By DAN BILEFSKY
Published: December 26, 2008
A woman waited for a seminar to finish at a mosque in
More than half a dozen new madrasas, or religious high schools, have been built in recent years, while dozens of mosques have sprouted, including the King Fahd, a sprawling $28 million complex with a sports and cultural center.
Before the war, fully covered women and men with long beards were almost unheard of. Today, they are common.
Many here welcome the Muslim revival as a healthy assertion of identity in a multiethnic country where Muslims make up close to half the population.
But others warn of a growing culture clash between conservative Islam and
Two months ago, men in hoods attacked participants at a gay festival in Sarajevo, dragging some people from vehicles and beating others while they chanted, “Kill the gays!” and “Allahu Akbar!” Eight people were injured.
Muslim religious leaders complained that the event, which coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, was a provocation. The organizers said they had sought to promote minority rights and meant no offense.
In this cosmopolitan capital, where bars have long outnumbered mosques, Muslim religious education was recently introduced in state kindergartens, prompting some secular Muslim parents to complain that the separation between mosque and state was being breached.
“The Serbs committed genocide against us, raped our women, made us refugees in our own country,” said Mustafa Efendi Ceric, the grand mufti and main spiritual leader of
“And now we have a tribal constitution that says we have to share political power and land with our killers,” he said. “We Bosnian Muslims still feel besieged in the city of
That resentment is evident. As several thousand worshipers streamed into the imposing King Fahd mosque on a recent Friday, a young man sat outside selling a popular conservative Muslim magazine with President-elect Barack Obama on the cover.
"Hussein, Will Your America Kill Muslims?" the headline asked, using Mr. Obama’s middle name, a source of pride for many Muslims here.
Religious and national identity have long been fused in multifaith
It was tradition in villages to refer to neighbors by their religion — Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic, rather than as Bosniak, Serb or Croat.
In the nation-building that followed
Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs, meanwhile, cleave to their own religious and cultural identities. Church attendance is on the rise; in the
Muharem Bazdulj, deputy editor of the daily Oslobodenje, the voice of liberal, secular
Analysts say Saudi-financed organizations have invested about $700 million in
Wahhabism arrived via hundreds of warriors from the Arab world during the war and with Arab humanitarian and charity workers since, though sociologists here stress that most Bosnian Muslims still believe that Islam has no place in public life.
Dino Abazovic, a sociologist of religion at the
Still, violent episodes have occurred. Earlier this year, after an explosion at a shopping mall in the town of Vitez killed one person and wounded seven, Zlatko Miletic, head of uniformed police of the Muslim-Croat Federation Interior Ministry, warned that a group in Bosnia linked to Salafism, an ultraconservative Sunni Islamic movement, was bent on terrorism.
Nonetheless, Grand Mufti Ceric said Wahhabism had no future in
“Children are fasting on Ramadan, going to the mosque more than their parents,” he said. “We had de-Islamification for 40 years during Tito’s time, so it is natural that people are now embracing the freedom to express their religion.”
Some critics of the mufti argue that he has allowed religion to encroach on civic life.
Vedrana Pinjo-Neuschul, who comes from a mixed Serb and Muslim household, has led the fight against Islamic classes in state-financed kindergartens across
She recently withdrew her two young children from a public kindergarten and gathered 5,000 signatures against the policy, which has also been criticized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
But she says she has been harassed by Islamic radicals on the street and has received hate mail in Arabic. “There are some people who want to turn
Mustafa Effendi Spahic, a prominent liberal Muslim intellectual and professor at the Gazri Husrev-beg Madrasa in
“The Prophet says to teach children to kneel as Muslims, only after the age of 7,” said Professor Spahic, who was imprisoned under Communism for Islamic activism. “No one has any right to do that before then because it is an affront to freedom, the imagination and fun of the child’s world.”
Milorad Dodik, prime minister of Bosnia’s Serb Republic, has referred to Sarajevo as the new Tehran, and talks of a “political Islam and a fight against people who don’t share the same vision.”
But Muslim leaders and most Western analysts here counter such assertions, saying they do not correspond to
Backgrounder: Jihad okay, but no Wahhabi preaching now!
By NICHOLAS WOOD
Published: August 2, 2007
Raffaq Jalili, a Moroccan wounded in the Bosnian war of 1992-95, became a citizen, but
Now he says he feels more Bosnian than Iraqi.
But the Bosnian government does not agree. It views him as a threat to national security and is putting Mr. Hamdani and other foreign fighters who have lived in
Arabs, the largest group among hundreds of foreign fighters, fought alongside the Bosnian Muslim Army during the war here, from 1992 to 1995, against Serbs and Croats. In return, they were given Bosnian citizenship.
Most left after the war, which tore apart Muslim, Serbian and Croatian communities and cost around 100,000 lives. But a number stayed on and settled down.
Bosnian officials say their policies are merely reversing decisions that were illegally made at the war’s end. But Bosnian politicians and international officials say that the reversals are primarily motivated by a broader concern: that
Western officials and local politicians, mostly the Muslims’ former opponents, have accused the former fighters of promoting radical Islam and damaging
“Some of their structures have been very active in promoting radical activities in the form of Wahhabism,” said
Western governments have been encouraging the move.
Miroslav Lajcak, a Slovak diplomat who is the high representative of the international community in Bosnia and the senior international official here, has increased pressure on the government to move ahead with the deportations. So far, only two former combatants have actually been expelled, both last year.
“The presence of foreign fighters isn’t particularly useful for building a modern democratic state,” said a Western diplomat closely involved with the review, who spoke on the customary diplomatic condition of anonymity.
While many former fighters who stayed have managed to fit into Bosnian society, others stand out. Imad al-Hussein, a former medical student from
His views do lie outside the norms of most Muslims here. For instance, he says that suicide bombings are justifiable but only within
Other veterans are tensely biding their time, and they contend that there is nothing to connect them to any form of illegal activity. “If there was any evidence against us, then why have they let 12 years pass without prosecuting us,” said Raffaq Jalili, a Moroccan wounded in the war.
Western intelligence services and their Bosnian counterparts also claim they have uncovered two major plots in the past six years by Islamic extremists in
In October 2001, six Algerians were arrested by the Bosnian police and later were sent to prison at
It is not known how many foreign fighters remain in
From 1996 to 2001, many of the former fighters occupied Bocinja, which had been a Serbian village in central
Mr. Hamdani came to
It was only natural to fight for his adopted country, he said, as Bosnian Serb forces, backed by neighboring
As with all the other cases under review, he had no right to appear before the commission, which met behind closed doors and sent him its decision in the mail.
“I think that it does not matter when you arrived in this country,” he said in an interview. “What matters is which unit you served with during the war.” Serbs and Croats say that Muslim members of the government gave out citizenship too freely.
Mr. Jalili, a former Moroccan customs officer, bears burn marks across his face and a deformed ear from a rocket-propelled grenade. In a hillside cemetery near Zenica, he showed the unmarked concrete pillars that mark the graves of Arab fighters from his unit.
Now he and his wife and two children live in Zenica on a disabled veteran’s pension. In March, he, too, was notified by mail that his citizenship had been revoked.
“When I first came here, everyone welcomed me,” he said. “Now we are being kicked out like dogs.”
The government says its grounds for removing citizenship are that at the end of the war, the government was not properly functioning, and therefore, passports issued then were not legitimate.
“Citizenship can be revoked upon the discovery of any procedural irregularity, even if you now fulfill the conditions for naturalization anyway,” said Darryl Li, a legal researcher from Yale who is studying the veterans’ cases. “Someone living in