People in Mokhe are unhappy about the mufti’s performance in a conflict about a mosque. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Muslims in south Georgia are planning to start a petition to dismiss the country’s mufti, who they claim is illegitimate and gave them false promises.

A few days ago, there was a conflict in the village Mokhe, where an old mosque is going to be turned into a culture house. Local Muslims protested against this and demanded to transfer the mosque to Muslims, while local Orthodox Christians rallied against them claiming that village needs a culture house.

Muslims remembered that the local government and Jemal Paksadze, the Mufti of all Georgia, promised right before the local election in June, 2014, that when the election was over they would give the building to the Muslims.

One of the problems is that almost every mosque in Georgia is registered either as a house, or some other facility, like a culture house, because the legislation is unclear about registering prayer houses. The mosque in Mokhe was therefore not registered as a prayer place, but a culture house, and the government wants to turn it into an actual culture house.

Local newspaper Samkhretis Karibche writes that the Muslims there plan to start collecting signatures in a few days.

“We, the Muslim community of Samtskhe-Javaheti, express distrust toward Jemal Paksadze. He and the government lied to us. We won’t let such a thing be repeated,” Jambul Abuladze, head of the mosque in the nearby village Chela explained.

Paksadze was not in Mokhe a few days ago when people were protesting, and many Muslims were disappointed by his absence.

But he explained that Samtskhe-Javakheti has its own mufti and there is also a local government, so it was not necessary for him to go there.

Jemal Paksadze is head of the Muslims Department, a body created by the government. In an interview with DF Watch, Tariel Nakaidze, one of the founders of another Muslim organization, the Union of Georgian Muslims, said that the mufti is a person who speaks for the government and isn’t seen as an actual religious leader. There are many other Muslim organizations, but the government wants to show off the Muslim Department as if it represents the actual position of all Muslims in Georgia, in his view.