Bulgaria may take Guantanamo detainees

Detainees with alleged al-Qaida links could be relocated to Bulgaria. As part of the process of deciding whether to oblige the US’s request for the transfer, the governments are working together so that all information regarding their legal status is disclosed.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov stated that taking an inmate would be a strong gesture of cooperation between Europe and the US.

Socialists lose in European Parliament

With the lowest turnout figures in European Parliament elections since 1979, the fear that racist and far-right parties would sweep the European elections did not materialise, although in the Netherlands, Austria, Britain and Hungary, they were quite successful. In Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Poland and Bulgaria, racist and far-right parties did worse than expected. In the UK for the first time two members of the right wing British National Party (BNP) were elected.

Administration of Islamic Affairs in Secular States Southeast European Experience

Call for Papers for the International Conference
The administration of Islamic affairs and representation of Muslims in secular states have become hot issues in Western European debates on the social integration of Muslim citizens. South East Europe has over a century of experience in this area. Muslim communities in the region have developed well-established autochthonous Islamic religious administrations. While this experience cannot simply be transplanted elsewhere, it offers many insights for policy-makers in an enlarging and ever more diverse Europe. Also important are alternative Islamic structures in the region. Heterodox Sufi organizations exist in parallel with official Sunni establishments. Both pan-Islamists and secularists have criticized clerical leaderships, and the established order is now facing a more radical challenge by Salafi networks. Independent Muslim women groups, too, are springing up. Leadership contests within the religious establishments, often tied to broader political conflicts, have led to schisms, parallel organizations, and local violence. All this calls for a systematic investigation of the Islamic administrations in the region. In recent years, there has been heightened interest in Islam in South East Europe in the context of European integration. The proposed conference is however the first to focus specifically on these key structural aspects, which have immediate social and political implications.

Papers are invited along the following thematic clusters:

1. Islamic Administrations in SE Europe – State of affairs, common features and issues, relations with the state: Country overviews for Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, Romania, Croatia, and Slovenia (one researcher may combine more than
one);

2. Alternative, Parallel, Independent, and “Anti-Establishment” Groups: Pan-Islamists, Sufis, Salafis, women’s organizations

3. Leadership Contests and Organizational Schisms: esp. Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece

The following two themes will be covered by invited conference guests. However if you feel strongly about any of these please submit your abstract.

1. The SEE Model in Comparative Perspective: Between Turkey’s Diyanet and Western Europe’s mosque federations;

2. The SEE Model: Integration and Security Challenges: Islamic leadership and the containment of radicalism

Deadlines & Submission

Proposals (Abstracts) – 5 January 2009. Accepted proposals will be announced within two weeks. To submit a proposal, send an abstract (200 words) to: jusicm2000@yahoo.com or cns@bih.net.ba. Please supply a short biographical profile (150 words) with your abstract.

Papers – 27 March 2009.

Conference language: English

Travel & Accommodation

ISEEF has received a grant from the King Baudouin Foundation to pay travel and accommodation expenses in addition to symbolic honoraria (200 EUR) for selected presentations. However we would appreciate if your organization or institution could cover your travel and accommodation costs to allow us to invite more researchers who cannot afford to cover their expenses.

Bulgaria: Ataka wants referendum on second Sofia mosque

Sofia councilors from an ultra-nationalist party are demanding a referendum concerning the planned construction of a second mosque in the Bulgarian capital. The Ataka party argues that Muslims in Sofia already have one mosque and that this is sufficient. Ataka are opposed to any form of promotion of the Islamic faith or construction of mosques or Islamic centers, particularly concerning issues of funding. Ataka party leader has already protested about the noise levels coming from the Sofia mosque, but now demands a total referendum on all Islamic facilities and places of worship.

Bulgaria: Imam shortage forces 200 mosques to close

Bulgaria’s Grand Mufti Mustafa Haji announced the closure of 200 mosques in the country due to a lack of imams or religious leaders. “Although the number of faithful has grown, we are forced to close the mosques due to a lack of religious leaders. Many years of Communist rule and a lack of funds are the reasons for this crisis,” said Haji. Bulgaria has about 1,500 mosques, but only 900 have been open for the faithful – of which 200 are likely to closed.

Full-text article available here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Europe’s Right-Wing Leaders Seek New Party To Counter Islam, Other Perceived Threats

Right-wing leaders from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and France announced plans Friday to form a pan-European party with a mission to “rescue the Western world” from Islam and other perceived threats. Leftists called the plan “completely absurd.” Organizers of the new “European Liberty Party” pledged to pull in right-wing parties from at least three other countries and surpass the 20-seat threshold needed to form a faction in the European Parliament. “Patriots of all countries: Unite!” declared Heinz-Christian Strache, whose Freedom Party in Austria in the past has been accused of anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic statements. Strache was joined for Friday’s announcement in Vienna by Jean-Marie Le Pen of France’s extreme-right National Front; Frank Vanhecke of Belgium’s Flemish Interest Party; and Volen Siderov, the head of Bulgaria’s ultranationalist Ataka party. They said they would approach like-minded parties in Cyprus, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, along with rightists in Croatia and Serbia, which are not EU members.