By Akbar Ahmed, who is an author, poet, filmmaker, playwright, and is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington, DC. He formerly served as the Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland. He tweets @AskAkbar
“The problem I see with Muslims is that they are fragmenting, breaking apart, and the universal message of Islam. This is the essence of Islam, help people and spread peace. We need to work hard to build understanding, trust between peoples.” The Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dr. Husein Kavazovic
In Sarajevo, while conducting fieldwork for my book and film project Journey into Europe about Islam in Europe, I was privileged to interview both the present Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dr. Husein Kavazovic, and his predecessor, Dr. Mustafa Ceric. Their words of wisdom, including their vision of Islam as perfectly compatible with modernity as well as being perfectly compatible with European identity, are very important for both Muslims and non-Muslims to consider and learn from today.
I met Dr. Husein Kavazovic, the current Grand Mufti, who was educated locally and at Al-Azhar in Egypt, at the Grand Mufti’s office in Sarajevo. He defined Bosnian identity as “multilayered”: “We are of Islamic origin, settled in Southeast of Europe…Bosnians carry both identities, both values, Islamic and European. Bosnians are people that are open for accepting universal values.”
When I asked the Grand Mufti what he would say to the rightwing Europeans who say that Islam is not European, he replied that Muslims have to show Europe that they are ready to find their “equal space” in Europe. “Of course,” Kavazovic continued, “we do have challenges. The politicians are poisoning things, making it difficult for people to reconnect. We see it on a daily basis that it’s drawing back, that that seed is growing back.” The Grand Mufti spoke of his concern at what he described as “trends” currently that we are “seeing again” as in the time of “pre-aggression” in the 1990s prior to the genocide perpetuated against the Bosnians.
Kavazovic said that he believed that there were lessons that Bosnia could give the world in how it handled the aftermath of the genocide: “We are people that suffered genocide, but in spite of that, there was not a single incident of revenge from Bosnian Muslims to their Christian neighbors, to Serbs and Croats who did the genocide on Muslims. Why is that? Bosnian Muslims acted according to the universal message of Islam.”“We as Bosnian Muslims,” the Grand Mufti continued, “want what happened to us, the genocide, the massacres, to serve as a warning for everyone, for Muslims and non-Muslims. And we believe that from the genocide on Muslims in Europe, that Europe will take lessons for themselves.”
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) June 13, 2015