The Grand Mufti speech at the Ceremony for presentation of the certificates for the participants of the project "Prevention of radicalism and violent extremism among youth"
12 July 2018- Gazi Husrev-Bey Library
Ladies and gentleman
Your Eminence and Excellency,
Asselamu aleikum and a good day,
As believers, we believe that God created the world in the best harmony. Any deviation from the natural harmony, any violent intervention in the world is the opposite of the God’s will. Extremism and radicalism, by their very nature, cause disorder. Advocates of such radical and extreme ideologies that lead to violence are sometimes unaware of the evil that they do. In the Qur'an we read about such things: "When it is said to them," Do not disturb the order of the earth! " - they answer: "We only establish the order!" Do they really?! In fact, they spread disorder but they do not see it. "(Al-Baqarah: 11-12.) Therefore, we are looking at these people as the victims who need help. As the society, we could accept the radical attitudes if they are not often followed by violence and deprivation of the rights of others. All extremist ideologies are exclusive, and for advocating only one truth they are inevitably in conflict with the plurality as the will of God.
Unfortunately, these days we are witnessing that fears of the others are the main driver of social and political relations all over the world. In the United Europe, forces are being strengthened that call for isolationism and protectionism. Systematically and organically, there is a fear and mistrust of anything other and different. Muslims are specially targeted because of the fear that the terrorist cruelty caused in the contemporary societies. I am afraid they have achieved their goal and that many who think that they are fighting this evil by stigmatizing, suspecting or pushing Muslims on the margins of society are not even aware of it. However, that is a separate topic.
Unfortunately, the rise of violent extremism and radicalism has also not been circumvented by Bosnia and its majority of the Bosniak people, of who most are Muslims. It is far from becoming massive issue but the very occurrence, no matter how marginal, is a concern because it represents an existential threat to our way of life, our faith and cultural experience.
When faced with this challenge, it is important to note that this phenomenon, which has become apparent in our society after about three hundred men, women and children have migrated to Syria, where they joined the various military factions and some of them joined the terrorist organization ISIS, is not a product of our society or our tradition. All the researches of this phenomenon that have been conducted to primarily understand what we are faced with, indicate that it is an imported phenomenon. It is an ideology that has emerged far from Bosnia in a specific political and social circumstances and which has spread as the threat to traditional Muslim communities and their understanding of faith. Many who have studied this phenomenon have noticed that this is not radicalization of Islam but Islamization of radicalism. Political and ideological goals of certain groups are shrouded by the veil of faith, and the victims of such exclusive ideologies justifying the use of force are mostly Muslims themselves. Furthermore, the problem of violent extremism is not a problem of Islam but rather a problem of its misuse.
Our experience of dealing with this phenomenon and what we think is very important and what we consider worthwhile to share, is that it is most important not to create an environment where violent extremism and its ideologies thrive. This ideology is evil like a virus and the virus can only spread if it finds the appropriate environment. That is why we insist on preserving the cosmopolitan and open spirit that we spoke about using Bosnia's example.
Open, intercultural, tolerant and free societies are the best answer to the challenge of radicalism. Countering violent extremism is a "battle for the hearts and minds" and we must never lose the sight of it. It is important to understand how one extremism nourishes the other and how exactly the totalitarian and un-free societies of the Middle East, and the injustice that these people have been facing for decades gave birth to these violent ideologies.
Secondly, the most important element is social resistance, which for us turned out to be crucial in the prevention of violent extremism and the spread of radical ideologies. That is the reason for our insistence on preserving the traditional, proven and confirmed form of living and interpretation of Islam. Almost all the foreign fighters who went to Syria are the so-called. "New-born Muslims". None of them, except for one recorded case, did not belong to the traditional way of Islamic living in Bosnia nor did they have traditional Bosnian Islamic education.
We as a community have taken a series of measures to counteract this phenomenon. This project, the end of which we are witnessing today, is just one of them. We have ensured that all the mosques in BiH under the administration of the Islamic Community are preserved from foreign interpretations of faith. We have also succeeded in achieving this with our faculties, madrasas and religious education in state schools. We have led and conducted dialogue with those groups advocating different interpretations of Islam, and it is important to note that most of them are not violent nor advocate violence. We had a significant success in this, but the defeat of ISIS also helped that their ideology does not appear so appealing. We can say that we have this phenomenon under control but we are still careful and we continue to work to keep up with new challenges.
Still, we cannot fail to notice the politicization of violent extremism. We all see that the populist right-wing in Europe and in the BiH environment feeds on the Islamophobia so it is not a rare case to exaggerate the dangers of violent extremism in BiH. We also need to keep in mind that there are attempts to turn Bosniaks from the biggest European victim into its greatest danger.
Along with these efforts, it is very important that the focus of our public and security agencies should be directed at those individuals and groups who act from the neo-fascist and extremist nationalist ideological positions. In the spirit of the same endeavours, we must also oppose the disregard and non-acknowledgement of the crimes, especially the crimes of genocide and the glorification of war criminals. As a society, we must not close our eyes to the rehabilitation of fascists and their ideologies, that we are witnessing these days, especially in our surroundings.
Yet, all this does not have to worry us if we have the decency that we have shown so often in our history when it comes to opposing the exclusive ideologies and fascism.
The Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina will remain committed to its mission in the society and thus opposing the ideologies of violent extremists no matter what they are and from which position they come.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Directorate, all of the project associates, and especially Ambassador Wigemark and the staff of the European Commission in Sarajevo for support. In the Islamic community, you always have a partner to continue this project, but to start with others, perhaps with other religious communities in our homeland. I sincerely congratulate the Muslims and Imams who have successfully completed the seminars, the young people and the parents who have also attended the workshops. We expect the most from you. Your commitment to our goals is encouraging to us.