New wave of Islam in Bulgaria

NOTHING illustrates better the arrival of a new wave of Islam among Roma in Bulgaria’s southern town of Pazardzhik, whose imam Ahmed Mussa promotes the use of niqabs.

I’ve covered like this for the past two, three years to keep myself for my husband only and make sure I go to heaven,” says Habibe, 35, her dark eyes glittering under the black full-face veil.

A former Christian, she converted to Islam and changed her name from Milka.

Her blue-eyed friend, Lyudmila, now Melek, says Islam opened “an ocean of knowledge” to her, compensating for being taken out of school at the age of 14 to prevent her from “being stolen and forced into an early marriage“.

Habibe and Melek bought their black made-in-Turkey niqabs from the local store of their “sister” in religion, Shasine, the wife of imam Ahmed Mussa.

Only the most fervent believers wear the niqab,Shasine, who is also a convert, says, adding that most women from Bulgaria’s indigenous 13-per cent Muslim minority wear only a headscarf.

But her husband Mussa can no longer travel to Turkey to supply their small store.

He was put on trial last year along with 12 other imams, mufti Islamic scholars and teachers for alleged “dissemination of an anti-democratic ideology”.

All the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges but 38-year-old Mussa is particularly apprehensive about the trial.

He is the only one in the group who has already received a suspended sentence for spreading radical ideas in 2003.

He meets AFP surrounded by a bunch of other men, who all wear long black beards. Like the women’s niqabs, long beards are not customary among the rest of Bulgaria’s Muslims.

Himself an ex-Christian called Angel, Mussa says he discovered Islam in 2000 while working in construction in Vienna.

A Muslim community there sheltered him and other workers and even paid for their medical examinations. He came back to Bulgaria and studied Islam in a mosque school in the southern village of Sarnitsa.

His tutor there, imam Said Mutlu, has studied in Saudi Arabia and is the key accused in the trial.

The unprecedented court case, which brought Mussa’s small community into the spotlight, is bogged down after most of the key witnesses refused to confirm their initial testimony against the defendants in court.

Mussa said hints he might have been targeted out of jealousy by the Christian evangelist priests competing for followers among the 14,000 souls in his Roma neighbourhood.

Muslims, Christians or non-believers, the Roma in Pazardzhik all agree on one point: thefts, pimping and prostitution were reduced thanks to Islam and evangelist preachers.

While the state disappeared from the Roma ghettos and traditional religions did not do anything, the evangelists started to play a social role in the 1990s,” says minority researcher Alexey Pamporov, who did a project here in 2011.

The preachers convinced the outcasts to stop drinking and dress neatly. They found jobs, lived better and believed that God worked a miracle with them,” he adds.

Other minority experts share his view.

In Bulgaria, Islam is democratic and well adapted to the surroundings,” he explains.

Source: Alukah

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *