Bulgaria’s Historic Mosques Await Restoration

SOFIA – The Office of the Grand Mufti of Bulgaria has declared 27 Ottoman-era mosques, which lost their minarets in the east Balkan’s nation, as historic sites, preventing the Muslim community from using them for prayers.

“The Bulgarian officials aren’t allowing restoration because they say the mosques no longer have minarets and they are surrounded by archeological sites where excavations take place,” the Grand Mufti’s Office told Anadolu Agency.

“We’ve been legally pressing ahead for the restoration of the mosques for many years.”

These mosques include Fatih Mehmed Mosque in Kyustendil, Karaca Pasha Mosque in Gotze Delchev, and Ibrahim Pasha Mosque in Razgrad.

Mustafa Izbishtali, the mufti of Sofia, told Anadolu Agency that the mosques’ maintenance is growing more difficult due to bureaucratic hurdles.

“They blocked the restoration of Fatih Sultan Mehmed Mosque, built in 1531, for 30 years,” he said.

“The lead plating on the dome of the mosque was stolen years ago and sold to scrap collectors. The highly valuable rugs in the mosques also vanished after being stolen and sold,” he informed angrily.

“The city administration is making all efforts to wipe away the remains of Muslims in Kyustendil. They’re waiting for the mosque’s minaret to collapse by keeping it shut. The Kyustendil Municipality wants to wash away the traces of Islam.”

Izbishtali clarified that “out of at least 11 mosques in Kyustendil, there are only two mosques open for worship and two others closed to worship.”

The Mufti of Sofia highlighted that the mosques of Kyustendil and Razgrad are a common cultural heritage.

“I urge the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to support their restoration,” he added.

Izbishtali prefers the mosques to be restored as worship houses, not museums, because about 4,000 Muslims in Gotze Delchev are “forced to pray at a mosque with a capacity for just 100 people according to local clerics.”

Aydin Muhammed, the mufti of Blagoevgrad expressed that the Muslim community is ready to restore the mosque “through their own means.”