Bulgarian Muslims face oppression era-religious bans
Muslims face oppression era-religious bans in Bulgaria that entered EU, pledging more freedoms and rights to its citizens.
Muslims face oppression era-religious bans in Bulgaria that entered European Union on 1 January 2007, pledging more freedoms and rights to its citizens.
Bulgaria's Socialist-led government approved a draft bill on Thursday banning Muslim headscarves from schools.
The bill still needs approval from parliament.
Bulgaria, where Muslims account for about 12 percent of the 7.6 million population and some 80 percent are Orthodox Christians, so far did not have such a ban.
The office of the Muslim Chief Mufti in Bulgaria said the ban was wrong.
"We express our disagreement and bitterness with this decision. It completely damages the rights as well as the responsibilities of Muslim women," Hussein Hafazov of the Chief Mufti office told Reuters.
Last week, the government lunched an investigation into a local mayor and an Islamic studies teacher over Islam teaching.
The Chief Mufti expressed concern over increasing community tensions.
He said there had been arson attacks on mosques and other Muslim buildings and girls had already been forbidden from wearing the traditional Muslim headscarf in some schools.
Bulgaria is the only European Union member where Muslims are a centuries-old community, mostly ethnic Turkish descendants of the Ottoman State's reach into Europe, they live beside Christians in a culture known as "komshuluk," or neighbourly relations.
A assimilation drive launched by late communist dictator Todor Zhivkov to assimilate Muslims culminated with a campaign to force them to change their names to Bulgarian and the exodus of some 300,000 Muslims 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.
When Bulgaria opened its border with Turkey in 1989, more than 300,000 Muslims left, although some later returned.
Besides ethnic Turks, Bulgarian Muslims also include 300,000 Roma Gypsies and Pomaks -- Europeans who converted to Islam under the Ottomans.
This ban comes in a time that all communist-era bans have been lifted in the country and the ethnic-Turkish MRF party has become a powerful political force, participating in the governments.
"Halt to mosque construction"
In a separate case, the Muslim community in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Burgas said it would file a complaint with the EU institutions over a city council halt of a mosque construction according to Bulgarian media reports.
Last week, the Burgas City Council voted against its own decision from December 2008, which allocated a plot in the Meden Rudnik ("Copper Mine") quarter for the construction of a new mosque.
Anti-mosque move came from the GERB party, whose informal leader is the Sofia Mayor Boyko Borisov with the support of the extreme right and nationalist Ataka ("Attack") party.