was no evidence of radicalisation among Bulgaria’s Muslims, who overwhelmingly favoured a secular state, a survey by polling agency Alpha Research published on April 6 showed.
The risk of separate individuals falling under the influence of radical Islamism could not be discounted, but the majority of Bulgaria’s Muslims did not support radical strands of Islam, Alpha Research said in its report. As regards terrorism, 89 per cent of respondents said such acts should be condemned unconditionally, up from 79.4 per cent in a similar survey in 2011, and only 1.1 per cent said that terrorism could be justified under certain conditions, compared to 1.4 per cent in 2011.
Asked about their attitude towards the so-called Islamic State terrorist group, 2.8 per cent said that they viewed it positively and 64.3 per cent disapproved. Al Qaeda was seen positively by 0.5 per cent and negatively by 68.4 per cent.
Bulgarian Muslims remained among the poorer groups in Bulgaria’s society, which led to an increase in permanent immigration, as opposed to the predominantly seasonal migration previously, Alpha Research said. The survey found a high degree of religiousness among respondents with the lowest income, as well among an increasing number of young people, especially among those that lived at least some time abroad.
Overall, the proportion of respondents who viewed themselves as very religious declined from 28.5 per cent in 2011 to 20.2 per cent in the more recent survey, while the share of those who opted for “more religious than not” was up to 66.9 per cent from 63.4 per cent.
At the same time, more people said that they always observed the Ramadan fast – 35.4 per cent compared to 25.2 per cent in the 2011 survey.
Only 0.7 per cent of respondents said that Sharia law should be used to settle disputes, with 57.3 per cent saying it should be the judiciary, which showed clear support for the secular state, Alpha Research said. At the same time, interest in politics was on the decline, with 52 per cent of respondents saying that they had no interest, compared to 30 per cent in 2011, but that was a trend observed in entire Bulgarian society, the polling agency said.
Concerning the wearing of clothing partly concealing or hiding the face in public places, which Bulgaria’s Parliament outlawed last year, only 1.6 per cent of respondents said that a Muslim woman should always wear a burqa in public, while 20.7 per cent would approve only if the woman wanted to wear one. Those who opposed wearing burqa or niqab in public were 53.5 per cent of respondents.
On another topic generating significant public polemic in Bulgaria in recent years, as the country found itself on the path of migrants fleeing violence in the Middle East, a total of 38.5 per cent of respondents said that Bulgaria should not accept any migrants, while 22.6 per cent were in favour of limited acceptance, with Bulgaria setting its own limit. Bulgaria should accept as many migrants as set in EU quotas according to 16.7 per cent and only 4.7 per cent were in favour of accepting all comers.
Asked about their views on the events in Turkey following last year’s failed military coup, 52 per cent said that they had no opinion, with 29 per cent inclined favourably and 24 per cent disapproving of the government’s response.
The survey was carried out using face-to-face interviews in September-October 2016 among 1200 people who self-identified as Muslims during the 2011 census (in which 27.4 per cent of Bulgaria’s population said that they were Muslim), with funding from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the support of New Bulgarian University. The survey’s margin of error was 2.8 percentage points.
(The Banya Bashi mosque in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo: (c) Clive Leviev-Sawyer)