Muslims want second mosque in Sofia

By Sufia

Muslims want second mosque in Sofia 480x290 Muslims want second mosque in Sofia

The leadership of Sofia’s mosque have said that the temple is now too small to hold the capital’s Muslim community during Friday prayers and that the authorities should authorise construction of a second mosque.

In order to avoid future tension with other residents, and to prevent rallies such as that staged by Ataka members on May 20, they have also vowed to “reconsider” their policy of allowing worshippers to pray outside, hoping to reduce obstruction to pedestrians during prayer time.

They have also promised to reduce the sound on loudspeakers to the “bare minimum” so that the noise does not disturb the surrounding area.

“We were given assurances by the Sofia municipality that this Friday (May 27) we would be allowed to carry on with our prayer as we have done in the past,” said Hyussein Hafuzov, the Muslim general secretary in Bulgaria, cited by Dnevnik daily.

“Every Friday, we get between 1200 and 1500 worshipers, most of them young people, and they are often forced to go out into the courtyard or the pavement because there is insufficient room in the mosque to accommodate them all,” he added.

There were no reported disturbances during the May 27 prayer, although there had been fears that another rally might be staged in protest.

The Muslim leadership also appealed to other Muslims to be calm and not be provoked by the May 20 incident, saying that “there was no clash between Muslims and Ataka last week per se; some people simply defended themselves and the mosque”.

Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova has said that measures have been drawn and presented to the Muslim leadership, stipulating that amendments have to be made so that other people are not disturbed on prayer days and that “people should be aware of the laws”. She added that “Islam is a registered religion in the country and is protected by Bulgarian law”.

Tensions in the community resurfaced again last week when three Ataka supporters were arrested and one of the party’s MPs, Denitsa Gadzheva, was injured in the incident at the Banya Bashi mosque, which followed a protest by Ataka against the use of loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer on Friday May 20.

This was the latest in a series of protests which started some years ago against the loudspeakers, but Ataka has revived its campaign in the run-up to Bulgaria’s autumn 2011 municipal and presidential elections, in which Siderov has said he will stand as a presidential candidate.

Scuffles broke out after one of the Ataka protesters tried to steer a column towards Muslims taking part in Friday prayers.

Earlier on May 27, the Bulgarian Parliament had condemned the actions of Volen Siderov and members of his ultra-nationalist Ataka party outside the Sofia mosque.

MPs from all parties present in the parliamentary sitting, with the exception of Ataka MPs who abstained, voted in favour of the declaration condemning Ataka’s actions, calling it a “threat to national security”.

Siderov himself said that “an internal investigation” is currently underway to determine who torched carpets outside the mosque, as Ataka members “had nothing to do with this”.

“I never advocated physical violence or the destruction of property,” Siderov said, quoted by Dnevnik.

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