CHISINAU -- A Moldovan Muslim leader today expressed "disappointment" at recent anti-Islamic remarks by the country's Orthodox Church head and politicians, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.
Sergiu Sochirca, chairman of the Liga Islamica (Islamic League) that represents Moldova's small Muslim minority, told RFE/RL that his organization has nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism and wants to build a bridge between Muslims and other religious groups.
Liga Islamica was officially registered by the Justice Ministry last month as the first legally recognized Muslim association in Moldova. It had applied for registration in 2008.
The head of Moldova's powerful Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Vladimir, called the registration "a humiliation" for Moldova's Christians. Other senior church officials suggested that the Muslim association will seek to "cause trouble" in Moldova.
Former President Vladimir Voronin, leader of the country's main opposition Communist Party, has likewise condemned the registration. He said Moldova managed to resist the construction of mosques when it was part of the Ottoman Empire and should continue to do so today.
According to official census data, there are about 2,000 Muslims in Moldova. Over 90 percent of the total population of 4.5 million consider themselves Orthodox Christians.
But Liga Islamica chief Sochirca estimates the number of Muslims at 17,000. He said that during the census many citizens were denied the right to describe themselves as Muslims and were automatically registered as Christians.
Outgoing Justice Minister Alexandru Tanase, who approved the official registration of Liga Islamica, told RFE/RL today that Moldovan Muslims have the fundamental right to practice their religion freely.