Bosnian Muslims: threat or opportunity?

With their European culture and Islamic faith, Bosnian Muslims want to act as a bridge between East and West but instead feel rejected. There are times when Aida Begic gets on a plane and the looks she receives from other passengers remind her of people’s fears and misunderstandings about Islam. A well-known Bosnian movie director, she flies to film festivals all over the world dressed in fashionable yet distinctively Islamic clothing — a headscarf and outfits reaching down to her ankles and wrists.

Her first feature movie, Snow, premiered in Cannes in 2008. The global fear of flying with Muslims has become part of Begic’s everyday life. Despite this, she denies that there is any clash between her faith and her appreciation of western culture. “I was shaped by European literature, arts and music, and Bach is as much a part of my identity as [Muslim mystic and poet Jalaluddin] Rumi,” she says.

In fact, some experts believe the Muslim communities in the Balkans, whose Islamic faith developed in a European context, could serve as a bridge between the Islamic east and the Christian west.

But the allegiance of Bosnia’s Muslims to both worlds has been sorely tested recently. They feel Europe betrayed them in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war and has excluded them ever since. On the other side, offers of assistance during the war from some Muslim co-believers came at a price, that of the spread of Wahhabism in Bosnia.

The Ottawa Citizen Profiles Zijad Delic

The Ottawa Citizen profiles Dr. Zijad Delic, who immigrated to Canada in 1995 from Bosnia and received his PhD from Simon Fraser University ten years later. Delic is currently an imam at British Columbia’s largest Sunni Mosque as well as an administrator at the B.C. Muslim school. He is coordinating “Islamic History Month Canada,” proclaimed by the Canadian federal government in the month of October.

British Muslims commemorate Srebrenica genocide

The British Muslims commemorated the Srebrenica genocide by paying homage to more than 8,000 Bosnia Muslims men and boys massacred by Serb forces despite being in a UN-protected safe area in July 1995 during the civil war in former Yugoslavia. The Muslim Council of Britain in a message on the occasion said, “The massacres of defenceless Muslims in Bosnia and Srebrenica will continue to bleed the hearts of Muslims in Europe and beyond. It is vital that we bring about awareness of the genocide, especially on the back of recent wave of Islamophobia and attacks on Muslims, their properties and places of worship across Europe.” The MCB Secretary-General Dr.Muhammad Abdul Bari added: “This new phenomenon is symbolised in Britain recently by the bombing of mosques and other Muslim buildings, and across Europe, by the shocking and brutal murder of a Muslim woman in Germany killed because she chose to wear a headscarf.” The MCB also distributed a Khutba prepared by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Rais-ul-Ulama Dr. Mustafa Cerilć about the Genocide, which was read during the Friday prayers across mosques in the United Kingdom.

Bosnia: Gay festival closes after clashes with hardline Muslims

Bosnia’s first gay pride festival has been forced underground after 10 people were injured when protestors attacked visitors on the festival’s opening night. Dozens of people chanting “kill the gays” punched, kicked, and threw stones at people leaving the event. Islamic leaders were angry that the festival of pride, which includes art, films, and workshops about sexual minorities, is being held during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Lead organizers of the event said that they are not canceling the festival, but changing the format from public to private, hoping that this will deter some of the harassment and violence.

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Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque

Fear-mongering about Islam is a global industry. Barack Obama has a unique power to break the cycle, not least by emboldening moderate Muslims to denounce terror. I’ll admit it: I’m thin-skinned about the kinds of slurs and innuendo about Muslims that have accompanied Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Years of being subjected to them while I covered the Bosnian war did that. We heard the whole gamut back then: how the European Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo were really Turks engaged in a demographic genocide (through high birth rates) against Christians, and how they were engaged in a plot to establish a Muslim crescent looping up from Turkey through the Balkans, and how they roasted enemy prisoners alive on spits. All the while, of course, said Bosnian Muslims were being herded by Christian Serbs into concentration camps that were centers of torture and systematic killing of a cruelty Europe believed it had forever banished. Roger Cohen reports.

New magazine Cités launched seeking a European Islam

The new director of the magazine Cit_s, Yves Charles Zarka, explains how his new publication focuses on the emergence of a new Islam in Europe. For instance, in his examination of Sarajevo, Zarka questioned whether Islam has changed in Bosnia-Herzegovina since the fall of Communism. The authors in the most recent edition question the role of the community in shaping the religious beliefs on the individual. See the Presses Universitaires de France (188 pages, 15 Euros).

No Koran School – The Islamic Gymnasium in Vienna

260 pupils from Turkey, Morocco and Bosnia are studying at the Islamic Gymnasium in Vienne at the moment. Five prayers per day and controversial discussions about evolutionary theory are part of the curriculum. In the end, the will get a proper Austrian A-Level, the Matura. Emir Numanovic reports.

Blair Promises to Improve Teaching of Islamic Studies

By Stephen Bates and James Meikle — PM says politicians should listen to moderate voices — Report calls for more UK-trained Muslim clerics Tony Blair yesterday pledged to spend _1m improving the teaching of Islamic studies at universities, as Downing Street said more imams should be trained in Britain to reduce reliance on foreign-trained clerics. In a speech to a conference of moderate Muslims in London, the prime minister accepted that British politicians should listen more carefully to the views of “the calm voice of moderation and reason” within the community. He insisted that his government’s foreign interventions had not been based on religion. Mr Blair said: “The voices of extremism are no more representative of Islam than the use in times gone by of torture to force conversion to Christianity represented the teachings of Christ.” Among those invited by the Cambridge inter-faith programme were the grand muftis of Egypt and Bosnia, but not representatives of more extreme or politicised lobbying groups. The guest list was criticised by the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and also by the Labour peer Lord Ahmed, who told the BBC: “The conference is fronted by Cambridge University but organised by Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the communities department, who have deliberately chosen to exclude those Muslims who disagree with Government policy … It’s a colonial style of governing.”

America not an enemy of Islam, Muslim Clerc Says

A moderate European Muslim leader – in Seattle this weekend to attend the annual conference of the Congress of North American Bosniaks – drew upon a deep affection for the United States before cautioning Americans, “Don’t cease to believe that you are good.” The gentle warning from Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric – the supreme Islamic cleric for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia – followed the second day of meetings of the Bosniak congress attended by about 1,000 people from around the continent. About 7,000 Bosniaks came to the Seattle area after genocidal violence that ripped the former Yugoslavian province in the 1990s. Several dignitaries, including Haris Silajdzic, Bosniak member of the three-person Bosnia-Herzegovina presidency, attended the meetings, which are being held on the West Coast for the first time. In a private interview Sunday, Ceric said he believes it is his responsibility as a leading Islamic cleric and “friend and partner” of the United States to get out the word to Muslim people around the world that America is not an enemy of Islam. “America did not come to Bosnia because of oil,” Ceric said of the U.S. intervention in 1995. “America came because of the great American ideals of human rights and peace and security in the world. Your coming to Bosnia proves that America did not lose the ideals of freedom and human rights.” That said, Ceric made clear that he believes American foreign policy has lost its moral compass, citing actions taken at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. “We Bosnian Muslims need America in Bosnia and America needs us Bosnian Muslims to get the message across that American policy towards Bosnia has been positive and affirmative,” he said.