SOFIA - Unable to provide enough money to gain back their worship place, the Muslim community in Bulgaria's second largest city of Plovdiv is outraged by the turning of a historic mosque into a bar.
"It is unbearable for us that the mosque remains closed for worship," Ahmed Ersin, Mufti of the Plovdiv region, told World Bulletin website.
"It is even more grieving that it is used as a bar and serves alcoholic beverages."
The Taskopru (Stone Bridge) Mosque, a 16th century worship place in Plovdiv, was turned into a bar and a restaurant.
The tragic story of the mosque, an exemplar of 16th century Ottoman architecture, began with the 1928 earthquake that caused damage to the historic building.
To repair the minaret of the mosque destroyed in earthquake, a portion of the land was sold, but repairs could not be completed since enough money was not collected.
The mosque remained closed for worship until the establishment of the Communist regime in 1944 which confiscated the mosque, keeping it closed for decades.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the confiscated properties began to be returned.
Yet, the Taskopru Mosque, which was expected to be returned to the office of the regional Mufti, was given to two Bulgarians by a court decision.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the individuals who seized the mosque have rented it out to persons who used it as a "Greek tavern", "Italian restaurant, and bars.
Angered by the presence of a restaurant serving alcohol at the site of the mosque, Muslims have been trying ever since to recover the mosque.
However the owners of the mosque are demanding 600,000 euros from the regional Grand Mufti (Islamic religious authority).
Raising money for the case, the Office of the Grand Mufti was only able to offer half of that figure.
"We have no choice but to open a case for the mosque, Grand Mufti Mustafa Alis Haji said.Making up some 15 percent of Bulgaria's 7.3 million people, the Muslim community population is the highest proportion in any European Union member state.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net