TBILISI, Georgia - The Georgian President urged calm in the village of Nigvziani, in the Western Lanchkhuti region of Georgia on Friday, November 2, following two-day anti-Muslim protests seeking a ban on Muslim prayers in the village's mosque.
This conflict is not in the interest of the Georgian people, President Mikheil Saakashvili said in a statement cited by The Trend website.
I urge the new government to do everything to ensure that such problems will not arise in the future, he added.
The situation has been tensed for a couple of days in the village of Nigvziani, Lanchkhuti region of Georgia.
Problems erupted after local residents protested to ban Muslim eco-migrants from the neighboring Adjara region to pray.
Trying to ban prayers, the village population, which is predominantly orthodox Christian, gathered outside the mosque saying they won't allow Muslims to pray on their land and threaten them with bloodshed.
The Muslim imam Archil Kakhadze said the Muslims will hold prayers, defending it as their legitimate right.
A large number of police were mobilized and managed to defuse the situation as the Mufti of the Georgian Muslims Jemal Paksadze arrived to negotiate with local authorities.
The president urged the new government to intervene in what was happening in the village Nigvziani, stressing that Georgia is a multi-ethnic country, known for its tolerance.
Such actions do not agree with our traditional history of tolerance, President Saakashvili said.
According to local Muslim leaders, the total population of Muslims in Georgia is around one million out of total 5 million.
However, government sources say that Muslim population is between 400,000 and 500,000.
A majority of Muslims inhabits in the towns, and villages bordering Turkey and Azerbaijan, and hails from Turkish and Azeri origins.
There are native Georgian Muslims, who have recently embraced Islam, but their numbers are in hundreds.
Mosques in Georgia operate under the supervision of the Georgian Muslim Department, established in May 2011.
In 2010, Turkey and Georgia signed an agreement by which Turkey will provide funding and expertise to rehabilitate three Mosques and to rebuild a fourth one in Georgia.