Muslims fighting for registration
Muslims are fighting for registration in the Czech Republic. Czech law states that a religious group has to gather a minimum of 10,000 signatures to be registered as a church. However, there are more than 20,000 Muslims in the Czech Republic, so what's stopping them from being registered as a recognised religion? Well many Muslim people in the Czech Republic are reluctant to identify themselves publicly. Beatrice Cady has more:
Muslims are the largest unregistered religious minority in the Czech Republic, a discreet community which goes mostly unnoticed in Czech society. Vladimir Sánka is the head of the Islamic Centre in Prague. I asked him why the registration process was so difficult if there were already around 20,000 Muslims in the Czech Republic.
Mr Sanka told me that the number 20,000 was just an estimate, as most were foreign students who were only in Prague for a short length of time. He said their membership was irrelevant to the Czech authorities, as they were not permanent residents in the Czech Republic.
Another reason why registration was difficult, said Mr Sanka, was because many Muslims living in the Czech Republic considered it unfair to have to give their personal data to the Ministry of Culture, just because they belonged to a different religion. Indeed, the current law only requires 500 signatures for Christian religions, whereas other religions need 20 times as many members.
Mr Sanka told me Muslims were registered during the times of the Austro-Hungarian empire. This was changed in 1949, when the communists came into power and when all religions became illegal. Now, Czech Muslims are fighting to change the 1991-92 laws on the freedom of religion.