Recently, the chief Mufti of Muslims in Bulgaria, Mustafa Haji, announced that over 600 imams had not received their salaries for the fifth month and went abroad massively in search of means for subsistence. And among those who still remained in the country, a serious social tension accumulates, and they are preparing for public protests.
A week later, former presidential candidate Kemil Ramadan, who pretended to be a friend of high-ranking Arabs, put forward the idea of building a new mosque in one of the historical places in the center of Sofia, popular as the Tsar’s stables, if the City Hall agreed to this. More specifically, he informed that one of the sheikhs, who are the main shareholders of Abu Dhabi Investment, promised to allocate about 50-60 million dollars for the implementation of this project and personally be present at the laying of the first stone of the facility. And although Ramadan did not agree on his proposal with the Chief Muftiate, sources related to the leadership of the Bulgarian authority in charge of the Mohammedan authorities maintain that there is an agreement in principle if the issue is resolved through dialogue with the Metropolitan Municipality. From the nationalist party of VMRO, which is the coalition partner of the ruling party of the GERB, categorically stated that in the center of Sofia there is no place for a new mosque. The very idea of Ramadan was defined as disrespect even for the Bulgarian Muslims, professing traditional Islam, which differs markedly from the emirate’s characteristic religion. Either because it happened during the summer vacation season, or for some other reason, but this question, thank God, did not cause an acute political conflict. Nevertheless, he recalled that the issue surrounding the financing of the Muslim faith in Bulgaria remains open, even, one might say, alarmingly open.
In the spring it was already announced that there is no actual agreement between the Bulgarian Directorate for Religious Affairs and the Department of Religious Affairs of Turkey (Dianet) on granting financial assistance to our Muslim neighbors from our south-eastern neighbors. In June, from the press center, the government issued information that even if an agreement on assistance was concluded between the Chief Muftiate of Bulgaria and the Turkish Diaconate and concluded an agreement on assistance, this is just a legal document of a private nature, the presence of which the Directorate of Religious Affairs is not informed. In fact, we are talking about assistance in the amount of about 1 million euros, which Dianet allocates, mainly for the maintenance of pupils of secondary religious schools, but not to pay salaries to imams. Meanwhile, the government government that ruled between the second and third offices of Borisov prepared a draft legislative amendment, which provided for the prohibition of financing religious denominations at the expense of others’ funds, but the matter did not reach parliamentary debates on this issue.
The reasons for the termination of funding from Turkey have not been clarified, but, most likely, they are related to the political overtones. According to sources from the Muftiate, Dianet suspended financial support due to the tension that broke out between the two states during the referendum in Turkey and the subsequent parliamentary elections in Bulgaria. After all, it was then necessary for the authorities in Sofia to remind our neighbors that, according to the Law on Political Parties, “creeds can not carry out activities directed against sovereignty, territorial integrity and constitutional order in the Republic of Bulgaria, including by preaching and distributing literature And information materials “.
On the other hand, the number of foreign employees in the country at the invitation of different faiths, according to official information, is several hundred people working for different religious institutions: the Catholic Church, the Jewish faith, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, the Muslim confession, evangelical churches, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, including the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. This definitely suggests that the problem should not be solved only bilaterally with Turkey – there is a need for a law that would regulate this issue in relation to all religions.
And while the official departments of Bulgaria and Turkey remain silent on the issue, experts comment that both sides are interested in its decision. Some of them believe that it would be good if Bulgaria assumes specific obligations towards Muslims living in the country, given that investments in the presence of peaceful interreligious relations are also investments in security. In their opinion, to exercise careless attitude to the problems of Muslims in the context of the European war against terror, will not only be foolish, but also irresponsible.