Bosnian Serb analysts criticize Islamic head's mention of jihad during sermon
BBC Monitoring Europe (Political) - October 27, 2006, Friday

Text of report by D. Momic entitled "Old note of politics", published by Bosnian Serb newspaper Glas Srpske on 27 October - subheading as published

Reis-ul-Ulema Mustafa Ceric, Islamic Community leader in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in his address to the faithful on the first day of Bairam in Sarajevo's central mosque, sent a political message for an umpteenth time.

Ceric said that "the Muslims in B-H have experienced having to move, and jihad [holy war]". He asked them "to pay respect to those who died for their faith, that is, to shahids [martyrs]," thereby recognizing that the Muslims waged a religious war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Sociologist Ivan Sijakovic believes that Ceric's words can be interpreted in two ways, but he emphasizes that, because of the general atmosphere in the world, one needs to be very cautious when mentioning the word jihad.

"The jihad for Muslims means a holy war for liberation, while for the civilized Western world, it is associated with terrorism and the imposition of faith by force," Sijakovic has said.

This is exactly the reason, in Professor Sijakovic's opinion, why religious leaders must be cautious, and they should not send such messages, particularly not during the week of the greatest Muslim holiday, because this is the day when there should be talk about peace, tolerance, and the importance of faith.

"Such messages are not of a religious nature and do not deal with the spiritual relationship between God and people. Once this line is crossed, one enters into political waters," Sijakovic said.

However, this is not surprising, he says, because there has been an evident aspiration recently expressed by the Islamic Community and its leader in Bosnia-Hercegovina to interfere in what is not their business.

"The Islamic Community wishes to play a dominant role in society and to impose its opinion, to behave as someone who sets up moral criteria. This will definitely not place B-H among secular and democratic countries, which is not good," Prof Sijakovic concludes.

Political analyst Tanja Topic agrees with Sijakovic, and says that jihad is "a loaded word, particularly in our situation".

"We know that there are still three truths in Bosnia-Hercegovina about the war, so any mention of jihad surely represents a step backward in establishing trust among the ethnic groups in Bosnia-Hercegovina," Topic says, adding that mentioning jihad is not in the spirit of the greatest Muslim holiday.

Besides, Topic notes, we should not forget that the religious institutions and their leaders are very influential in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and their words carry much more weight than those of the politicians.

She agrees with Sijakovic that the Islamic Community and Reis-ul-Ulema Ceric have tried for a long time to assume a dominant role in B-H social and political life.

"The best illustration of this is the recent election. By openly supporting Haris Silajdzic, Ceric ensured him a seat in the B-H Presidency, because Ceric's words have the strongest influence on the Bosniaks [Muslims]," Topic has said.

In her view, the state must solve this problem, because the religious institutions must be shown their place, and their political influence must be reduced.

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Tanja Topic does not deny the interference of the religious leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in politics.

"This is not the first time that Mustafa Ceric has sent a political message. It is a fact that he has enormous influence on political developments, but he does it absolutely openly. On the other hand, we should by no means disregard the influence of Cardinal Puljic, or the Orthodox religious leaders, which is not so overt as Ceric's, but is certainly there," Topic says.

Source: Glas Srpske, Banja Luka, in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian 27 Oct 06 p4

Copyright 2006 British Broadcasting Corporation
Posted for Fair Use only.