Far-right leaders vow to ‘save Europe’ at French gathering

Marine le Pen and Geert Wilders at Lyon conferenceRepresentatives of Eurosceptic and far-right groups from Italy to Bulgaria gathered at the National Front party conference in Lyon at the weekend to warn France and Europe of a “neo-Ottoman” onslaught of Islam-preaching, benefit-stealing migrants.

Digging through the history books, Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), warned that “Arab armies plundered Lyon in 725 and are now busy doing the same in Iraq and Syria”.

Strache went on to blast Europe’s mainstream parties for, among other things, stoking “mass immigration, ideological terror, gay marriage and gender theory”.

The Austrian far-right leader was one of seven foreign politicians invited by the National Front (FN) leader, Marine Le Pen, to showcase her so-called “Europe of nations” – which she hopes to build on the ruins of an increasingly unpopular EU.

“Our Europe stretches from the Atlantic to the Urals, not from Washington to Brussels,” she said, calling for closer ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia and an end to “US domination”.

The weekend gathering capped a triumphant year for her party, which romped to victory in European elections with a whopping 25% of the vote.

Should France hold a presidential election next week, polls say Marine Le Pen would thrash her challengers in the first round of voting – but would likely come up short in a runoff vote.

Either way, analysts say there is a very real chance the FN, as it is known in France, may one day wield power in France.

Like the French far right, Le Pen’s foreign guests have thrived on the gloom and anxiety sweeping across Europe in the wake of the financial crisis.

Addressing the FN conference, they treated the audience to a mix of fear-mongering and unbridled optimism, claiming their impending victory would save Europe from the present apocalypse.

First to speak was Geert Wilders, the platinum blond leader of Dutch Islamophobic party PVV, who hailed Marine Le Pen as “France’s next president”.

“Just like you, we don’t want foreigners to tell us they are masters in our country. We say: kick the criminals, the jihadists, the illegal migrants out,” he told the entirely Caucasian audience to rapturous applause.

Wilders, who left without listening to his colleague’s speeches, blasted the “betrayal of our multicultural elites, who destroy our identities and traditions”.

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Anti-Semitic incidents, vandalism of mosques persist in Bulgaria – US state department report

Ataka thugs assault worshippers at Sophia mosque in May 2011

Religious groups in Bulgaria complained that the government had failed to consistently enforce protection of religious freedoms, while abuses such as anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism of mosques and other places persisted, the United States state department noted in its annual religious freedom report.

Reports of intolerance by security services and local authorities continued, the state department report for 2013, released on July 29 2014 said. There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, the report said. “Discrimination, harassment, and general public intolerance of some religious groups remained a persistent problem. Anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism against mosques and places of worship persisted.”

A number of religious groups complained that the government did not consistently enforce legal and policy protections of religious freedom, the report said.

Many Muslim leaders continued to complain of harassment from the security services, saying that the national security services brought in members of the community for questioning as a form of intimidation and to create conflict within the community.

Jehovah’s Witnesses also reported harassment from the local police in Kyustendil, claiming that on November 21, about 20 police officers entered the Kingdom Hall during the congregation’s meeting and checked the identity cards of those present. The officers did not offer any explanation for their actions.

A trial in Pazardjik District Court of 13 Muslim leaders continued during the year. The defendants had been charged, in 2011, with participating in an illegal organisation; spreading anti-democratic, pro-Sharia ideology aimed at undermining the rule of law and basic human rights; and preaching intolerance and hatred of other religious groups during Friday sermons. The Chief Mufti’s office continued to maintain the innocence of the defendants and labelled the proceedings an attack on religious freedom.

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Wooden cross hung at mosque in Bulgaria

Gotze Delchev mosque crossA two-meter tall wooden cross was hung in a mosque in a provocative act by unknown intruders on Friday. The incident took place at Karaca Pasha mosque in the southern town of Gotze Delchev, 200km from Bulgaria’s capital Sofia.

In a statement strongly condemning the attack, the Regional Office of Mufti in Blagoevgrad said: “The incidents which trigger dispute among religions and directly threaten national security should be investigated and offenders should be brought to justice.”

The regional office also said similar attacks had happened recently and called for adequate protection against potential future attacks.

World Bulletin, 20 June 2014

Protest rally staged in Bulgaria capital against returning properties to Grand Mufti’s Office

Some 60 people stated a protest rally in front of Sofia Court House in the capital city Sofia against returning the mosque in the city of Kyustendil and other properties to the Grand Mufti’s Office, FOCUS News Agency reported. Football fans, Mayor of Kyustendil, Petar Paunov, angry citizens, and others took part in the demonstration. They carried posters reading “Let us save Bulgarian cultural monuments” and “Europe with museums, not mosques, no to Islamisation”.

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UKIP’s alliance with extreme-right Islamophobes

EFD logoMembers of Nigel Farage’s political group in the European parliament have compared childbearing Muslim women to Osama bin Laden, spoken at a rally with the BNP’s Nick Griffin, and defended some of the far-right views of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.

Farage is facing a decision after the May elections over whether to keep Ukip in the Europe for Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group, an alliance of parties from different countries of which he is co-president, amid criticism of the extreme positions of some of its MEPs and examples of anti-Islam rhetoric on its website.

Ukip argues that all British political parties are forced to have “strange bedfellows” in Europe as it allows parties to qualify for more speaking time in the EU parliament. However, MEPs in any such alliance must have “political affinity” or risk being disbanded by the EU and losing their funding.

Some anti-Islam comments appear on the EFD’s own website. In one video, Magdi Cristiano Allam, an MEP from the I Love Italy party, is translated as saying that Islam is not a religion but an ideology “that preaches hatred, violence and death, but that is something we’re not allowed to say”. His comments are made in response to a speaker at an EFD “study day”, who argues against “caving in” to Muslims in Europe and warns of the threat of “Islamisation” of western society.

One politician in the EFD, Slavi Binev from Bulgaria, spoke at Ukip’s conference last year. An interview with Binev on his website says: “If Osama bin Laden symbolises the cruellest aspect of the Islam for the Americans, then the Muslim woman with her numerous children are his European equivalent.”

The group also contains Frank Vanhecke, a Belgian MEP, whose former party Vlaams Blok was disbanded after a court found it violated anti-racism legislation in 2002. Vanhecke, now an independent, appeared at a student rally with Griffin, the BNP leader, in 2010 and told the Guardian he believes “Islamisation” is a serious problem for Europe.

Another politician in the group is Morten Messerschmidt, a Danish MEP whose youth organisation was given a conviction for incitement to racial hatred in 2002 after it argued crime such as rape was a product of a multi-ethnic society.

Ukip’s biggest partners in the EFD group are the Italian Lega Nord, which is reportedly considering leaving the EFD after the May elections for a tie-up with Marine Le Pen’s far-right French National Front.

Farage’s co-president is Francesco Speroni, an Italian MEP from Lega Nord, who defended some of the views of Breivik in 2011 saying: “If [Breivik’s] ideas are that we are going towards Eurabia and those sorts of things, that western Christian civilisation needs to be defended, yes, I’m in agreement.”

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Attackers of Plovdiv mosque fined for hooliganism

Dzhumaya Mosque windows smashedThe first four people involved in a February 14 2014 mob attack on the historic Dzhumaya mosque in Plovdiv have been penalised under a fast-track procedure. Two were each fined 400 leva (about 200 euro), one was fined 300 leva and another was sentenced to two days’ detention.

A further four of the 120 arrested during the melee in Bulgaria’s second city on February 14 were to be penalised on February 17, local media said. By February 15, just 10 of the 120 initially arrested were still in custody, prosecutors said. Of those penalised, none was from Plovdiv. They were from Sofia, Varna, Vratsa and the town of Kozloduy. Police worked overtime at the weekend on preparing cases against those accused, according to the Interior Ministry.

The conduct of the police in Plovdiv during the incident, which saw not only the mosque targeted with paving stones, fireworks and bottles, but also the crowd of about 3000 march on the Turkish consulate and the city headquarters of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, has come in for criticism. Centre-right GERB opposition leader Boiko Borissov alleged on February 16 that police deliberately had been pulled back to allow the attack on the Dzhumaya mosque.

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Anti-Islamic mob of ‘football fans’ smashes windows of Plovdiv mosque

Plovdiv demonstration 14.2.14Hurling paving stones, rocks and fireworks, a large mob of protesters – many of them from football fan clubs – smashed windows of Plovdiv’s historic Dzhumaya Mosque in the centre of Bulgaria’s second city.

The February 14 protest was the latest in a series against court applications by the office of the Chief Mufti, spiritual leader of Bulgaria’s Muslims, for properties historically owned by the Muslim community. The court applications have been lodged under the country’s Religious Denominations Act, which makes provision for such applications by all officially recognised religious groups in Bulgaria.

A large cordon of police in riot gear stood between the crowd and the mosque building, which also features a recently-reopened cafe offering Turkish delicacies, but the missiles were hurled over the heads of the police.

While the crowd were at the mosque, each blast of a firecracker or sound of breaking glass was greeted by cheers from the mob. After the smashing of windows, police began to attempt to move the crowd, unofficially estimated at 2000 people, back. During this engagement, three people were injured and one arrested.

Reporters at the scene said that at the Turkish consulate, which is some distance away adjoining Plovdiv’s city park, demonstrators shouted, “you are not Europeans, you are barbarians”. Demonstrators also marched in the direction of the city headquarters of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent, saying that they wanted to occupy the building. Demonstrators chanted “freedom or death” and “down with the MRF”.

Bulgarian-language news website Plovdiv24.com has video of the mosque incident.

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Huge turnout in Plovdiv for protest against Muslim court claims on property

Plovdiv demonstration 7.2.14. (2)pngMore than 1000 people from all over Bulgaria, most of them from football clubs, took part in a protest in Plovdiv against claims lodged in court on municipal property by the office of the Chief Mufti, spiritual leader of Bulgaria’s Muslims.

The claims were lodged on the basis of changes to the Religious Denominations Act. The amendments to the law extended rights to all recognised religious groups in Bulgaria to lodge such claims, a matter that has caused controversy in towns such as Karlovo where the Chief Mufti’s office lodged claims to a historic mosque building and adjoining real estate.

Emotion in Karlovo has been generated around the fact of the town’s place as the birthplace of Vassil Levski, a Bulgarian national hero for his struggle against Ottoman rule, which cost him his life. Local media said that during the protest, the court building in Bulgaria’s second city was “besieged” by the protesters while traffic in one of Plovdiv’s main boulevards was blocked and traffic police had to seal off two other roads in the city.

Protesters held posters reading, among other things, “Bulgarian land – we will not give away a single stone”, “If we lose control of Bulgaria, we lose everything”, “Stop the Islamicisation of Bulgaria” and “Down with the MRF”, the last being a reference to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a party led and supported mainly by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent and the Muslim faith and also a party in the country’s current ruling axis.

Reporters in Plovdiv quoted protest organiser Elena Vatashka as saying that it was “unacceptable that a country like Bulgaria, a member state of the European Union, could allow the Chief Mufti to own land. The court should take account of public opinion but not of political parties, she said.

During the protest, a woman was seen wearing a headscarf was pursued by part of the crowd. She managed to find refuge by hiding in an art gallery, reports said.

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Suspected arson attack on Bulgarian mosque

A fire broke out at a mosque which has repeatedly been attacked, causing serious damage to the roof on Thursday in coastal Bulgarian city Varna. The fire which erupted in the morning was extinguished by fire fighting crews.

Noting the mosque had been attacked several times in the past, the Office of Bulgarian Islamic Affairs head Ahmed Ahmedov referred to how the attackers broke windows, drew swastikas, and wrote racist slogans escaped justice as investigations remain inconclusive.

“While police investigate, we as the Office of Islamic Affairs will do our own investigation,” said the Muslim cleric.

The office noted that nationalist and racist blocks have stepped up their aggressive acts against local and foreign Muslims amid the recent influx of Arab and African refugees in the country.

World Bulletin, 19 December 2013

Bulgarians march against neo-Nazi xenophobia

Sofia anti-fascist demonstration (2)

Scores of Bulgarians gathered in front of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia for a protest rally against a rising tide of xenophobia and far-right political activism in the country.

Summoned under the slogan “Danger! Fascism!”, the march walked to the Palace of Justice at the other end of the Vitosha Blvd. Protesters, who as the rally went on, grew to several hundred, carried signs such as “Fascism kills, those in power hide,” “Fascism is not an opinion but a crime,” and chanted “No to violence!”

The rally is in response to a rise of violent acts against foreign immigrants and Bulgarians of non-Bulgarian ethnicity in the country.

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