Muslim Hate in Bulgaria

New ‘radical Islam in Bulgaria’ claims

Sun 05 Oct 2008
Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Just days after Sofia hosted a forum on how teaching at schools could be used to forestall radical Islam, a researcher gave an interview alleging that extremist Islamic sects were operating in eastern Bulgaria.

In an interview with Bulgarian news agency Focus, associate professor Tatyana Dronzina – described as an expert on conflict and terrorism research – was quoted as saying that Turkish-linked radical sects Nurju, Suleymandj and Miligurush were believed to be active in the eastern part of the country.

There were some grounds for believing that people linked to these sects were trying to make contact with pupils in Muslim religious schools in Shoumen, Rousse, Momchilgrad and in the Islamic Institute in Sofia as well, Focus quoted Dronzina as saying

While several intelligence and media reports have highlighted the rise of radical Islam in the former Yugoslavia and especially in Bosnia, earlier in 2008 US journalist Christopher Deliso said in his book The Coming Balkan Caliphate: Threat of Radical Islam to Europe and the West that Bulgaria was among Balkan countries where radical Islam activists were present.

Most intelligence reports have suggested that any such activity in Bulgaria is on a small scale.

After the forum in Sofia, Bulgarian National Radio interviewed Kamen Velichkov of the Foreign Ministry, who is in charge of the country’s participation in the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Initiative.

“The prevention of radicalization in all creeds from an early school age is paramount, if we wish to have a dialogue among the various religions and cultures not only within the European Union,” Velichkov told BNR.

“The issue of Islam’s radicalization is a complex one. It is above all within the competence of the state administration. Bulgaria has been trying to draw on the European experience, and in particular that of Spain, as well as non-European countries by participating in various formats, such as the Mediterranean Co-operation.

“The problem with radicalization, however, is not only about opposing Islam to Christianity. It is a matter of tolerance and compatibility of cultural and religious traditions in general. We should keep in mind the fact that this problem exists within the Muslim community. But the same can be argued about Christians and Christianity. For example, we witnessed the role Georgia’s Orthodox Patriarch Elijah II tried to play in the conflict between two Christian Orthodox states, Georgia and Russia,” Velichkov said.

BNR also interviewed Dronzina.

“We believe that the more people know about each other, the less they are afraid of one another. And if we want to shed that fear, we should engage in meaningful communication. We should tackle the painful issues, as well, because no one will benefit from turning a blind eye to the real problems,” she said.

Asked whether there were ethnically or religiously based problems in Bulgaria, Dronzina said: “I firmly believe that co-existence among various ethnicities generates problems…When we speak about the Bulgarian ethnic model, we tend to discuss and admire our activities. Our ethnic model requires efforts on a daily basis. We should open the history pages, read them through and then close them to avoid having ‘nightmares’.

Dronzina, asked by BNR whether there was a trend of Islamic radicalization in general, and in Bulgaria in particular, said: “Bulgaria sets a good example of tolerant ethnic coexistence.

“As Beatriz Molina, the Spanish project manager put it, there is much more non-violence that violence about Islam. But in my opinion the rule of law and the observance of legal procedures within school communities are key to curbing Islamic radicalization,” Dronzina said.