Parliament Criminalizes Propagation of Radical Islam on First Reading
Sofia, December 6 (BTA) - Bulgaria's Parliament voted on Wednesday, 88-22 with 50 abstentions, to pass on first reading a Bill to Amend and Supplement the Penal Code criminalizing the propagation of radical Islam and coercing or inducing another to wear clothing partially concealing or completely hiding the face. The draft legislation was moved by United Patriots Floor Leader Volen Siderov and the rest of the members of his parliamentary group.
The bill defines radical Islam as "an ideology which propagandizes any of the following ideas: creation of an Islamic State (Caliphate); primacy of Sharia law over secular law; coercive imposition of religious principles and norms of conduct typical of Islam; violence in the form of holy war (jihad) or imposition of values based on interpretations of Islam at variance with the universal human values of freedom, peace, humanism, equality, justice and tolerance."
The amendments provide for deprivation of liberty ranging from one to five years and a maximum fine of 5,000 leva for propagating radical Islam or "another ideology which uses religious beliefs for political purposes, including a change of the existing constitutional and legal order."
Another proposed provision envisages one to four years' imprisonment and a fine ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 leva for coercing or inducing another to wear clothing partially concealing or completely hiding the face through the use of threats, violence, coercion, public status or authority or by promising to give a benefit or giving a benefit.
In their reasons, the proponents of the Bill argue that, unlike traditional Islam, radical Islam is not a religion but a radical ideology. "Radical Islam is a particularly aggressive and dangerous ideology which justifies violence and killing of 'infidels', justifies slavery, and elevates genocide to systematic policy in the territories controlled by its adherents," the reasons read.
The effective Penal Code criminalizes the propagation of undemocratic ideology cites fascism as the only such ideology, the proponents say. In their opinion, the explicit mentioning of radical Islam in the Code is important considering the threat it poses to society. The United Patriots say that such legal provision will have a deterrent effect on those potentially susceptible to radical Islam propaganda.
In October 2016, the National Assembly passed an Act Restricting the Wearing of Clothing Concealing or Hiding the Face, again moved by the United Patriots. Under that law, wearing clothing that partially conceals or completely hides the face thereof in a public place is punishable by fines ranging from 200 to 2,000 leva. Abettors and connivers are liable to the same administrative sanction.
During the plenary debate on Wednesday, BSP for Bulgaria MP Krum Zarkov said that the Penal Code should not be revised "lightheartedly". He noted that the bill had not gone through the committee stage. Another MP of the same parliamentary group, Slavcho Velkov, called for fine-tuning of the formulations and clarifying the terminology because "otherwise the amendments may have unforeseeable consequences". He said that the concept of 'radical Islam' is flawed and has been put into circulation by politicians. According to Velkov, it is more appropriate to talk about "ultra conservative religious ideologies".
The Movement for Rights and Freedoms stressed that they oppose any radicalism but, in their opinion, the bill does not draw a distinction between religion and ideology.