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News 30 Jun 11

Kosovo Muslims Step Up Mosque Protests

Defying police warnings not to block roads, a Muslim group in Pristina says it will hold a new street protest on Friday, demanding a new city-centre mosque.

Petrit Collaku
Pristina

A Kosovo Muslim group called “Bashkohu” said it would hold a new street protest in Pristina during Friday prayers at noon defying police warnings not to block roads. 

The head of “Bashkohu”, Fuad Ramiqi, said the protest would take place at the same location as during the last two Friday protests. 

“I don’t need police permission. I have informed them that the protest will be held tomorrow,” Ramiqi said.

But interior minister Bajram Rexhepi insists the main street must not be blocked; he was not against protests but against road blockades, he said. “I think the answer is very clear. They cannot block the roads,” Rexhepi told journalists.

Ramiqi denied that the protests had any connection with the newly inaugurated Catholic cathedral in Pristina, to which some Muslims object.

They say that Catholics, though a small minority in Kosovo, encounter fewer obstacles than majority Muslims when it comes to obtaining permits for places of worship.

“We are not against the cathedral but Muslim believers need to have a new mosque in the centre of Pristina,” Ramiqi told Balkan Insight.

He said the Muslim community had requested a new mosque in Pristina's downtown five years ago.

He also said that 22 mosques were not sufficient to accommodate the city's growing number of believers. The protest enjoys the support of Kosovo’s Islamic Community.

Last Friday, some 300 people prayed outside the Carshi Mosque during a protest. 

In an attempt to unblock the road, police scuffled with one person and took him away for questioning.

Pristina municipality, meanwhile, says it has accepted the proposal from Kosovo’s Islamic Community for a new mosque in principle and was reviewing the plan. 

“All such proposals must go through the municipal assembly and the location is then decided following mutual agreement between the municipality and Islamic Community,” Muhamet Gashi, municipal spokesperson, told Balkan Insight.

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