US with a Report on Religious Freedom in Bulgaria: Mosques are not Built or Repaired

Banya Bashi mosque @Wikimedia Commons
03.06.2022 / 17:42

The Annual Report to the United States Congress on religious freedom in the world – “The International Report on Religious Freedom”, has been published on the State Department's website.

It describes the status of religious freedom in each country and covers government policies that violate the religious beliefs and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, as well as US policies to promote religious freedom around the world.

The report provides a detailed and factual report on the state of religious freedom in 200 countries and territories and documents data on violations and abuses committed by governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals.

The section on religious freedom in Bulgaria in 2021 states that Muslim leaders have again said that several Bulgarian municipalities have refused permission to build new or repair existing religious sites - mosques.

The chief mufti and regional Muslim leaders have signaled that authorities in Sofia, Stara Zagora and Gotse Delchev continue to reject, according to them, for non-transparent reasons, their demands to build new or renovate existing religious sites.

The Chief Mufti's Office has said it continues to seek ways to legally recognize it as the successor to all pre-1949 Muslim religious communities in order to return approximately 30 properties, including eight mosques, two schools, two baths and a cemetery seized from the former communist regime.

In addition, according to NGOs, souvenirs with Nazi insignia and images continue to be widely available in tourist areas across the country, and local authorities in few of these places have responded to the complaints.

The report says anti-Semitic rhetoric has continued to appear regularly in online comments and social media sites, as well as in articles in electronic and traditional Bulgarian media. Anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas and insults, has appeared in public.

The Jewish NGO “Shalom” has reported frequent cases of anti-Semitic hate speech online in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as acts of vandalism against Jewish cemeteries and monuments. Stickers with Nazi symbols have appeared in public transport vehicles in Sofia, as well as in the ski lifts in Bansko.

The Chief Mufti's Office also cites several cases of offensive graffiti on Muslim property, such as the swastika of a mosque in Plovdiv in January last year and obscene spray-painted images on a mosque in Kazanlak.

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