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Kavazović: All political struggles and exhaustion will be in vain if this country remains empty

reisu l ulema kavazovic

SARAJEVO, December 4 (FENA) - A disorderly and dysfunctional state cannot be in anyone's interest, and that is why we are surprised by all those forces in the country and the world that maintain and even encourage this state of affairs, said the Raisu-l-ulama of the Islamic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina Hussein Effendi Kavazović, who spoke in an interview with FENA about the current political, economic and social situation in BiH, increasing religious tensions, the position of Bosniaks in BiH, the departure of young people, discrimination, corruption, Islamophobia...

Bosnia and Herzegovina, thirty years after the war, exists in a position of a difficult economic situation, constant rejection of state institutions, creation of constant national tensions and a sense of hopelessness of its inhabitants.

Commenting on the position of Bosniaks and the role of the Islamic Community in that context, Rais Kavazović reminds that the IC is a traditional religious community that gathers Muslims in these areas, primarily from the Bosniak people, but also others who accept it as their own and is very interested in not going beyond the framework it has determined for itself as the meaning of its existence and activity.

"Here, above all, I mean non-interference in daily political processes, but that does not mean that we as a community are not interested in the state of society and the state in which we operate and in which our members live," he said.

The departure of young people, systemic corruption and lack of perspective, and constant incitement of division and hatred, he said, cannot make anyone happy or bring anyone a better future. He believes that, unfortunately, we see how the holders of such policies, who constantly keep the country in blockades and deepen divisions, not only do not weaken, but also become stronger, and for such policies, they are rewarded by international factors.

"I am noticing something that has never happened before: those policies that have done everything to destroy this society and divide and destroy the country are receiving support. Now it seems to me that the international factor among us Bosniaks and Bosnians is looking for those policies that will support such destructive politics and enable them to achieve their war goals," emphasized Kavazović.

Hence, he understands the dissatisfaction and disappointment of a large number of citizens of this country who feel they are hostages to such policies and who see them as a threat.

"When you ask me about Bosniaks, I am afraid of efforts that try to radicalize them at all cost, to drive them away from the West so that they would then be accused of not belonging to these regions and that they "have no right" to live here, let alone be a political people or to have their own country that they share with other nations and in which every citizen is equal in every inch of its territory," he explained.

More and more Bosniaks feel, rightly or wrongly, that their existence and the fact that they survived the genocide in Bosnia is for some the biggest problem and that, if they are not displaced due to the general permanent crisis that is taking place, everything is being done to cancel their political will and influence, to make it impossible for them to be a political factor that decides anything, not independently, but at all.

Asked to evaluate the current position of Bosniak returnees in the entity of Republika Srpska, the problems they face, the status of institutions and representatives of the IC in the RS, with a special emphasis on the returnees in Srebrenica, and how much the Islamic Community can help in this regard, the Rais stated that the returnees to the RS are the best proof of the aforementioned frustration that an increasing number of Bosniaks feel.

"The rights of Bosniak citizens are systematically violated there, they have no right to their language, to work, to a minimum of a dignified life. The entity institutions belong to only one people. While the IC is accused of some interference in politics, while Bosniaks are accused of being "Islamized", no one minds at all that there are almost no secular institutions in that entity and that there is almost no separation of the church from state institutions, it is similar in some other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina where related policies are in power and which act in the name of Croatia and Catholicism," he explained. 

Religious features, he adds, are in state institutions, secular state institutions have patron saints, all this is imposed by force on Bosniaks and their children. To Kavazović, it is disputable that all this has not been a problem for anyone for years, not even domestic, regional or international factors. No one is talking about legitimate representation in the RS. Even, he says, the OHR, with its latest decisions, has turned into an institution that regulates things only in the FBiH and only where Bosniaks are the majority.

"That is why we shared with our friends in the world our fears, but also our dissatisfaction with the latest amendments to the FBiH Constitution and the Election Law against the will of the majority of the citizens of this country," he asserted.

As for the relationship to Srebrenica and the genocide that was committed there, Kavazović believes that for the Islamic Community and Bosniaks it is primarily a matter of civilizational relations and self-respect. Those who deny the crime, who relativize it, let alone those who bully the victims and insult them, says the Reis, do not deserve our attention nor can they be interlocutors for any processes.

"What we should insist on is that we do not remember Srebrenica only on the day of the funeral and the anniversary of the genocide. In this regard, the political parties have committed themselves to concrete measures to help the returnees, a document has even been signed, and we as a community are very interested in seeing the results and by the next anniversary of the genocide, an analysis can be made of what has been promised and what has been implemented," asserted Kavazović.

Given that the Islamic Community has not yet signed an agreement with the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that there is no consensus for this in the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kavazović is of the opinion that this is actually yet another proof that the rights of Bosniaks have been systematically violated for years while they are blamed for discriminating against someone and that they allegedly usurp someone's rights.

"None of the international factors or representatives saw the need to ever speak about this, to problematize anything, no one, not a single embassy, ​​ international organization, no report problematized it. I can't even imagine what would have happened if, by some chance, politicians and parties from the Bosniak people had blocked the signing of a similar agreement with one of the two traditional churches, and the contract had been signed with the IC in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Raisu-l-ulama points out.

Commenting on today's turbulent geopolitical situation, with increasingly frequent allusions to a possible new world war, Kavazović believes that, unfortunately, the crisis we are in now is the result of inconsistent policies and real-politics, which over the years made favors for those who were in a stronger position thinking that this would bring stability by compromising the rights of those who were in a weaker position. 

Not only will this not bring peace and stability, he emphasizes, but it only sends a message to the powerful that they can achieve their goals by force.

"I am afraid of the same policies that make the same mistakes in Bosnia. I wish that I, as a Raisu-l-ulama, did not have to warn about this, but our conscience tells us not to be silent. I'm afraid that sometime in the future it might be too late and then we won't be able to forgive ourselves for being silent about all this, believing that truth and justice are enough to defend themselves," claims Kavazović.

We in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he points out, especially show solidarity and sympathize with the people of Ukraine.

"We ask God that the war stops, that the evil of violence, aggression and force will be defeated for all time and that people will return to reason and dialogue. We wish we could do more to help the innocent victims of aggression and war. But we are not powerful enough to help them more, that's why we only appeal to those who think that war and force are the solutions to all problems, to turn to their senses and to draw lessons from the past and not allow the mistakes to be repeated," said Kavazović.

Due to the constant maintenance of inter-ethnic tensions in BiH, when asked how crucial is the need for multi-ethnic cooperation for the reconciliation of the people in BiH and the restoration of broken mutual trust, and how important is the primary role of religious communities, Kavazović is of the opinion that the role of religious communities is important, but not crucial. 

Raisu-l-ulama also commented on the still unresolved issue of the return of the waqf property, expressing regret that only Bosnia and Herzegovina among the countries of the former Yugoslavia did not pass a law on restitution and he does not see any attempts to resolve the issue.

Also, the IC does not see that this question was put as a condition for BiH's progress on the EU path. He underlines that sooner or later the state will have to solve this issue, but in the meantime, great damage is being done to religious communities.

Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing a problem that can have far-reaching consequences for the future of the country, which is the departure of people, especially the young, where Kavazović believes that religious communities can advise and appeal, but it is up to the people to recognize their priorities.

"All political struggles and exhaustion will be in vain if this country remains empty. There is no time for the futile politics of domestic politicians who try to achieve in peace what they could not have achieved in wartime and international bureaucrats who build their careers here by trading the future of this nation and country on the international geopolitical market. But it is not up to the religious communities to solve it. We can speak, advise and appeal. It is up to the people to recognize the priorities and to translate them into policies through their political will," Kavazović points out.

Reflecting on Islamophobia on the world stage as an extremely dangerous phenomenon for the global Muslim population, Kavazović states that unfortunately, we are witnessing the global rise of intolerant, exclusive and violent ideologies.

Muslims, their religion, culture and civilization are especially targeted, he believes.

"More and more often, we are witnessing the passing of laws targeting only Muslims, restricting only their religious practices and symbols. Without any justification, Islam and Muslims are being turned into a security issue and even a threat, and their very biological existence is treated as a danger," underlined Kavazović.

He believes that although we see modest attempts in some countries and at the UN level to systematically start dealing with this challenge, it is still far from serious action and serious measures to bravely oppose these dangerous trends.

" Slovak ambassador told me that Islamophobia in the West has gained public status without consequences. The phenomenon of Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination against Muslims is a problem that should not only concern Muslims. The sooner we understand that Islamophobia, like Nazism, fascism, racism and anti-Semitism, is a common problem and challenge to humanity, the sooner we will start on the path of finding a solution for it," believes Kavazović.

When asked whether these modern times, the 21st century, have brought a kind of crisis of morals and fundamental human values, and what is the role of religion and religious institutions in their eventual restoration, Rais Kavazović says that materialism and postmodern deconstruction of everything threaten to make meaningless everything that is holy and sublime, every ideal and every value.

On the other hand, he states, religious formalism and inconsistency threaten to compromise religion and spirituality as an alternative to this stripping of any kind of meaning and existence from humanity.

"True spiritual values and constant insistence on morality and ethics can be the only way to a better world. But this battle is waiting for its knights and it is up to us, starting from ourselves, to try to change the world for the better," concluded in an interview with FENA the Rais of the Islamic Community in BiH, Husein Effendi Kavazović.