The Bulgarian parliament has moved to criminalise the promotion of radical Islam, including advocating a caliphate, religious violence, and sharia law.
The legislature adopted the amendments to the nation’s criminal code aimed at tackling radical Islam on their first reading this Wednesday.
They were proposed by a nationalist electoral alliance called the United Patriots (UP).
Promoting any ideology of violence or one threatening the law and constitution of the nation could be punishable with one to five years in jail and a fine of around £2,000, the Bulgarian newspaper Dnevnik reports.
UP Member of Parliament Boris Yachev told the paper that the change in law was not aimed at targeting a religion but a dangerous ideology.
“Radical Islam is a particularly aggressive and dangerous ideology that justifies violence and the murder of [infidels],” he said, insisting it also excused “slavery and genocide” as a “systemic policy”.
His party proposed a legal definition of radical Islam, which, according to the law’s parliamentary reading, includes “when a person is agitating for the creation of an Islamic State [or caliphate]”.
Other tenets are promoting religious law over secular law, the “forcible application of religious principles”, advocating violence including “sacred war against non-Muslims [jihad]”, and recruiting people into Islamist terrorism.
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In June 2016, the Bulgarian parliament voted with a large majority to become the third European nation to ban the Islamic full-face veil, or burqa, finalising the law in September with a fine of around £90.
As a legacy of almost 500 years of Ottoman Turkish rule, Bulgaria has one of the biggest Muslim minorities in Europe at about 12 per cent of its 7.1 million population, Reuters reports.
Speaking in October of this year, Deputy Prime Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said: “It turns out that problems [with radical Islam] we see in a number of European countries already exist in Bulgaria.”
He claimed that “extremely liberal” laws were allowing the spread of more radical strains of Islam in education and training.
“It is mostly the… financing by private structures of religious communities that attempt to realise political influence in the country,” Mr. Karakachanov added, promising to crack down on the funding of radical Islam.