The Arab Hijacking of Bosnian Muslims
by Stephen Schwartz
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In two recent columns [http://www.islamicpluralism.org/article/259 and http://www.islamicpluralism.org/article/261] for FSM, the antidote to the MSM, I described the late pro-Arab turn by the Bosnian Muslim chief cleric Mustafa Cerić, who last week visited Washington to expatiate on "the art of tolerance."
Bosnian Muslims and the friends of Bosnian Islam are alarmed at the sudden abandonment by Cerić of his stated goal – to make the Muslims of Bosnia-Hercegovina a model indigenous, moderate, European Islamic community. Such an Islam would be capable of leading the continent's Muslims, many of them immigrants, toward mutual respect with believers in other religions and legitimate loyalty to the non-Muslim authorities that rule over most of them.
Some of us imagined that Cerić would use a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the American capital to discuss the lessons of Bosnian interfaith history – including the exemplary history of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Jewish cooperation as documented in my 2005 book Sarajevo Rose. But he did not. Rather, he delivered himself of a gassy, meandering, name-dropping discourse that said nothing whatever. He reviewed the history of the human intellect from the Greeks on, seldom elucidating citations that could have been, and probably were, taken from a dictionary of quotations. All his statements blandly reaffirmed the need for tolerance and understanding, as if he were describing different cloud formations on a summer day.
Cerić's lecture on tolerance would not have done credit to a middle school commencement. He proudly mentioned, as if it had the slightest meaning, his appearance not long ago at Davos, the hot-air energy plant for the most narcissistic elements in the Western business, political, and entertainment elite. A European journalist who covered Davos five times told me Cerić's remarks were a typical Davos speech, completely lacking in substance. But Cerić also partook of a style familiar to anybody who has spent time in a Communist country, like the Yugoslavia of which Bosnia-Hercegovina was once part. He delivered a standard Communist party-congress address, composed of meaningless rhetoric.
In the brief question period, which Cerić seemed to have headed off by his endless declamations, the Bosnian chief cleric was politely asked about the infiltration into the Balkans of violent Wahhabis, agents of the ultra-fundamentalist official Islamic sect in Saudi Arabia, that inspires al-Qaida. He was also asked about the assertions he made last year about the European character of Bosnian Islam.
Cerić was obviously nervous and reacted to queries about Wahhabism with a flushed and perspiring mien. He referred to "so-called Wahhabism," protested incoherently that the question irritated him, accused his critics of claiming all Bosnian Muslims are Wahhabis, argued that the whole matter is the pretext for a new war against Bosnia, dismissed the Wahhabis as "mosquitoes," and declared that Wahhabism is a Western invention.
And that was only half of it. The rest was confused, disoriented chatter. A Saudi woman present was indignant that Cerić referred only to "so-called" Wahhabism, but was prevented from questioning him. I, for one, have never argued that any but a handful of Bosnian Muslims are Wahhabis, and I have defended the Bosnian cause for two decades.
Simultaneous with his Washington visit, which did no credit to Balkan Muslims, it became clear why Cerić has made his switch from a European to a pro-Arab stance. Two days before his arrival in the U.S., Sarajevo played rotating host to a fundamentalist Sunni clerical body with the somewhat outrageous name of the European Council for Fatwas and Research (ECFR). ECFR is headed by a Qatari cleric, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who has been barred from the U.S. Al-Qaradawi pretends to be moderate but supports suicide terrorism.
ECFR claims to be a legal body representing European Muslims but Cerić has been its lone, token indigenous European member. Al-Qaradawi is certainly not European, even though ECFR is strangely headquartered in Dublin. Al-Qaradawi is often described as the so-called spiritual guide of the fundamentalist Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. ECFR has included 33 members, four of them Saudi, although few Saudis live in Europe – the rest, aside from Cerić, comprising 12 from Arab and African countries, plus Pakistan, while the others represent immigrant communities, mainly Arab, in Western Europe. Russia alone has more Muslims than many Arab states, and is unrepresented.
ECFR members are, it seems, upset by claims that they want to use the Bosnians to advance a radical agenda. The website www.islamonline.com reported the statement of Sheikh Husain Halawa, the current ECFR secretary general: "The ECFR secretary general denied charges that the organization is hijacked by Arabs to the extent of alienating some European Muslims." But since he is among the hijackers, why should he admit the truth?
The reality of the situation was revealed by none other than Saudi cleric Salman al-Awda, a Wahhabi bigot known in the desert kingdom for his support of Osama bin Laden and of Sunni terrorism in Iraq. During the ECFR junket to Sarajevo, according to his website, www.Islamtoday.net, Al-Awda visited Bosnia. In a rather amusing example of Bosnian trickery – a phenomenon as old as the Bosnian hills – Al-Awda was shunted off to speak at a madrassa in Tuzla, a city that happens to be known for its enduring socialist (and therefore ultrasecularist) sympathies, and the site of a U.S. military base. Al-Awda came to lecture the Bosnians, native Europeans, on how to be Muslim the Bedouin way. He was unfortunately introduced by the Mufti of Tuzla, Hussein Kazazović.
The Arab colonialization of an authentically European Islamic community in the Balkans would be tragic and doubtless lead to terrorism and reprisals. If there is a bright spot in this depressing picture it is that the cream of Bosnian Muslim intellectuals, as well as the ordinary Muslim folk living in villages and attending local mosques, loathe the interlopers and will do everything they must to resist them.
A Bosnian Muslim scholar told me the issue is simple: Arab vs. non-Arab Islam. As it was under Yugoslav Communism, only the opportunistic, self-serving, and superficial, petty elite of bureaucrats and vacant intellectuals are ready to sell out Bosnian Islam for advantage and position. But as with the Communists, they and their foreign patrons must be defeated.