After bus bombing, Bulgaria frets over its Muslims

SARNITSA, Bulgaria Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:40am EST

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SARNITSA, Bulgaria (Reuters) - A bucolic painting of snowy mountains and traditional Bulgarian craftwork mingle in Said Mutlu's office with Arabic books and a calendar depicting Mecca.

The room reflects the mixed identity of Mutlu and Sarnitsa, a lakeside town in Bulgaria's remote south where women wear headscarves, men chat over coffee on the square and houses cluster around a mosque rather than a church. Bulgaria is an EU country where Muslims are a centuries-old community, not recent immigrants; but some feel that long co-existence is in peril.

Mutlu is on trial facing charges of running an unregistered branch of Al Waqf-Al Islami, a foundation funded mainly by hardline Salafi Muslims from Saudi Arabia who preach an ultra-conservative brand of the religion. He denies the charge.

"There is tension among people here. They are deeply shocked by the trial," said Mutlu, a quietly spoken and earnest 49-year-old man wearing tracksuit trousers striped with the colors of Bulgaria's national flag.

Mutlu is charged that he had preached, in one of Sarnitsa's mosques and in a coffee shop, an anti-democratic ideology promoting imposition of sharia law and inciting religious hatred.

Citing confiscated Islamic literature and witness statements, prosecutors say Mutlu and 12 other religious leaders and activists in southwest Bulgaria had been on Al Waqf-Al Islami's monthly payroll to spread radical ideas.

All deny any wrongdoing and many of the witnesses questioned have changed their statements in the courtroom.


The case, combined with the bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists this summer, has highlighted splits in society.

Nationalists have charged that the Balkan country could be an easy route into Europe for radical Islamists.

Protests by both Muslims, who make up some 15 percent of Bulgaria's 7.3 million people, and nationalists have rocked the town of Pazardzhik, a larger town at the foot of the Rhodope mountains where Mutlu's trial is taking place.

"When things in the country do not go well, they try by creating ethnic tensions to divert attention from the real problems," Mutlu said, fixing his glasses and shrugging his large shoulders.

Protesters led by far-right parties Attack and VMRO wave banners at demonstrations reading "Our religion is Bulgaria" and "Tough sentences for fanatics".

"Today they bring radical Islam and tomorrow they surely will ask for Islamic autonomy," said retired teacher Pavel Petkov. "We must wake up while it is still not too late."

Mutlu, who studied Islam in Saudi Arabia, has been an imam in Sarnitsa since 1998 and has won wide respect in the local community for a knowledge of theology and soft-spoken manner.

"As far as I know him, the man is clean. He has been an imam here for over 20 years. We cannot say anything bad about him," said Mustafa Alikanov, mayor of Sarnitsa.

"The town stands behind him".

Some Bulgarian Muslims are ethnic Turks, others Bulgarians whose ancestors converted under Ottoman rule that ended in 1878. The Islamic population is the highest proportion in any European Union member state.

The trial has revived memories of the 1980s when hundreds of Muslims were forced to change their names to Bulgarian ones and over 300,000 left the country due to a campaign by communist dictator Todor Zhivkov to revive mainstream Bulgarian culture - a policy that contributed to his fall from power in 1989.

With an election due next summer and rightist Prime Minister Boiko Borisov unsure of securing a second term, many in the Islamic community suspect the charges against Mutlu and others are cooked up and designed to bolster government support.

They say the government of the EU's poorest country neglects their needs and an economy which is recovering only slowly from a deep recession, with the number of jobless at 11 percent and rising, is fostering discontent among both communities.

Areas where Muslims live tend to be poorer and the community feels neglected over the more than 20 years since the fall of communism. The defendants deny receiving money from Al Waqf-Al Islami, though some studied in Saudi Arabia.

"We have the alienation, the disappointment and this on top," said Mikhail Ivanov, minority issues lecturer at Sofia's New Bulgarian University. "The balance is broken. We have a country which is indifferent to 1 million of its people."


The fault lines became clearer after a suicide bomber killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver at the Black Sea port of Burgas in July, an attack Israel blamed on Iran and the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah. Iran has denied the charge and accused Israel of carrying it out.

Some of the concern centers on Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU's passport-free Schengen zone. Once immigrants were in Bulgaria, they would be free to travel throughout the bloc.

"The public was terrified by Burgas and this fuelled an idea that there's a problem under the surface that's going to explode any moment," said Ioannis Michaletos, an independent Athens-based security analyst for southeast Europe.

The office of the Chief Mufti is keen to limit troubles between the communities and chief secretary Ahmed Ahmedov said it has known the defendants for a long time and not observed anything unusual in their behavior. But things can escalate.

"When you persistently mess in the hive, sooner or later it may blow out," Ahmedov said. "People should know we are not raising suicide bombers in the basement."

Another of the defendants, Hairi Sherifov, runs a youth soccer club in Rudozem, 10 kilometers from the Greek border.

Accused of teaching the children extreme Islam, which he denies, Sherifov said the 50-odd boys doing soccer drills at a crumbling stadium were both Muslim and Christian and there was no religious element in the club.

"In the mixed communities (like) Rudozem, where we all know each other, I think it will be hard - not to say impossible - for tensions to escalate," he said. "But people who are far from us, and they do not know us, they may get it wrong."

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)

(Additional reporting by Angel Krasimirov in Pazardzhik; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Comments (3)
Invictuss wrote:
Shite will hit the fan soon new Kosovo will appear soon and westernwellwishers will eagerly support it like we did in Serbia….

Nov 27, 2012 4:52am EST  --  Report as abuse
DeanMJackson wrote:
This is the USSR’s warning to NATO not to get involved in Syria, otherwise the Communists will set in place another Yugoslavia-style sectarian fighting, massacres that will keep NATO busy.

If the collapse of the USSR had been legitimate, the following obligatory actions would have taken place, as they always take place after political revolutions:

(1) Immediately after the “collapse” of the USSR high-ranking present and “former” Communist Party members within the various Federal government civilian/military/intelligence branches of the post Soviet republics were never arrested in the interests of national security:

Since there was no conquest that liberated the USSR, it would have been up to the people themselves to conduct the arrests to ensure the continuity of the freed state.

(2) Lower level Communist Party members within the 15 governments of the post USSR would have been immediately fired in the interests of national security:

The hated low-ranking CPSU members at all levels of government, who for 74 years persecuted the 90% of the population who were non-Communist, would have been fired from government positions, especially education. The freed Soviet public would then have requested assistance from the West to ensure critical services remained on-line until enough qualified freed Soviets could fill those positions.

(3) the Russian electorate these last 21 years have inexplicably only been electing for President and Prime Minister Soviet era Communist Party Quislings:

Presidents of Russia since 1991:

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin – July 10, 1991 – December 31, 1999 – Communist.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – 31 December 1999 – 7 May 2000 (Acting) and May 7, 2000 – May 7, 2008 – Communist.

Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev – May 7, 2008 – May 7, 2012, during his studies at the University he joined the Communist Party.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – May 7, 2012 – Present, Communist:

Yeltsin and Putin would have been arrested in the interests of national security, while Medvedev would have been shunned by the newly freed Russians.

(4) there was no de-Communization program initiated after the “collapse” of the USSR to ferret out Soviet era Communist agents still in power:

The fact that there were no Allies in the freed USSR to carry out a de-Communization program, meant the freed Soviets would not only have had to take up that program themselves but ensure, unlike the German de-Nazification example in post war Germany, its effectiveness since:

(a) there was no occupation force to ensure the Communists weren’t still in power or could mount a violent comeback; and

(b) ) unlike the Nazis that persecuted minorities in Germany, and were not generally hated by the dominant society, in the USSR Communists were the hated minority who persecuted the majority.

(5) not one “crime against humanity” indictment of the thousands of criminals still alive who committed crimes on Soviet territory:

Even post Nazi Germany (West and East) convicted and imprisoned Nazi war criminals.

(6) the refusal of the Russian Navy to remove the hated Communist Red Star from the bows of vessels, and the refusal of the Russian Air Force to remove the Communist Red Star from the wings of Russian military aircraft, not to mention placing the hated Communist Red Star on all new Naval vessels and military aircraft:

To the ordinary Russian, the Communist Red Star was the symbol for the hated Communist regime that for 74 years persecuted the 90% of the nation who were non-Communist; and

(7) Lenin’s tomb still exists in Red Square:

Just as the people of Germany tore apart the Berlin Wall in 1989, so too the Russian people would have destroyed Lenin’s tomb on December 25, 1991. The 74-year persecution of the 90% non-Communist Russian population would have seen Lenin’s tomb destroyed.

In order to understand the World Communist threat to our liberties, one must understand Communist strategy:

“Lenin advised the Communists that they must be prepared to “resort to all sorts of stratagems, maneuvers, illegal methods, evasions and subterfuge” to achieve their objectives. This advice was given on the eve of his reintroduction of limited capitalism in Russia, in his work Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder.

… Another speech of Lenin’s … in July 1921 is again highly relevant to understanding “perestroika.” “Our only strategy at present,” wrote Lenin, “is to become stronger and, therefore, wiser, more reasonable, more opportunistic. The more opportunistic, the sooner will you again assemble the masses round you. When we have won over the masses by our reasonable approach, we shall then apply offensive tactics in the strictest sense of the word.”

If you examine the backgrounds of prominent Russian figures, you will find that they have long Communist Party/ KGB or Komsomol pedigrees. Yet for some inexplicable reason, the Western media have accepted their sudden, orchestrated, mass “conversion” to Western-style norms of behavior, their endless talk of “democracy,” and their acceptance of “capitalism,” as genuine. “Scratch these new, instant Soviet “democrats,” “anti-Communists,” and “nationalists” who have sprouted out of nowhere, and underneath will be found secret Party members or KGB agents,” Golitsyn writes on page 123 of his new book [The Perestroika Deception]. In accepting at face value the “transformation” of these Leninist revolutionary Communists into “instant democrats,” the West automatically accepts as genuine the false “Break with the Past” — the single lie upon which the entire deception is based.

In short, the “former” Soviet Union — and the East European countries as well — are all run by people who are steeped in the dialectical modus operandi of Lenin. Without exception, they are all active Leninist revolutionaries, working collectively towards the establishment of a world Communist government, which, by definition, will be a world dictatorship.

It is difficult for the West to understand the Leninist Hegelian dialectical method — the creation of competing or successive opposites in order to achieve an intended outcome. Equally difficult for us to comprehend is the fact that these Leninist revolutionaries plan their strategies over decades and generations. This extraordinary behavior is naturally alien to Western politicians, who can see no further than the next election. Western politicians usually react to events. Leninist revolutionaries create events, in order to control reactions to them and manipulate their outcomes.” — William F Jasper, Senior Editor for The New American magazine.

You ask, what does Jasper mean when he says, “Leninist Hegelian dialectical method — the creation of competing or successive opposites in order to achieve an intended outcome”?

Simply explained, and on a tactical level, it’s called the “Scissors Strategy”, where one blade represents (for example) Putin & Company, however the other blade of the scissors–the leadership of the political “opposition” to Putin & Company–is actually controlled by Putin & Company*, which leaves the genuine opposition in the middle wondering why political change isn’t taking place. Understand this simple strategy?

On a strategic level, from 1960 – 1989 the USSR and China played the “Scissors Strategy”, by pretending to be enemies. This strategy allowed one side to play off against the other with the West, thereby gaining political advantages from the West, which neither Communist giant could have achieved if it was believed they were united. Clever, huh?

Nov 27, 2012 5:40am EST  --  Report as abuse
Peasant wrote:
This article sound very lightly for me. I know very well my country. The truth is that for the last 20 years radical Islam try to get into the country very rapidly. There ware built mosques in the areas without any Muslims, also I saw some Islamic web sides having articles offending Bulgarian Christians. There are cases of polygamy and marriages for 12 – 13 years old girls.
All that was not typical for Bulgarian Muslims even hundred years ago. It is normal for the Bulgarians, including some Bulgarian Muslims, to be afraid from the happening now.

Nov 27, 2012 7:45pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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