You are here

Islamist Radicalization in Bulgaria

Islamist Radicalization in Bulgaria

News Date: 

Sharia Watch View:

What is notable about the report is that the majority ("Only 0.5% believed that sharia should partly inform the law") and ("religion was not of primary importance to Bulgaria’s Muslims") largely ignore Islamic texts. The concern is increasing religiosity amongst Muslims but the report still shies away from considering that Islamic texts and teachings might be the cause of radicalisation. The report cites 'far right' narratives as a potential driving factor behind Islamic radicalisation. The converse effect that a growing Islamic population and influence might be driving growing concerns, which are then characterised as 'far right' to discredit them, isn't considered.

Bulgaria was under the yoke of the Ottoman empire for a long time but concerns about a reawakening of the Ottoman empire (Can Turkey renovate its empire by the end of the Treaty of Lausanne 2023…) are dismissed as xenophobia and racism. Look at the recent news from Turkey to see why non-Muslims might be concerned.

Like many other Eastern European countries, when it comes to Islamist radicalization, Bulgaria has been kept out of the spotlight of terrorism studies. Nevertheless, the country is characterized by some interesting trends that are likely to create complex scenarios in the near future.

Islam is the largest religion in the country after Christianity. According to 2011 estimates, Muslims comprised 7.8% of the population. Just six years later, the percentage had doubled to 15%. Ethnically speaking, Bulgarian Muslims are mostly Turks, ethnic Bulgarians, and Roma. Ethnic Turks are also the largest ethnic minority in the country, comprising 9% of the total population of Bulgaria.

Muslims in Bulgaria are largely secular like most Muslims in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Dr. Evgenia Ivanova of the New Bulgarian University stated in 2011 that religion was not of primary importance to Bulgaria’s Muslims. She conducted a survey of 850 Muslims in the country, which found that approximately 41% never went to a mosque and 59.3% did not pray at home. Only 0.5% believed that sharia should partly inform the law and 79.6% said that wearing a veil in school was “unacceptable”.

In 2017, however, a new survey by Pew Research Center showed signs of an increased religiosity, with 33% of Bulgarian Muslims stating that religion was “very important” in their lives, 7% of Bulgarian Muslims prayed the five salat, 22% attended mosque at least once a week, and 6% read Quran at least once a week.