On February 20, there was yet another media “bomb”: the security services had caught four Islamists led by the former Sofia Mufti, Ali Hayredin. This “dangerous group” proclaimed “radical Islam, the ideology if Jihadism (?) and Wahhabism”, had “connections with banned Islamic organizations and mostly with Ahmad Musa, a Jordanian expelled from the country six years ago. This “criminal organization”, which was “hiding” behind a suspicious NGO - the Union of Muslims in Bulgaria - chaired by the same Hayredin had done other horrendous things, too. Some 30 people had converted from Christianity to Islam and during the search of the organization’s offices the police found - guess what! - leaflets. And these leaflets called for a blood-freezing crime to refrain from voting!
YET ANOTHER “ISLAMIC THREAT” SCARE
The most interesting thing in this cocktail of absurdities is the way in which “the criminals” have performed their subversive activities - via Internet websites. The raid against two such cyber media was the result of a long stakeout by the security services (everyone could imagine their exhausting efforts expressed in sitting in front of computer monitors), peaking with a 72-hour detention and indictment under Art. 108 and 109 of the Penal Code1, and accompanied by a lot of noise in the media. There were the usual comments and the even more usual questions: who was financing them, who was behind them, wasn’t it Al-Qaeda, what was their relation to the “dangerous Islamist” Ahmad Musa, who had trained them, etc. Answers to the effect that the Union of Muslims in Bulgaria did not really function for lack of funding (the organization was financed entirely by membership dues, two-thirds of which were spent on office rent), that the purpose of the organization was to counter extremism, that no money had flowed into it from abroad, that they had no contact with Musa, were met with obvious mistrust by the reporters, which became evident from the numerous “clarifying” questions at the UMB press conference on February 25. As could have been expected, experts were found immediately to explain to the public what was really happening. The militant journalist Magdalena Tasheva of Monitor daily immediately saw “a terrorist cell in Bulgaria” and declared that if “the Islamists in yet another terrorist cell in Bulgaria - that of the former Mufti Ali Hayredin - were discovered in another European coun-
try, they would be scrubbing the floors at Guantanamo Bay by now”. She bitterly concluded, however, that “the fact that Bulgaria is functioning as regional headquarters of Islamic terror, thanks to the political protection of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Union of Democratic Forces and the National Movement Simeon the Second is known to the world” (Monitor, February 23, 2007), but nothing would come out of it. And how could anything come out of it when the whole ruling coalition is involved in this conspiracy! The start of the epic battle against “radical Islam” resurrected the slightly forgotten old-time fighter against the “cults”, Diana Petrova. About ten years ago, she wrote prolifically against the “cults”, mostly on the pages of Trud daily. However, after 1998, the “cults” disappeared from the public focus (in fact, acting on directive from above, the security services ceased to deal with them, at least in public) and the author’s inspiration dissipated. But now, her creative enthusiasm returned with renewed force and she wrote an article entitled “Virtual jihad on bg websites”, published in Sega daily on February 22. The article describes the content of the websites, already inaccessible2 by the ordinary visitor, and is an exercise on the “Jihad” topic. “For more than a month, you could read an article by Sheikh ibn Baas on jihad, published on this website. The jihad against unbelievers and hypocrites comes in four forms: from the heart, language, wealth and oneself. The jihad against unbelievers is more than a physical struggle, just
For proclaiming fascist or another anti-democratic ideology, or violent change of the constitutional order, and for forming or leading a group that aims to commit a crime against the Republic.
2 In this case, we will benevolently assume that the author had simply tracked the websites while they were active, rather than that information that cannot be obtained anymore has been provided to her from a source within the security services.
as the jihad against hypocrites is more than the use of words and ideas.” And then: “Allah has ordered Jihad for all Muslims and they should fight Allah’s enemies until their brethren achieve victory. They are sinners if they do not do that, but if enough people take up to do this, the others are relieved from their obligation” (Sega, February 23, 2007). The main thing here is the interpretation: jihad is a holy war waged against the enemy. And who is the enemy? That would be us, the Christians, the civilized, the bearers of progress. In the backdrop of this fearsome picture any explanations that the real, canonical meaning of “Jihad” is fighting the evil within oneself, for greater faith in Allah or that this is the path to selfperfection in faith would sound naïve and would be regarded as obfuscation. However, in this ongoing story, we can see a very dangerous outcome and an even more dangerous attempt to sidetrack fundamental civil rights. The result is that through the arrest, and most of all, through the noise created around it in the media, the seeds of doubt have been sown in the souls of many potential UMB followers. As a rule, they do not have computers and even if they did, the websites are already closed, so they would not be able to check if the former Mufti and his friends are really a “threat to the established constitutional order”3 . But since they claim “on television” that Hayredin, the websites and the UMB have something to do with Islamic terrorism, then, the sensible thing to do would be to stay away from him because many would think that there is no smoke without a fire. In this way, intentionally or not, he is discredited in the eyes of many. The trick is simple and effective. There will be a lawsuit but it will be so prolonged that by its end everyone will have forgotten what it was all about. The court would probably dismiss all charges. But this won’t generate media attention and thousands will keep thinking that “there is something rotten there”. Such is the logic behind mass propaganda. What is especially dangerous is that nobody - simply nobody - is asking how come that the security services are terminating websites? Where are we, in Europe or North Korea? No one ever asked what these websites were after all and could they be “raided” just like that? Let’s imagine that a coup happened tomorrow and a military junta came to power. The first thing that gangs of this type would try to do is to suspend freedom of expression. Physically, it would look like this: soldiers burst into the editorial offices of 24 Hours, Trud daily and the large TV channels, and switch off the printing or TV broadcast equipment by force. It cannot happen in any other way. But “raiding” a website is so easy; you just need to 3 I cannot fail to mention that one of the main “proofs” for this threat is the presence of Ali Hayredin’s so-called “spiritual wife”, Aniola Dimova. She was supposedly the proof that these people only recognized the Sharia, which allows a man to have up to 4 wives, and therefore, they were attacking the civil marriage and hence the constitutional order. This really need not be commented.
perform several computer operations and it is done. There is no difference, however, between military raids and computer operations. Both are an extreme form of censorship aimed at stifling freedom of expression. But if stopping the printing of a newspaper is imaginable only under exceptional circumstances, the termination of other media, such as Internet websites, is regarded as something almost natural, as a website is not considered to be what it is - a media, a means of public information. As such, websites are protected by at least three articles of the Constitution, as well as by Art. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under Art. 39 of our Constitution “everyone has the right to express opinions and to disseminate them by speech - written or verbal, by sound, image or in any other way”, while under Art. 41 “everyone has the right to seek, obtain and disseminate information”. It is true that these rights cannot be exercised “against the rights and good reputation of other citizens, as well as against national security, public order, health and morals“. Nevertheless, the fact that opinions and information fall within the scope of the restrictions under the two constitutional provisions is something that must be proven in a public trial. This is also stipulated in Art. 40, according to which “(1) The press and the other mass media shall be free and shall not be subject to censorship. (2) The termination and confiscation of a printed publication or of another information carrier shall be permitted only on the grounds of a judicial act, when the good morals have been breached or when it contains appeals for a violent change of the constitutionally established order, crimes or violence against the individual. Should confiscation not be effected within 24 hours, the termination shall cease to be effective.” I asked Mr. Hayredin whether he was shown a prosecutor’s order for the “raid” on the two websites and his answer was negative. It is unclear whether such an order exists. Most probably not, because it could be appealed and the computers that had been used to disseminate information, i.e. to perform the information function of the websites, are simply “material evidence” and as such, were seized and may remain in the security service storage rooms for an indefinite period of time. In other words, the termination of the two websites is an act of arbitrary censorship enforced without a decision by a competent body in a country that proclaims in its Constitution that “the press and other mass media shall be free and shall not be subject to censorship”. This is an especially severe breach of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. At a time when electronic mass media are increasingly replacing traditional ones, the actions of the security services and the respective prosecutors are an exceptional precedent for Bulgaria and should be discussed aloud right now. When they start “raiding” electronic newspapers, given that everyone will be able to print out a copy, as is the obvious trend in the development of the media, it will Emil Cohen be too late. OBEKTIV 2
Publication of the journal Obektiv, number 142 of 2007 author Emil Cohen