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Conservatives Angered By Moldova's Recognition Of Muslims

One Muslim in Moldova says that plans for building Moldova's first mosque, let alone a minaret (such as this one in Switzerland), will have to wait.
One Muslim in Moldova says that plans for building Moldova's first mosque, let alone a minaret (such as this one in Switzerland), will have to wait.
By Mircea Ticudean
An unexpected new fault line has opened up on Moldova's divided political landscape and the country's tiny Muslim community is finding itself caught in the middle.

The controversy began last month when the Justice Ministry officially registered the Islamic League, an NGO representing Moldova's Muslims. The group had been seeking government recognition since 2008.

Ismail Abdel Wahab is a Jordanian-born Muslim living in the capital, Chisinau. He says the Western-leaning government's move is a welcome change in his community.

"We practiced Islam before they registered us, but it was a strange feeling to pray without the approval of the state," Wahab says. "But now we are registered and we can gather together and hold our prayers. We can celebrate together freely. We can feel as if we have all the rights of any Moldovan citizen without outside interference."

Representatives of the Orthodox Church were outraged at the government's decision. The head of the church, Metropolitan Vladimir, called the move "a humiliation" for the country's Christian majority, while other church officials said the Muslim association would "cause trouble" in Moldova.

The leader of the Communist Party, former President Vladimir Voronin, pointed out that Moldova resisted the construction of mosques when it was part of the Ottoman Empire and must continue to do so today.

Vladimir Voronin's Communists remain Moldova's biggest party, but without a majority in parliament.
"To register [this group] two weeks before Easter, which is our biggest Orthodox holiday, to register a faith that is the exact opposite of our own Orthodox religion -- this is more than strange," Voronin said. "I don't have words to describe it."

Islamic League head Segiu Sochirca has said he is disappointed with the reaction. He says that the country's Muslims have faced harassment and discrimination for many years.

"Every time we gathered for Friday Prayers, there were police officers at the entrance to our cultural center. They wanted to know exactly who went in and who went out," he tells RFE/RL's Moldovan Service.

"They compiled lists that made no sense to us and handed them over to the intelligence service. I was personally charged by prosecutors with practicing a religion that is banned in Moldova."

Conservatives vs. Liberals

The church has its reason for opposing registering Muslim groups, says Peter Pruteanu, a professor at the Orthodox Theological Academy in Chisinau. "Our first concern is that the only way one can leave the Islamic faith is through death. This is not official, but in practice those who abandon the Islamic faith are killed," he says.

"The Arab states have a well-prepared agenda that is either secret or is simply ignored by us because we are naive," Pruteanu adds. "Don't think the sending of Muslim students to Moldova is accidental. It is easy to see that the first thing they do here is marry local, Christian women, who are then forced to convert to Islam."

Former Justice Minister Alexandru Tanase, who approved the Islamic League's application and who has since stepped down to take a seat on the Constitutional Court, says there is no justification for denying recognition to Muslims.

Islamic League leader Sergiu Sochirca says that the country's Muslims have faced harassment and discrimination for many years.
"Islam is not a sect. It is one of the world's three major religions. There is no country in the world that does not recognize the rights of Muslims," Tanase says. "Our own constitution guarantees freedom of religion to everybody. And the people who applied for registration by the Justice Ministry have fulfilled all the legal requirements."

Because of past repression, even the size of Moldova's Muslim community is not known. There are some 2,000 officially registered Muslims among the country's approximately 3.4 million people. But Islamic League head Sochirca says the real figure is closer to 17,000.

"When my wife and I applied for new passports and wanted to write 'Muslim' in the 'religion' space, we saw that it had already been filled in as 'Christian.' I told the police officers we were Muslim, and they ignored me," Sochirca said. "They said they can't write in 'Muslim,' that they register everyone as Christian, and that's all there is to it."

Sharp Political Divide

Moldova's political landscape has been nearly evenly divided between conservative Communists and a coalition of liberal, Western-leaning parties for years now. Election after election since 2009 has left the two groups nearly evenly represented in parliament and unable to elect a president.

A crucial round of contentious local elections is scheduled for June, and conservatives are jumping on issues such as this in an effort to consolidate their base. They likewise have stalled an effort by the ruling liberal coalition to adopt a Western-style antidiscrimination law because it would bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

For now, Ismail Wahab is pleased that the government has finally recognized the Islamic League and that Muslims in Chisinau can worship freely. Someday, he dreams, they might even be able to build a mosque.

"Now we have a prayer room and for us this is our mosque. As for building a mosque in accordance with Islamic norms, with a minaret and all, maybe it is not the right time now, not now," Wahab says.

"I think that will be for Muslims who are ethnically Moldovan to decide. Maybe in the future. That is a matter for the future."

with contributions from RFE/RL's Moldova Service and RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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by: Anonymous
May 17, 2011 12:19
There is a problem with history: Moldova was never part of the Ottoman Empire. It had a status of suzerainty, which allowed it considerable control over its domestic affairs. Mosques weren't built there because the Sultans banned the construction of mosques, the forced conversion to Islam of the populations or the settling of Turks in those regions. Moldova paid a tribute to Istanbul for that. But it was never a Pashaluk, like the Balkan states or Hungary.
In Response

by: Foxtrot
May 17, 2011 21:59
There is nothing new here and it is not unique to Moldova. Islam forbids forceful conversion. Christian and Jews pay special tax for their protection to the Muslim government, they have the rights of practicing their religion because they considered to be "people of the Book". In fact the first time Jews were allowed to settle in Jerusalem only after the Muslims captured it from the Roman Empire, not to mention that the Muslim leader refused to pray in the Church in Jerusalem because of the fear that Muslims in the future might consider it to be the mosque.
In Response

by: vlad from: Moldova - US
May 18, 2011 14:15
Moldova was part of Ottoman empire and they know Islam is not a religion of peace. 2 million Christians killed and 1.5 million expelled from Turkey at the beginning of the 20 century. There is no freedom of religion in Turkey today. Can a church be registered in Turkey? Can any other then Islam religion be preached?
In Response

by: vlad from: Moldova - US
May 18, 2011 14:11
I am from Moldova and the status of Moldova inside of the Ottoman Empire does not matter to me.

There is a foundation of a destroyed Ottoman mosque not far from the capital. There are tours to that spot organized by Moldovan Muslims for other visiting Muslims.

I have supported pro-western parties. Just this issue of Muslims registration is enough for me to vote for Communists. If registration is the problem with joining EU I do not want EU.

When I can freely go to Turkey and preach the Bible I will not oppose registration of Muslims or building of a mosque in Moldova. Turks killed 2 million Christians at the beginning of the 20th century. You get killed for preaching in Turkey today.

Moldova is unique in that sense. A country with no a single mosque! How many places like that in the world left? That should remain so.

By the way Moldova is a free country. I could visit both Islamic centers in Chisinau with Bibles in Arabic and Farsi trying to convert people into Christianity. Where else can I do the same? There were several Muslims who converted into Christianity the same as a number of Moldovans who converted into Islam. And all of them are safe and free to choose.

by: Anonymous
May 17, 2011 16:41
END RELIGION
In Response

by: Anonymous
May 19, 2011 20:08
I completely agree but how do we do that when people believe these delusions so fervently? We can only continue to speak using logic and hope they come to know religion has no place or purpose.

by: Ryszard Konietzka from: London,UK
May 17, 2011 20:57
This is racism, pure and simple, however it is dressed up. Moldova's Communists - who should be thorough ashamed of themselves, and the Orthodox Church are in the gutter with the far right. A miniscule Muslim community and their putative rights in the country do not threaten Moldova - organised crime inside and outside the country pose a far worse threat and have a clear interest in keeping Moldova poor.
In Response

by: vlad from: Moldova - US
May 18, 2011 14:18
Most of Moldovan Muslims are Arab students or immigrants stopped on their way to EU. UK should give them asylum and they would be glad to move there. EU does not accept them though.
In Response

by: Ivan from: USA
May 25, 2011 16:37
Well maybe they don't want to be as tolerant as Londoners, who see Muslim crowds screaming "9-11 is on its way" and "Islam will dominate!" like if it is not England but Pakistan. Moldovans have all the right to prevent becoming like you

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
May 18, 2011 02:51
Objectivly CIS (temporary former USSR republics) had restore CIS after WW2 according to Constitution of 1936 and keep restoring the damaged
by Imperial conquests (and religious excuses for it) ethnographic groups
and citizens using ethynographic consolidation and personal life and
dignity, combined with freedom of consiousness.
That included Moldova, even Russians took away exit to Black Sea and Izmail, populated by mixed descandents of Turks.
Since 1947 Stalin under house arrest by ethnic Russians controlled
KGB, bureaucracy and Army (by mutney in 1941) and since 1949 they
started effectively reverse restoration of CIS - in Moldova they influxed
many Russians, specially in Eastern Moldova (Tiraspol) and started
various nazi programs of inslaving and squizing-outy locals.
In 1947, spring, I was sentenced to death by Moscow and Russian
Federation at age 4, along with my mother, for offering "contract with
the people", wich helped suffering humanity, while refusing to be
intellectual slave of ethnic Russians and to be plagiarized by them.
We moved to Moldova - out of jurisdiction of Russian Federation,
but Russians were everywhere, specially after 1949.
The next few days I was stoned by youngsters of Russian occupiers
and poisoned in children guarden, where I was only one day, by Russian teacher and kitchen woman forcefully with arsenic. Local Moldovians in
their schools were regularly victims of mass "food poisonong".
After 1949 Russians started to use hipnotists and debasing psychology
first on locals mixed with Germans, than on locals and all non-Russians.
Every nights in children-guardens and summer camps they were leaking
water from one cup to another at children beds and telepats wispering
spells - making them run for toilets (programming for life of slavery) and
inflicting ishemias of blood vessels, to inflict strokes and heart attacks
at later age - in addition to regular beating and killing of locals into
submission to ethnic Russians.
One of the programs, as in all former USSR and zarist Russia before
that was to find some local minority and make them slaves-snitches-hanchmen of Russian occupiers - at least for internmational lies and
propaganda.
Like influx by afro-Pechenegy and coarsed "Gad"-Adyga from Russia
into Northern Abkhazia - under name "Psy-Psy-finger to the lips", they
tried get half-Moldovians half-Turks from "Gagauzia", but not too
successfull - only some of them became snitches of Rashkas.
It is why one has to know that, before apply much importance to
Muslem "movement" in Moldova of 2,000 and presumed 17,000
to be yet joining.
Joining to what?
Another assult of Russian occupation that still controll military,
police and "intelligence" in Moldova?
Yes - if one accepts evil of the occupiers.
No - if one accepts our objective logic.

by: vlad from: moldova - us
May 18, 2011 14:28
I would have no problem with registration or a mosque in Moldova if Christians had the same freedom of worship in Turkey, for example. In the south of Moldova there are Gaguz, a Turkish speaking minority, Christians, who fled Ottoman Empire and settled in Moldova, part of the Russian Empire at that moment. There is no freedom in Turkey or any other Islamic state and never was.

by: vlad from: Moldova - US
May 18, 2011 14:37
Muslims in Moldova do not have money to build a mosque. There are few of them. Some of them are Arab students, the others are refugees, there are some converts. Saudi Arabia though was giving money years ago to build a first mosque in Moldova. But they could not build because there was no registration.

Why Saudis are giving money to build a mosque in Moldova? Moldova bothers them. Probably the only country in Europe, Asia, may be world with no a single mosque...

Now we should build churches in the Southern Sudan, Egypt and Iraq ...

by: Muslim Theologist from: Real Believer
May 18, 2011 19:50
Everyone's value as much as the intention of his offing.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
May 19, 2011 05:01
That's true, Theologist, at least in real history of CIS.
Before 1954-56 pact by Russia, resurect colonial empires,
Hrutchev's lies and big influx, consolidation in CIS was alive,
Religion was part of freedom of consiousness among nations,
To a degree of honest "intentions" of "offering" of common space.

Thought, even then, Russia did on non-Russians quiet subversion,
After 1949, than 1954-56 - they really change it into evil "intensions",
Of "offerings" to nations self-destract and some Muslims be Anychar
Of destruction - promissing a shear of loot and land to breed for Zar.
For their credit, for wisdom, or a character, most just reinforced faith.

by: Felipe Muñoz from: Santiago, Chile
May 18, 2011 21:36
I agree with Vlad totally. Why Moldova has to register muslims as legal entity, just because EU requires that?. Besides, christians in muslim-mayority countries always faces discrimination and attacks from fundamentalists muslims. Just look at Egypt, how christians and muslims, being all egyptians, are fighting each others, by the cause of muslim discrimination. Besides, there's no churches in Saudi Arabia.. and why they are financing Islam world-wide??. They just pursue their fairy-tale dream of a islamised World under Mecca dominance (the dont know the word democracy).

by: Felipe Muñoz from: Santiago, Chile
May 18, 2011 21:43
Just look at what happened to armenians of Nakhichevan, they were so outnumbered by azeri ethnic invasion, that led to a gradual -and then totally- disapearance of armenians from there. Lebanon was a christian-mayority country after the WWII, and was peaceful; but now that muslims are mayority, Lebanon is so often a combat zone between faiths. And look at the Phillipines, were the once ''minimal'' muslims are now an active and agressive force against Manila govt. Coincidance?? i dont think so (and it's not so), muslims just come to the West as humble people; and then, once they become notorious, they begin their rebelious attitudes towars everyone that is non-muslim. Just look world-wide, and remember what i said :/

by: Banu from: Global World
May 19, 2011 19:15
I recommend books to all people, who are really sensitive to humanity, to peaceful and conscious life; and who are really cared the future of their children...
George Orwell: "The Animal Farm", "1984";
Oktay Sinanoglu: "Bye bye Turkce", "Hedef Turkiye" these booksa are only the key, after reading them, a reader will have a brain storm...
In Response

by: Felipe Muñoz from: Santiago, Chile
May 22, 2011 02:14
xD Maybe you won't believe me... but once a time, i was a trully believer of ''Lasting and True Peace''. Why i have the oppinions that i actually have?. I have never supported comments based on merely racism nor US-Based propaganda, nor religious fanatism. I talk based on the reality... and many times, writers comments about conflicts of this kind are too based on ''good will and intentions''. Since i have followed the world after the 9/11 2001, i can say that i dont believe in ''good intention'' writers, nor western media. I prefer to investigate by my own, and taking into account the views of both sides; adn even so, my opinions about Islam remains unchanged.
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