Sunday, 24 April 2011

Muslim leader wins Bulgaria court battle

bulgaria-muftiMuslim community leader won a tough Bulgarian court battle that recognized him as legitimate Chief Mufti after years of struggle. Muslims make up about 12 percent of the Balkan country's 7.6 million people and they are native in European Union member-Bulgaria. Most are the descendants of ethnic Turks who arrived during five centuries of Ottoman rule that ended in 1878. The dispute emerged after Bulgaria fired the chief mufti Mustafa Alis Hadzhi, who was elected by Muslims, and appointed comunist era imam Nedim Gendzhev who was criticised by Muslims during "oppression period" in a move criticised as a state intervention in religious rights.
The Sofia Appellate Court ruled Thursday that Hadzhi as the legitimate Chief Mufti of the Bulgarian Muslim community, Bulgarian media reported.

The court revoked the decision of the lower instance – the Sofia City Court, declaring Genzhev "as the leader of the Supreme Muslim Religious Council."

The rule is final and cannot be appealed.

Bulgarian Turks were forced to leave the country during the so-called "revival process" at the end of the 80s. A "revival process" launched by the late communist dictator Todor Zhivkov to forcibly assimilate Muslims culminated with a campaign to force them to change their names, and the exodus of over 300,000 ethnic Turks to neighbouring Turkey in 1989.

According to Amnesty International, at least 100 Muslims died in his four-month campaign to force them to change their names to Bulgarian, which banned the Turkish language in public. It also banned the wearing of headscarves and other Islamic customs such as circumcision and funeral rights.

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