Muslims’ Prayer Carpet Burned

Prayer Mat burning Photo: Sofia Echo

As people were preparing for the end of the World on May 21, 2011 as pronounced by Family Church Radio Pastor, other people were busy insulting Muslims on their backyard. It is not known whether that was part of the Pastor’s preparation for the end of the world or not.

Followers of the Ataka party in Bulgaria sparked world criticisms after they burned Muslims’ praying mat outside Banya Bashi Mosque in Sofia on May 20, 2011 in a protest against the use of loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer on Friday.

It was another flagrant example of Islamophobia in the heart of Europe.

The Sofia Echo newspaper quoted the Bulgarian National Radio saying that the scuffles broke out after one of the Ataka protesters tried to steer a column towards Muslims taking part in Friday prayers, shouting racist abuse.

The protester was heard saying “Ataka”, (in reference to the far right Nationalist party) “Bulgaria”, “Turks out” and “janissaries,” while throwing stones and bottles at the mosque.

However, it was refreshing to see the Bulgarian Parliament condemning Volen Siderov and members of his ultra-nationalist Ataka party for their actions, with the MP who introduced the declaration, Ivan Kostov, the Blue Coalition co-leader, going as far as declaring the actions as a “threat to national security.”

“This declaration condemns the attempts of Ataka to undermine the religious peace and tolerance in Bulgaria,” Kostov was quoted by Bulgaria’s local media as to have told the parliament, adding that what the Party’s followers did on that Muslim’s holy day was “scandalous”.

“This political party (Ataka) is isolating itself from Bulgarian democratic society. Its behaviour is deeply foreign to the Bulgarian people, who are religiously and ethnically tolerant,” he added.

“Following its aggression against the ethnic peace in the country, Ataka has become a threat to the national security of Bulgaria. We call upon all institutions to undertake necessary measures to uphold the law and the constitution,” Kostov said, adding that all Bulgarian citizens, regardless of their ethnic or religious background, have equal rights which will be defended by the Government.

In his remarks, Ataka leader Siderov said that “an internal investigation” was underway to determine who torched carpets outside the mosque, as Ataka members “had nothing to do with this”. “I never advocated physical violence or the destruction of property,” Siderov said.

However, despite the positive response from the Bulgarian Parliament after this incident, another worrisome incident occurred a month later when the warden of the main mosque in downtown Sofia was assaulted, beaten and left unconscious. reported that the warden suffered a brutal assault at the hands of unidentified thugs, just minutes before the start of the Fajr (morning) Prayer on Sunday, June 10, 2011.

“Today we witnessed yet another attack against Sofia mosque. This morning, 20 minutes before the morning prayer, the warden of the mosque in Sofia was cruelly beaten. Unknown people have jumped over the fence of the mosque, beaten the keeper, destroyed the security room and burst into the mosque,” says the statement released by the Chief Mufti’s Office, adding, “Hate crimes, acts of xenophobia and Islamophobia have risen dramatically in recent months,”

According to the, the worshippers who went to the Mosque for the Fajr (morning) Prayer, are the ones who found the man, covered in blood and unconscious before they took him to the emergency Pirogov hospital.

In France, the Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France on June 12, 2011 also carried out a story on the disgraceful treatment of another Muslim woman in Béziers who attended a court hearing over the custody of her child.

A police officer told her that she would have to remove her headscarf out of respect for the judge, by order of the court, otherwise the hearing would take place in her absence. When she tried to enter the courtroom wearing a headband rather than a scarf she was barred by the clerk who told her “No! No! Veils are prohibited” and made her remove the headband before she was allowed in. France recently outlawed the Niqab covering for Muslim women.

During the hearing the judge told the woman that she was a “bad mother” because she had allowed her son to convert to Islam, which the judge described as “an act of barbarism towards children”, adding “don’t tell me that the Muslim religion is better than any other religion”. Despite the evidence that the child wanted to remain with his mother the judge stated that it was not for the child to “choose and lay down the law in this court”.

However, according to the Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France, the CCIF condemned the court’s treatment of the young woman and called on the minister of justice to take disciplinary action against the judge.

If this was not enough, on June 3, 2011 News10 website also reported that the Sacramento man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for beating up Herbehjan Singh, a cab driver whom he thought was a Muslim. Ramirez, his wife and another couple got a ride home from aSacramento club last November – and got into a dispute over payment with the driver.

The prosecution said Herbehjan Singh was savagely beaten because he wore a turban, which led the attackers to believe he was Muslim. Pedro Ramirez made a plea bargain with the prosecutor’s office to get 13 years instead of life in prison, which was possible if he was convicted at trial.

It is evident from these incidents that Islamophobia is on the rise, though there have been concerted efforts by Governments and organizations to tackle this issue.

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