The Islamic Community of Macedonia (IVZ) announced that it will not stop construction of the imposing Ali Pasha mosque minaret in downtown Ohrid.

According to local media outlets, IVZ sources told them that the Muslims of Ohrid need the mosque and they will defy the order from state prosecutors to stop construction. The minaret of the mosque, built in the 15th century following the Ottoman conquest, was demolished in 1912, after the Ottoman defeat in the First Balkan War.

A group of Ohrid citizens demanded that construction is stopped because it was not approved by the city council. Given its important role as the birthplace of Slavic literacy and in the spread of Christianity across Central and Eastern Europe, Ohrid is a major tourism destination for Orthodox Christian pilgrims, and the Christian community in the city fears that a 32 meters high minaret in the central bazaar would deter tourists.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and other officials ten days ago, IVZ Reis Ul Ulema Sulejman efendi Rexhepi warned that if this construction is not approved, along with the urgent return of sizable properties which the Ottoman state gifted to the mosques, IVZ would call on the Muslims to vote against Zaev’s presidential candidate in the coming elections. Zaev’s Government relies on the Muslim, Albanian vote, but is also facing a difficult local election in Ohrid after its Mayor Jovan Stojanoski died last December and Zaev also met those protesting against the minaret and gave assurances to Christian Macedonians in Ohrid that he will “resolve the issue” in accordance with the law.