Macedonia Muslims Riot, Burn Historic Church After Christians At Carnival Mock Koran…
(UKPA) — An Orthodox Christian church famed for its valuable icons was set alight in southern Macedonia overnight amid religious tension between Christians and minority Muslims over a carnival in which Orthodox Christian men dressed as women in burkas and mocked the Koran.
Hours before the fire, Muslim leaders had appealed for calm among community members.
The Vevcani carnival, said to have been held for some 1,400 years, attracts thousands of visitors. Local residents traditionally wear elaborate, frequently sarcastic masks, with some of the most common costumes including devils and demons.
But this year’s perceived mockery of the Koran and the burka costumes caused outrage.
On Saturday, protesters attacked an inter-city bus heading from Struga to Vevcani, throwing rocks at the vehicle but injuring nobody. They also defaced a Macedonian flag outside Struga’s municipal building, replacing it with a green flag representing Islam. On the same day, perpetrators attacked a church in the nearby village of Labunista, destroying a cross standing outside.
Macedonian Muslim leaders called for restraint but also accused the government of promoting Islamophobia.