Cultural assimilation policies in Bulgaria and the plight of Muslim women
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Starting with a personal narrative, this chapter examines the effects of cultural assimilation on the emancipation of Muslim women in Bulgaria. Gender, religion, nation and ethnicity play an essential part in the transformation process of Bulgaria which has been able to reconcile the differences of the past and establish better opportunities for women. Different waves of assimilation for the three Muslim minorities, namely ethnic Turks, converted to Islam Bulgarians (Pomaks) and the Muslim Roma population, were introduced by the Bulgarian Communist Party’s political agenda as a social response to perceptions about modernity and the nature of Bulgaria as a state. The pursuit of the idea for a secular modernity, typical for the socialist state, was combined with a vision for a unified Bulgarian nation. This led to suppressing religious expressions with the “Re-naming” and “De-veiling” processes whilst the“Inclusion” and “Revival” process aimed at eliminating the Muslim identity. These processes were portrayed as emancipating Muslim women yet in many ways they disempowered them. After the collapse of socialism, efforts were made to redress these policy mistakes and build better relationships between Muslim and other Bulgarians.
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