State prosecutors are looking into the statement made by the head of the Islamic Community of Macedona, Sulejman efendi Rexhepi, who, during the groundbreaking ceremony for a mosque near Skopje, said that the Macedonians are a “wild people without identity”.

The Helsinki Committee submitted a hate speach report against Rexhepi to the police over his comments and the OJO public prosecutor’s office is looking into filing charges.

The use of hate speech on the part of a high religious official, a person who wields major influence in the public, is especially dangerous and unacceptable. In a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, religious leaders should be aware of their role and should act in the spirit of tolerance and togetherness, and not inflame hatred and intolerance, the report against Rexhepi says.

Rexhepi’s statement that Macedonians have no identity seems to be a reference to the name change imposed by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Instead of acting as a move which will reduce nationalism and tensions in the region, as Zaev promised it will, the name change process is seen as a statement of weakness on the part of Macedonians and is inviting additional nationalist and hateful pressures against Macedonia.