Excerpts from Interview with Prof. Dr. Rešid Hafizović
Oslobođenje: How do you view the recent statement by the cabinet of the reis-ul-ulema [chief cleric Mustafa efendija Cerić]? At the beginning of the week it reacted, via a newspaper commentary, to an interview with professor Mustafa Spahić of the Gazi Husrev Beg medresa, and before that, to the protest letter by students from the Faculty of Islamic Studies.
Hafizović: There is nothing special to discuss. From the beginning everything was clearly said. To previously-stated descriptions, coming from a "recognizable" place, some new ones are added. For such a "job" no special creativity is even needed. It is enough that the "target" is there, because it determines which arrow has to be launched, which label to apply, which descriptive to add. Every totalitarian consciousness has learned this and tried it a long time ago. And the "virtue" of that consciousness is currently that it always finds a way to crawl out of "its" past time to which, as if we were cursed, we believed it was consigned, and comes back into our time, it finds its own "island" in our time and settles there. That, as is customary, is the "place" where one never has to take an examination in democracy, human rights and freedom, justice and equity. Let us not talk about arguments because for this consciousness they are pure blasphemy. It doesn't need them. To this consciousness all that is forbidden is permitted because, by accident or not, it always finds itself in a "convenient place" which is "struck" by a surprise attack… it defends itself, as it defends its own fief, with any means, even those that are not tolerated by human or divine laws.
Oslobođenje: Did you receive the letter from the students of the Faculty of Islamic Studies?
Hafizović: Yes, I did receive it. Although without proper signatures. But, I understand the students. For God's sake, this is not 1968. Times have changed. But for the worse.
Oslobođenje: Professor Hafizović, two years ago Cerić's office criticized one of your texts in a statement. Tell me, please, what happened since then?
Hafizović: Yes, that is right. What has, in the meantime, changed? Nothing, absolutely nothing has changed. I made my opinions public back then and hold to them to this day. And Cerić's office, it seems, has continued its practice of media lynchings. Only time has, in the meantime, witnessed the arrival of a much worse state of things than that which I wrote about back then, much more quickly and clearly than anyone ever expected.
Oslobođenje: How would you describe today's situation within the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina: is it able to deal with temptations, is it successful in resisting the increasing number of Wahhabis in our country?
Hafizović: If someone from the sidelines were to totally neutrally and independently monitor the organizational schematics of the Islamic Community, they would think it is a perfectly organized institution. However, that is a wrong impression; everything is far from perfection. All the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina has accomplished from 1993 until now was an uncontrolled expansion of the administrative apparatus, that grew to the extent that it slowly threatens even the raison d'etre of the Community. From a different perspective, spending money, time and energy on nurturing something which is a purpose unto itself, and an excessive administration, has always, in any case, threatened the institutions of the Islamic Community that by their foundational nature are of great importance for that Community, and are pledged to its lasting and true development. I speak in the first place about the supreme educational institutions within the Islamic Community, the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo which has already become recognized in the world, and the Gazi Husrev Beg madrasa in Sarajevo. However, both of these educational institutions are already quite relativized if only by the reality of uncontrolled opening of an unacceptably large number of madrasas and universities of Islamic studies. Today in Bosnia-Hercegovina we have more of those than in any of the most theocratic states in the Muslim world. It is not about hyper-production of unnecessary personnel anymore, which cannot, in any case, find work anywhere, instead the issue is the threat to and betrayal of the quality of teaching in the educational institutions of the Islamic community.
On the other hand, alongside so many educational institutions in the Islamic community, behold the paradox: the Bosniaks, instead of being spiritually more free, creative, self-assured and intellectual, today are completely spiritually enslaved, crippled, un-free and intellectually "castrated." That has, of course, to do with the official politics of the Community, which also contributed totally irresponsible and dishonest policies and a political strategy, which, if there ever was one, has been imposed on the Bosniak people all these years by Bosniak politicians and government officials. Many of them have, in the past and today, sat in the highest regulatory bodies of the Islamic Community, but it never bothered them nor have they ever publicly looked in a critical manner at the slippage of quantity at the expense of quality in educational institutions of the Islamic Community. Therefore, an independent historian, who will write the new history of Islamic Community in Bosnia-Hercegovina from a relevant distance, will clearly observe that this is one of the darker, if not the darkest times of the most important institution of Bosniaks. You can only then evaluate how that Community is able to answer temptations of all kinds.
Oslobođenje: In spring  there was a public debate about the expansion of construction of mosques in Sarajevo, and during autumn construction of the magnificent Rijaset building [of reis-ul-ulema Cerić] was announced. Is construction the best recipe for a better life of Muslims in Bosnia-Hercegovina?
Hafizović: I have nothing against construction of mosques, nor do I have anything against construction of sacred buildings as such. On the contrary. Many sacred buildings were destroyed in the recent aggression against Bosnia, most of them mosques. They need to be rebuilt. But mosques need to be built where they are truly needed, and not out of competitiveness and a wish to be the source of divisions of any kind. There are priorities in everything, including construction of mosques. The Prophet of Islam (a.s.) himself showed this with his own example. It is very odd to build new mosques, when we can't even pay the imams in those we have already built, which is almost a regular occurrence with imams in the reduced Bosnian entity.
As far as the magnificent facility for the Rijaset, which they want to build, is concerned, that is the summit of irresponsibility and lack of any consciousness of real necessities and priorities of the times in which we live. Raising an edifice worth tens of millions of marks in a time when eighty percent of people in the country are starving is an unacceptable example of insensitivity, shamelessly shown by people who consider themselves "servants of God." Students at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo do not have their own dormitories, and the Rijaset is building itself a new residence – right there is a part of the answer as to why the students of the Faculty of Islamic Studies are unhappy and why they are sending letters to everyone around them.
From a different perspective, we are witnessing that in the recent years there is an unusual construction syndrome rampant in this city. In it grow unusual, somewhat frightening towers that remind us of "towers of Babylon ." We do not need to mention that they always are examples of ugliness, high-handedness, incurable vanity and a wish to become "masters of the city" in which, today or tomorrow, no head will rest on one's shoulders if it disturbs the "quiet night" which is already descending upon this city. When the new residence of Rijaset is erected on Kova či, we'll have all the standards by which the life and freedom of local people will be leveled; they will be happy to wake up alive and, firstly, humbly greet on one side, then on the other the "masters of magical rings" who overbearingly put a stamp on our "Balkan time." And with [the Serbian business oligarch] Mišković, directly or indirectly, woven into the local line of construction by cause and effect – this once-extended hand of Milošević's bloody and genocidal vortex in Bosnia – perhaps, if a new aggression on this country happens, snipers will again shoot us like wild game from those towers of Babylon. May it not be repeated, but [Belgrade-style] towers are already spreading throughout this city.
Oslobođenje: What do you think about today's political situation in our country: the international community is slowly packing their bags, local politicians seem unprepared for a constructive dialogue, and even when they try and agree – problems appear. How did you view the meeting of Čović-Dodik-Tihić in Prud near Odzak?
Hafizović: About it, simply, I do not think anymore, rather I shake from shock and fear. It reminds me irresistibly of the time right before '92 and afterward. If we have the real principles of political theory and responsible practice of politics in mind, then I have to say that we, generally, do not have politicians, even politicians who are defined according to parameters of true political theory and responsible practice of politics. Our current politicians are everything except what they should be. On the basis of their practice until now, which has clearly shown they are primitive, uneducated, greedy and truly unpatriotic, they, often by using their public offices, exploited the state budget to build a future for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Therefore, they are not politicians, that is, they have a typical smuggler-chicken farmer mentality that, instead of developing strategic and development projects for this country, sells the little valuable state capital that is left for a cheap price. Therefore, I doubt any agreement they reach, especially those that lead far away from the eyes of the public and outside the legal institutions of the system. Whatever agreement they reach, I am afraid it will always be for their own benefit and to the detriment of the state of Bosnia.
But the representatives of the international community have been helping them in all of that through all these years, whether in their irresponsible execution of functions entrusted to them, whether in open work to the benefit of interests of some centers of power far away from the borders of this country. They will, obviously, soon leave and with them, maybe, many of our political and other officials who have already taken enough from this country that it will not matter to them where they will spend the rest of their lives. Patriotism, which they obviously lack, will certainly not be any obstacle in that.
Oslobođenje: Bosniak political leaders Sulejman Tihić and Haris Silajd žić, for more than a year, have argued with one another because of the energy sector and privatization of BH Telekom. Professor Hafizović, how do you see the development of events on the Bosniak political scene?
Hafizović: That is as clear as daylight. They even argue in front of TV cameras. And that is nothing unusual. It is only unusual that Bosniaks never seem to understand that those two will never take them anywhere. They are not, unfortunately, arguing because they have such good solutions for this country and can't agree on whose model has better priorities to be implemented and applied. They argue because they are not successful in taking from the state and the people everything they believe they are entitled to, they and their most prominent political think-alikes… Therefore, the only solution for Bosniaks is that at the first opportunity they should deny [those two] the confidence they never deserved in the first place.
Oslobođenje: In his interview Professor Spahić expressed concern for the relationship of education and science in our country and in his extremely picturesque way he confirmed that the greatest corruption is in lack of knowledge. What do you think about our universities and the scandals that are shaking them?
Hafizović: Professor Spahić is concerned with good reason. And he is not alone in that. The majority of sensible people who have this country and its progress in their hearts are concerned to the core. Our education is in a very sorry state. A massive social shock, caused by a terrible aggression against Bosnia-Hercegovina, has made it possible that a social sediment has risen to the surface, and the recognizable echelon of values in education, culture, morale, religion, upbringing … rocks itself to the point that today we see a very different order of values, many of which are mere pseudo-values. A good portion of the mentioned "social sediment" has not, according to the nature of things, returned to its place, but numerous individuals have overnight, so to speak, risen into our new social, cultural, educational, political and, if you will, even religious "elite." We have heard many objections to so-called "socialist education" [during the Tito period] but, despite everything, it gave us an educational depth and general culture which today, simply said, you cannot see anywhere. As we have quasi-politicians, quasi-culturalists, quasi-national and religious workers, we equally have quasi-intellectuals and a quasi-academic community. Honors are due some worthy individuals. There are so few of them, however, that it is not worth mentioning them. Overnight so many schlock universities, colleges and academies have grown that soon we will have one university, one college and one academy per inhabitant. And when you add to that the "salami slicing" which we are just now putting in place, again in our peculiar Balkan way, which drastically reduces knowledge, we can hope to soon have quasi-intellectuals and quasi-academic citizens to a second power. For years in this country we have been witnesses of the practice that someone can become a regular university professor without publishing a single book, a minister of education without ever seeing education during his life, a member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts without any relevant references, a mufti who never studied subjects in Islamic law even at a grade "C" level and so forth. Therefore, the impression is irresistible that our academic community is clearly stuffed with "intellectual eunuchs" whose minds have been covered with spider webs for some time. But that does not mean they can be excused by saying: "Well, don't reproach them, they don't know what they're doing!" Their responsibility is immeasurable since today they are preparing our children to be cheap labor in a future united Europe , because our country's diplomas won't be worth anything.
Oslobođenje: Since September 11, 2001 Muslims must justify their existence, it seems, because of the existence of Al-Qaida. Where are the Muslims of Bosnia-Hercegovina today?
Hafizović: Seen generally, Muslims today are enslaved between openly negative Western-European political and military attitudes toward the Muslim world after September 11, on one side, and incompetent, authoritarian, bribable and repressive political regimes in the Muslim world whose non-democratic, absolutist governance, supported by their political partners from the West, are upheld and maintained by incompetent local religious elites, on the other side. No one from the relevant religious authorities in the Muslim world has publicly come forward with a clear and strong legal decision (fatwa) in which they would explain why the murderous, terrorist and aggressive practices personified in Al-Qaida are not justified by Islam and the Islamic religious worldview. The silence of religious authorities on this topic has given courage to the shocking virus…
As far as Bosnian Muslims are concerned, today they are confused, without rights, robbed and deserted by everyone. They are mute spectators of a vulture-like national and religious politics that shamelessly manipulates, sells and lives off their sacrifice and their hard life. Squeezed on a last scrap of Bosnian land, we have the same country that about ninety years ago was, according to the land registers of the Austro-Hungarian government (1903), 91.1% their private property, and now they fear for their future. They are slaves in their own country but no one will tell them that…
Oslobođenje: Your scientific work has been immensely valued throughout the world, even more valued than in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Why is that so? What are you currently occupied with?
Hafizović: That is not only my destiny. That is the destiny of the majority of intellectuals of these lands. That has, simply, become some kind of a local tradition. With regard to the status of our education, public culture and academic community, with notable exceptions, today there is no one to evaluate what you do.
As far as my current intellectual efforts are concerned, right now I am finishing the last technical details for preparation of five manuscripts which should, God willing, be published in the following year. The first two are my books: one about "Islam and Western European Identity," which will be published in Sarajevo, another on "Traces of Infinite Wisdom in Sufi Spirituality," in English, will be published in Malaysia, then my translation from an Arabic original and my introductory study of Suhrawardi's Theosophy of Light, one of the supreme classical works because of the content of which the author was beheaded. After that a translation from French of a spectacular study by Henri Corbin on "Ibn Sina and His Visionary Discourses," with my long introduction. And finally, part two of four, of an Arabic manuscript by the famed Abdulah efendija Bošnjak, a man from these lands, who lived in Istanbul in the middle of the seventeenth century and various other cultural centers of the Muslim empire of that time and, among others, wrote the finest commentary on the Fusus al-Hikam (Seals of Wisdom) of the famed mystical philosopher from Muslim Spain, Ibn 'Arabi. This Bosnian and Bosniak, Abdula efendija, sat during the day with the Ottoman sultan and gave him advice, traveled from one end of the empire to the other as his advisor, and at night wrote the most beautiful pages in the history of Muslim thinking in the Arabic, Turkish and Persian languages. His "Commentary" in its complete translation will total about 2000 pages on its own. His son Hasan efendi at that time was the main mufti in Jerusalem, whose fatwas and legal writings are even today unusually attractive works. These two persons, father and son, among hundreds of such during their time, are only indicators of what the scientific and educational parameters of the Bosniak elite once were, compared with what they are today.
[Translation by Center for Islamic Pluralism]