An increasing number of Gypsies in Bulgaria convert to Islam and learn Turkish

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bulgarian Gypsies in a colony next to Vama - Euro PRESS / AFP

Roma and Muslim ethnic groups are the two least favored minorities in Europe yet, an increasing number of Balkan gypsies convert to Islam, even if their decision is not necessarily inspired by devotion.

About 9-10 percent of Bulgaria's population belong to the Turkish minority and about 5 percent gypsy; their religious affiliation, however, is not known - there are no accurate statistics about it.

According to sources, about 40 percent of Bulgaria's gypsy population following the Islamic faith and this number is growing, as more and more gypsies convert to Islam.

The conversion is not simply a change in the gypsies' religious affiliation, but it also affects their sense of identity. Many gypsies already don't speak Bulgarian, instead besides the Roma, they learn Turkish and Arabic - they call themselves Turks, or simply Muslims, but not Bulgarian. The direct consequence of this state of affairs is that the Turkish and Muslim population in Bulgaria is growing.

Behind this trend however, the motivation is not necessarily devotion. As the Bulgarian prosecutor's office pointed out converting to Islamic faith financially worth it; more importantly, the gypsies benefit more of their Turkish identity than from their Bulgarian ethnicity. Turkish-speaking Bulgarian Romas migrate to the West in large numbers, especially to Germany, where already a substantial Turkish minority lives. These migrants then, can enjoy both the benefits of EU citizenship and their Turkish identity.

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