Moldova: Controversy over recognition of Muslim community

Moldova: Controversy over recognition of Muslim community


An unexpected new fault line has opened up on Moldova's divided political landscape and the country's tiny Muslim community is finding itself caught in the middle.

The controversy began last month when the Justice Ministry officially registered the Islamic League, an NGO representing Moldova's Muslims. The group had been seeking government recognition since 2008.

Ismail Abdel Wahab is a Jordanian-born Muslim living in the capital, Chisinau. He says the Western-leaning government's move is a welcome change in his community.

"We practiced Islam before they registered us, but it was a strange feeling to pray without the approval of the state," Wahab says. "But now we are registered and we can gather together and hold our prayers. We can celebrate together freely. We can feel as if we have all the rights of any Moldovan citizen without outside interference."

Representatives of the Orthodox Church were outraged at the government's decision. The head of the church, Metropolitan Vladimir, called the move "a humiliation" for the country's Christian majority, while other church officials said the Muslim association would "cause trouble" in Moldova.