'Western countries that accept refugees have the right to require loyalty from them'
Note: The following text is an English-language version of the first half of a Bosnian-language commentary and transcript produced by the Voice of America Bosnian Service, based on its television broadcast for January 16, 2015. The original Bosnian-language text as below is accessible here.
Tekst koji slijedi je verzija na engleskom jeziku prvoj polovini bosanski jezik komentarima i transkript u produkciji Glas Amerike bosanske službe na osnovu svojih televizijskih program 16. januara 2015. Ovaj tekst na bosanskom jeziku je dostupan ovdje.
The flag of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
There is a huge difference between the indigenous Muslims of Europe, and marginalized and radicalized Muslim immigrants in the West
Stephen Sulejman Schwartz is director of the U.S.-based Center for Islamic Pluralism, a Sufi, and a great expert on and lover of Bosnia-Hercegovina, where he has spent a lot of time. In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, our colleague Inda Swanke asked him how this new development will impact Muslims in Europe, to which he replied:
It definitely will not make the situation easier. But I would make a distinction that some may not like, between the indigenous European Muslims of Bosnia, Albania, Kosova, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia, on one hand, and immigrant Muslims and their descendants, on the other hand: Turks in Germany, Arabs in France, Pakistanis in Britain. Balkan Muslims have always had and will always have a European identity. I do not think anyone would call that into question. But the situation will only get worse for the Muslims in Britain and France that are not integrated into society. A division that exists already, will, I fear, become worse with the new developments. Tensions will be aggravated between Muslims and the non-Muslim population. This will increase already-existing anti-Muslim prejudice. I do not think any of this for now will have a negative impact on the Balkan countries. The situation there could worsen, however, with the departure of volunteers to fight in Syria, because on their return similar problems will appear, if probably not at the level of attacks we've seen in France or Britain.
Asked whether part of the problem was that in the late seventies and eighties, France, England, Scandinavia, and the United States gave political asylum to radical Muslims from North Africa, other Arab countries and Pakistan – Muslims too radical for the authorities in the countries where they had lived – Mr. Schwartz responded:
It is very difficult in countries with a liberal tradition, like Britain, France, the Scandinavian countries and the United States, who receive refugees and asylum seekers, to investigate them. We do not need to probe all Muslims, or set legal restrictions on Muslim immigration, but we must know who these people are. From the Muslim side, the Islamic tradition, beginning at the time of Muhammad alejhiselam, holds that when a Muslim goes to a non-Muslim country he or she must respect the law of the country to which you are going. This dates from the time in Mecca when refugees – the muhadžirs or Emigrants – went to Ethiopia, which was a Christian kingdom. Prophet Muhammad said to follow the laws of the country to which you go.
I think that the Western countries that accept refugees have the right to require loyalty from them. I'm not talking here about a fascistic monitoring program, or repressive interference with their lives, but affirm that it is a Muslim principle to pledge loyalty to the host country.
All these countries accept people for differing reasons: the Scandinavian countries out of humanitarian motives, Germany for economic needs, Britain and France took in people who fought in their armies, and they were not subject to interrogation. Now you have a situation of marginalized immigrants whose children grow up marginalized in countries such as Britain and France. But no one knew in 1979, or immediately afterward, or until September 11, 2001, that there was a huge problem of Islamic radicalization in Muslim communities in Western countries.
Sulejman Schwartz believes that the situation in Syria contributes largely to further and deeper radicalization, in a similar way in which it took place in Bosnia-Hercegovina, i.e., the lack of interest of the international community created a vacuum in which desperate people died in repression by their own rulers, and radical elements such as the Wahhabis, "Salafis," the Muslim Brotherhood, and the so-called "Islamic State" very quickly exploited this situation in their favor.
Frankly, I see blame for all this in one and the same source and that is Moscow. This process included Slavic Orthodox imperialism that attacked Bosnia, that assaulted the Caucasus, and which supports the appalling Syrian regime that kills its own people in response to civil protest. So there's a certain similarity, but also a lot of difference between the war in Syria and the earlier conflict in Bosnia-Hercegovina. There is a strong feeling among Syrian Sunnis that they are suffering aggression and are abandoned with the world standing and looking – creating a void that radical elements fill to abuse the situation. With my own eyes I watched what they did in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and the problem is even worse regarding Syria.