We Will Return Saudi Arabia's Aid
by Rešid Hafizović
The following comments are excerpted from a TV discussion on Wahhabism in Bosnia with Prof. Rešid Hafizović of the Faculty of Islamic Studies. Prof. Hafizović is the leading authority on Islamic spirituality in the Balkans and was co-translator of Stephen Schwartz's Two Faces of Islam (Dva Lica Islama, Sarajevo, 2005).
Excerpted from BBC Monitoring European, December 10, 2006
Prof. Hafizović [On attacks against him for warning of the Wahhabi threat in Bosnia-Hercegovina]: "Look, such campaigns are launched by people who do not read books, unfortunately. I recognize only those arguments that are based on valid scholarship and valid works…"
Host: "Mr. Hafizovic, how would you explain the fact that the Wahhabi movement has found such fertile ground in Bosnia-Hercegovina, given that the Muslims in Bosnia-Hercegovina enjoy extensive cooperation with much more progressive parts of the Islamic world than Saudi Arabia? Incidentally, Reis Mustafa Cerić [head of the Islamic Community in BH] recently said in an interview, prompted by your interview, that we should not cut the branch on which we are sitting, referring to your criticism of the Saudi regime."
Hafizović: "I would be very pleased if a full stop were put once and for all to the talk of the great and fabulous aid that Saudi Arabia has given [us]. A figure should finally be presented openly and publicly, including the funds that ended up in private pockets. We should then draw a line and say: 'This is the amount of aid, what is the price that we have to pay for it?' Because we have to pay. The Saudis and their envoys keep asking us to pay that price… the price is such that we have to sell our people, our religion, our 500 years of religious and cultural tradition and legacy. And this is precisely what they want: our minds, our hearts, our souls. Look at just one detail: what has, for example, happened with [the Gazi Husrev] Beg's Mosque [in Sarajevo]? For a handful of oil dollars, conceding to the demands of Saudi representatives, we lost decorations that were at least three-and-a-half-centuries old in the mosque, which used to be a world heritage site.*
"The amount of that aid, which, frankly, was not the largest – Sweden, for instance, gave Bosnia more aid than Saudi Arabia – in official statistics Saudi Arabia ranks fifth or sixth.
"Let us put an end to this story once and for all and say: Dear [Saudi] gentlemen, if you keep rubbing our noses in the aid – and you are – we will give it back to you…"
"And why has Wahhabism taken root? Briefly and simply: Because it is being given a green light; because it is being spoken of childishly; because every time the Rijaset [administration of the Islamic Community in Bosnia-Hercegovina] reacts in the spirit and tone of the press release with which they let me really have it the other day. Because they receive a clear signal from the Saudi embassy – I know this. I have this information and it is sad. Let me finish: Wahhabism is dangerous. It is a virus in the very body of Bosnia-Hercegovina, among Bosniaks."
*Wahhabi vandalism of the Gazi Husrevbeg mosque is described in The Two Faces of Islam.