A Plea for Greater Acceptance
The leader of the Islamic community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rais-ul-Ulema Mustafa Ceric, sharply criticizes the treatment of Muslims in Europe. Religious Muslims must often pray in basement spaces instead of in mosques. Their presence is desired "only as long as they can work," says Ceric.
"It seems there is a logic that although not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims, and for this reason we demand that Europe starts treating Islam as a form of cultural enrichment," says the Islamic leader.
Promoting an Islam-friendly Europe
When asked by journalists from the Austrian Political Academy's Magazine for Modern Politics whether there is a form of Islam that is compatible with European values, Ceric answered, "It is not a question of whether there is an Islamic model compatible with Europe, but whether there is a European model compatible with Muslims."
For years, the Grand Mufti has been actively engaged in a dialog between European Christians and Muslims. At a conference in Graz in June of 2003, together with the Austrian government Ceric created an initiative for a dialog on Islam in Europe.
The Grand Mufti understands Bosnian Muslims as an integral part of Europe. He is, however, against the Muslim community "taking on certain very questionable European values," referring for example to alcohol consumption.
Ceric sees no contradictions in being a European Muslim and supporting democracy. For Muslims and other religious groups, democracy and respecting human rights are "the only form of protection."
Europeans not active enough in building mosques
According to Ceric, Europe is indirectly responsible for the growing influence of Saudi Arabia in his country because Europe does not financially support the building of mosques in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The EU has not yet offered a single cent for the reconstruction of mosques that were destroyed during the war in Bosnia, Ceric said to the Magazine for Modern Politics.
During the war from 1992 to 1995, many of his co-religionists in Bosnia-Herzegovina became more strongly identified with Islam. Ceric says of the former president of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Radovan Karadzic, that he has "contributed more to the Islamic awakening of Bosnians than I have been able to in my missionary work over the last fifty years."
© Deutsche Welle/Qantara.de 2004
Translated from the German by Christina M. White
Mustafa Ceric is President of the Council of Ulema and Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is a graduate of the Medressa in Sarajevo and of the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. After his return to Bosnia he was became an imam. For many years he served as Imam of the American "Islamic Cultural Center," and he received a PhD in Islamic theology from the University of Chicago. He teaches at various universities, for example in Kuala Lumpur.