Friday 22 November 2019

Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Bulgaria

Islam came to Bulgaria in the 9th century and has since grown into the second largest minority in the country, the second largest religion as well. Most of the Bulgarian Muslims practice Sunni branch of Islam, one of the two main strains of religious practice in Islam, the other being Shia Islam. The Muslims mostly constitute of Turks, Bulgarians and also Gypsy ethnicity. The Bulgarian Muslims are generally the descendants of the local Slavs who converted to Islam during Ottoman rule. During this period there were 3256 mosques in Bulgaria. For Bulgarian Slavic Muslims the term Pomaks is used inhabiting Bulgaria besides those in northeastern Greece and mainly northwestern Turkey.

For centuries Christians, Muslims, and Jews have lived together in Bulgaria. Islam had thrived in Bulgaria till the region fell under the Soviet influence and all religions, Muslims and Christians alike, suffered under the restriction of religious freedom by the Marxist-Leninist Zhivkov regime which instituted state atheism and suppressed religious communities. The Bulgarian communist regimes declared Islam and other religions to be "opium of the people." As a result of the persecution, 310,000 to 360,000 people are said to have fled to Turkey in 1989.  

16th-century Banya Bashi Mosque, in capital Sofia [
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Author: Nenko Lazarov / Source]

However, since the fall of the Zhivkov regime, Muslims in Bulgaria enjoyed greater religious freedom. New mosques have emerged in many cities and villages; one village built a new church and a new mosque side by side. Some villages organized Quran study courses for young people (study of the Quran had been completely forbidden under Zhivkov). Muslims also began publishing their own newspaper, Miusiulmani, in both Bulgarian and Turkish.

According to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, 15% of Bulgaria's population is Muslim - a sharp increase from 7.8% in 2014. Almost all Muslims in Bulgaria are Bulgarian citizens. Muslims living in Bulgaria are the largest Muslim minority in any EU country. As per 2001 census, 43 municipalities out of 262 have a Muslim majority. 

Is there Halal food openly available in Bulgaria? Well despite the sizable Muslim population, the answer is no. During the socialist period, most Muslims did not have access to halal food. However, now the notion of halal food is slowly re-appearing as only a few Muslims adhere to dietary restrictions. The majority of Muslims in Bulgaria who adhere to halal food restrictions are recent Arab immigrants to the country. In supermarkets, there are no signs indicating whether food is halal. There are many a eateries in capital Sofia and with little surfing of the net, one can know their exact locations. [5]

Religious ceremony of Bektashi Turks in Deliorman region [Photo: Oasis / © Umut Rosa - Shutterstock]

The Islamophobia notion is slowly creeping into the Bulgarian society and many non Muslim Bulgarians have started to question the Hijab worn by Muslim women. The recent ban on Hijab has met with mixed emotions. Ramiz Sali, former head of the Muslim board in Pazardjik, who now works at the city's 350-year-old Ottoman mosque, told BBC that he didn't care whether a woman covered her face or not, but that Islam only required that she wore a headscarf, while a man at the Abu Bakar mosque told the BBC that the ban was "an affront to the religion", but he refused to elaborate. The Grand Mufti's Office in Bulgaria has rejected the face veil ban bill, saying it infringes on the freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution.

Despite all odds that Muslims face as a second largest religion in Bulgaria, the Muslims continue to enjoy their religious festivities and enjoy their available religious freedom. Watch the video below:
Author's Note: The data for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries.

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
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